Lost And Found

Willie Bobo

Concord Records, 2006


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Wow, what a fun CD!  Before hearing this album I knew absolutely nothing about Willie Bobo aside from the name, but this collection of unreleased tracks from the end of his career is infectuous, funky and a good time, and even those who know nothing about Latin music or African/Cuban percussion will be swept up in this one.

Having never heard Bobo's classic '60s work, I can't compare this CD to those songs, but as good as this is I can only imagine how much better those are. Bobo's son Eric picked out these tracks and enlisted Mario C (of the Beastie Boys) to produce them, and Mario's production is evident here to anyone who listened to Hello Nasty. Word has it that Bobo was a pioneer, one of the greatest Latin percussionists of all time, and this disc proves why -- it's also surprisingly good, for a group of unreleased songs.

Bobo and his band lock into wicked grooves, the best of which cross Latin rhythms with a jazz sensibility, as on "Round Trip," the smooth "Hymn To The People" and the sexy "Ci Ci," which starts off with some musty electric guitar picking that's as much flamenco as jazz, until Bobo comes in on bongoes and the bass adds some muscle, setting the fireside mood; at least, until the wine kicks in, and then the band ratchets up the speed, infusing a Latin beat under some scat whispering.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The best songs are the faster ones, such as the chunky "A Kiki" and the dub-reggae-jazz of "Broasted Or Fried," carried by an understated bass line and several forms of percussion. The mood is slowed down a bit when Bobo decides to sing; he's not bad, but when he sings the songs immediately sound like early Santana; as for who influenced who, it's hard to tell. "Midnight Lover" is another almost-was as well, infusing elements of funk sparingly to tell the story, letting the percussion elements add suspense but never coming to a climax, instead riding a groove for four minutes and fading. Given that Lost and Found is nothing more than unfinished songs, this is understandable.

"Soul Foo Young" has some great sax playing, the best on the disc, buffeted by a guitar solo and yet another wicked groove that one wishes would never end. "Fairy Tales For Two" is a bossa nova ballad, the type Bobo favored in his later years, and it sounds like an early Chicago track, but this doesn't mean that it's good. "Lost Years" sounds like a nod to what would become contemporary jazz, but even on music that could be used as a Sesame Street montage Bobo is able to retain some attitude and swagger.

With all this momentum built up, the disc falters in its last two songs, which are both slower ballads that sound unfinished and like Bobo wasn't sure what kind of percussion to use. It's a shame, since "Dindi" is reportedly Bobo's favorite songs; I haven't heard the original, but I have to think it was more exciting than this. And "A Little Tear" is not bad lounge music, but pales in comparison to what came before.

But overall, this is not only a fine sampler for Bobo's many styles but for Afro-Cuban music as a whole. Regardless of one's feelings on jazz, flamenco, funk or Latin music, there will be something here to make you return to this disc more than once. Perhaps Bobo was a "hell of an act to follow," as one of his albums put it; a release like this, while not flawless, makes that statement believable.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Concord Records, and is used for informational purposes only.