This has been an interesting year for salsa, who's popularity continues to waver (well, not to my taste). Here's a list of the albums I've enjoyed the most this year and that kept me awake and dancing through 2007.
Cuba's master of timba released his first album from his new U.S. home. En Primera Plana means "On The Front Page" and that's where this album belongs. I like it for the changes in rhythms, the many breaks and the outstanding command of the genre that is Issac Delgado's.
While salsa great Gilberto Santa Rosa's albums are dependably good, Contraste is much better than last year's Directo Al Corazon. Santa Rosa seems to be trying to move into more mainstream pop and so this is a 2-disc release with one containing all salsa and the other all pop songs. I'm putting the all-salsa CD on this list, because it is really something a little bit different than his usual fare and quite outstanding.
4. NG2 - Al Fin
Marc Anthony is often snubbed in certain salsa circles, but as the title of one of my favorite Anthony songs says, "That's Okay". He's married to J-Lo, has a hefty bank account and, in my opinion, has the best voice in his generation of salseros. So who better to sing the songs of "La Voz", Hector Lavoe? I hated the movie by the same name, but love this soundtrack.
Now for something different: Puerto Rico's Jerry Rivera turns tango standards made famous by the icon of tango singers, Carlos Gardel, into some great salsa moments. Some of these tracks are lots of tango evolving into tango, others jump right in with your favorite hot rhythms. It's nice to hear something a little different from general salsa standards, and this is the album for different - as well as wonderful.
The Godfather of Salsa has been on every 'Best of Salsa' list this year. While this is an excellent album, in the tradition of Puerto Rico's El Gran Combo, I was a little bored with it because it sounded so much like all his other albums (well, maybe not so much like last year's Salsa Con Reggaeton). If you love classic Puerto Rican salsa and never get bored of it, this one's for you.
I have to admit that I like almost everything that Puerto Rico's Victor Manuelle does. While he didn't have a new studio album this year, this new release was recorded at a live (and rowdy) concert and has live versions of some of his biggest hits.
We here in the U.S. are not getting to hear much Cuban music (unless it comes from Miami natives or defectors). That's why it's great that Australia has come to our rescue by bringing the world more music from Cubanismo, recorded on the Australian label, AIM. A dynamic group of musicians delivers the unique sounds of Cuban salsa with an eclectic mix of familiar tracks set to exciting Cuban rhythms.