The Latin Album

Keith Lockhart & The Boston Pops Orchestra

RCA Victor Records, 2000

http://www.bso.org

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/07/2000

Do the worlds of classical and Latin music work together? Can they be combined to create something which would please the fans of both genres?

That seems to be the question that hotshot young conductor Keith Lockhart has to face as he leads The Boston Pops Orchestra through 14 selections on The Latin Album. And in the end, the final verdict is as undecided as a Florida voter's mind.

Utilizing the talents of two highly talented bands, Mariachi Cobre and Inca Son, proves to be the best move that Lockhart could have made. Hearing these artists play the music of their heritage helps to do something special to the overall performances: they give them credence. Hearing the hauntingly beautiful vocals on "Granada" and "Mi Cambio" helps to bring such a project into focus. The disc's closer, "Son De La Negra" (also with Mariachi Cobre), seals the deal for the listener. If I had to list one major disappointment, it would be that these two groups were not utilized more. Their performances helped to kick-start the Boston Pops and take the music to levels otherwise unattainable.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This isn't to say that the Boston Pops can't, in pop terms, kick out the jams on their own. "Mambo Jambo" is absolutely a joy to listen to, and you can hear the fun that the orchestra had to be having with this particular musical selection.

Some of the selections on The Latin Album, however, are ill-advised. Some selections, such as Aaron Copeland's "El Salón México," seem to be included solely because of their classical roots, and they don't really fit the bill that well. In a similar vein, selections like "Malambo," while keeping a Latin flavor to the music, sound like seventh generation photocopies of the original. To be blunt, the impression I got was of white people trying to play Latin music. It's at times like these where the outside influence of a group whose roots are in Latin music would have been beneficial.

I don't mean to sound prejudiced towards such an effort by Lockhart and crew; indeed, they chose a daunting task that many other symphonies might not have even dared to consider. But The Latin Album is the kind of disc that occasionally smacks of what could have been, rather than what is. This disc was meant to be a classical tribute to Latin music; maybe the goal should have been to take traditional Latin music, adapt it to the symphony and merge the two worlds together through groups like Inca Son and Mariachi Cobre. Somehow, I think the end result would have been far more satisfying.

Rating: C+

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