Loteria De La Cumbia Lounge

Charanga Cakewalk

Triloka Records, 2004


REVIEW BY: Tammy Childs


Producer Michael Ramos created Charanga Cakewalk, an approach to music from a totally different angle. Unbound by musical boundaries or genre restraints, Charanga Cakewalk cooks up a musical dichotomy of Latin beats combined with electronic synthesizers and then folds in traditional world rhythms. This unusual blend results in a unique and diverse sound solely belonging to its owner.

Ramos was always surrounded by music, surrounded by Mexicana at his home in Texas but becoming riveted to rock. He has toured with the BoDeans and the Rembrandts and worked with John Mellencamp. Why is this important, you ask? It shows his diverse roots, which come into play on this release.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

His music has been classified as kitsch, but I found nothing of poor quality or mundane here. The Latin influences of his upbringing carry the song "Belleza," which incorporates a small touch of Hawaiian-type sounds to create a number that has energetic movement and makes you want to shake your butt.

"Mexicanos" is another danceable song. Due to the African-like Cumbia backbeat, you feel like you're missing out on something if you don't tap your foot to the tempo. "Chispas" is a techno-driven song, joined with a breath of Spanish rap by Becca Rodriguez. David Puckingham plays hearty Spanish guitar to back the rap, making this definitely an odd song but an excellent choice for the CD.

"Volcanico" is exactly as it sounds - hot and steamy. J J Barrera feverishly plays the bajo sexto and bass while David Grissom dives into the guitar and comes out smiling. Like Ramos says, the song is a new invention full of warmth and unusual colors.

Ramos and Rey Arteaga duet the vocals on "Carmela." Although a bit too silly for me musically and vocally, it just once again displays the diversity of this man's talent. Why should he always be serious anyway? But then doing a flip-flop, "Romanticos Desesperados" is a sultry romantic dance number that reiterates the agreeable nature of his exceptional repertoire. It is Latin-based but indicates lots of imagination. Michael Longoria provides the percussion and hits it hard, never letting up.

Effortlessly, Ramos keeps the tone of this CD consistent throughout -- it is highly charged and he never tires in his work. Often CDs will piddle out near the end but he does not disappoint - he starts out on a high-intensity and the conclusion is no less enthusiastic, using melodica, guitars, horns and accordions to make a flamboyant style definitely all his own.

Obviously Ramos' plan is to stir up the music world and invite the entire globe into his fantastic vision. This furthers the difficulty in categorizing his music into any particular genre, making this a full meal that is a welcome surprise. You're never heard anything quite like it.

Rating: A-

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© 2005 Tammy Childs 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 Triloka Records, and is used for informational purposes only.