Raise Your Hand
Concord Picante, 2007
REVIEW BY: Elizabeth Crowder
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/09/2007
I have to admit that, as a white woman, I was hesitant to try to tackle reviewing a CD in the Latin jazz and soul category. Fortunately, I overcame my hesitation.
Poncho Sanchez is a Grammy award-winning conga player and Latin singer whose newest album, Raise Your Hand, pays homage to soul legends. Beyond the catchy instrumental songs (such as "Maceo's House") there are guest appearances by some of Sanchez's idols including Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, who are known for their 1966 version of "Knock on Wood." This CD is a way to revisit those amazing singers as well as others like Booker T. Jones, while lending a salsa feel to traditional soul.
The title cut reminds me of classic soul songs like "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The combination of Sanchez and his soul music companions makes for a vivacious tune, setting a precedent for the entire album. The jazzier cuts are smooth and easy to listen to, and even when the songs become more upbeat (like on "Donde Va Chichi?" with Cuban vocalist Jose 'Perico' Hernandez).
"Amor Con Amor" showcases Sanchez' percussionist capabilities with a Latin beat with brass in the background. The final track is the highlight, though, with Cropper, Floyd and Jones joining Sanchez on a new version of "Knock On Wood," the core soul song embellished with a spicier beat than the original. It’s impossible to hear the line "It's like thunder and lightning / The way you love me is frightening / I better knock on wood," without remembering the Otis Redding original we all love.
As cautious as I was about even opening this disc I was impressed with both the range of different sounds and Sanchez’s ultimate faithfulness to the soul form. Variety is the spice of life, and this album is a great addition for any music lover who wants to try something new while still recognizing a glimmer of what they know. Raise Your Hand is an album with universal appeal that nonetheless stays true to Sanchez’s musical roots.