Latin Licks, 2003

Zemog El Gallo Beuno’s vocals don’t bother me so much anymore. The El Gran Silencio and Jenni Rivera albums (the latter of which turns out to be a tribute record, which I apparently didn’t know at the time) aren’t quite as great as I suggest here, but they’re not bad. Rivera, it saddens me to note, was killed in a Learjet crash outside Monterrey in late 2012.

Zemog El Gallo Bueno: Not so good at escape rooms.

EL GRAN SILENCIO, ¡Super Riddim Internacional! Vol. 1

“Cumbiamuffin,” these five Monterrey fiesta-throwers call one dub-selector track, and “muffin” doesn’t just mean “raga.” But their chili-peppered fratboy mojo is balanced by high nasal toasting, Algerian rai mourning, spy movie and Art Ensemble trumpets, “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” swipes, acoustic strums climbing stairways to heaven, and fiddle breakdowns played on accordion. Radio call-in shout-outs over 1980-vintage Sugarhill timbales kick open a tropical-ska sound system that refuses to shut down or stay put.

ZEMOG EL GALLO BUENO Zemog El Gallo Bueno

Rooster-and-metal-obsessed Puerto Rican transplant to Massachusetts Abraham Gomez-Delgado wants to see how disruptive a mess his 10-piece can make on top while still maintaining rhythm. So he presents his art-salsa as proghorn-leghorn cockfight-rock, tunes his ax low enough to double as a bass, and lets his Coltrane-solo-transcribing baritone saxist bleat ghostly free-jazz. The singing, which alternates between simulating emotion and mocking it, can tend toward cardboard. But the extended chicken-coop solos never do.

 JENNI RIVERA Homenaje a Las Grandes

A curvy redhead single mom and corrido star from Long Beach with a business administration degree, this reigning border diva never misses a chance to be melodramatic. Giggles and hiccups, trills and filigrees, Greek choruses and MC intros, coocoo-roocoo-loo!’s and ooh-yaa-ungh!’s, over a horn section turning New Orleans brothel boogie-woogie and Munich Oktoberfest oompah into bandas and norteños, and low-rider soul into mariachi Streisand/ Celine/Supremes. As eclectic as any rock en español—and eclecticism’s never the point. The two bawdiest-sounding songs mention tequila; one has a title owing Las Ketchup.

Village Voice, 12 August 2003

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