Salsa Album Review: Sergio George’s “Salsa Giants”


I was very excited to listen to this Salsa music album when I found out that “Salsa Giants” included performances by some of the best renown Salsa music star singers today.

It includes performances by Marc Anthony, Oscar D’Leon, Andy Montañez, Luis Enrique, and Cheo Feliciano among others. But I must confess that after listening to “Salsa Giants” I was a bit disappointed with this recording. I’ll get to the details shortly.

The concept of assembling and recording a cast of Salsa All-Star artists started (as far as I know) more than 40 years ago, when the Fania record label assembled their best stars and recorded them “Live” at the Red Garter club in New York City.

Pianist Sergio George, a two-time Latin Grammy winner for Producer of the Year, assembled and recorded “Live” this cast of star Salsa music singers during the 2012 North Sea Jazz Festival in the island of Curacao. The product of that event was this album that Sergio titled “Salsa Giants”.

Note: You can see my video of a summary of this review HERE.

What I Liked About “Salsa Giants”

– Lots of music performed by star Salsa singers – this should be two separate bullets, but I’m combining them. This Salsa album contains 15 Salsa hits, performed by some of the best singers in Salsa music. The singers are: Marc Anthony, Luis Enrique, Jose Alberto “El Canario”, Tito Nieves, Andy Montañez, Cheo Feliciano, Oscar D’León, Willy Chirino, Charlie Zaa, and Nora “La Japonesa”. There is a lot of “star power” in that lineup.

– Great sound and musical execution – the sound quality of this Salsa album is so good that you tend to forget that this was recorded during a “Live” event. Also the hand-picked orchestra led by Sergio George for this event performs the music impeccably well.

– Adaptability to each singer’s Salsa style – there are 10 singers in this album, and Sergio George’s band adapts so well to each of their signature Salsa style, that it would seem that each singer is performing with their own band. This band performs equally well the pop-Salsa style of music of Marc Anthony and Luis Enrique, to the Salsa Dura style of Oscar D’León’s Salsa Mayor band of the 1970’s.

Opportunities Missed in “Salsa Giants”

– Songs performed identically as in original recording – one of my disappointments with “Salsa Giants” is that the songs are performed in the exact same way as in the original recordings. And I mean in the EXACT same way. The songs have the same arrangements, with the same number of soneos, and the exact same soneos as in the original recording. No extra solos, no 2nd coros, no difference in the mambos, nothing different. It’s like if they were re-recording the songs in the studio.

Salsa Giants CD and DVD cover art
“Salsa Giants” has star Salsa singers all performing in one event recording.

This defeats the purpose of a “Live” performance, where as a Salsa music fan you go to see and listen to your favorite songs by your favorite artists, but expecting something “extra”. Not in this case. Sergio George like to use the “cookie-cutter” style of making music, where the highlight is the singer and every single not is scripted. What a waste of artistic talent!

For the record, let me mention the few brief exceptions of this. In “Aguanile” Marc Anthony does extend some notes much longer than in the recording, showcasing his powerful voice. Other than that, he uses the same exact soneos as in “El Cantante”.

Additionally, Oscar D’Leon makes some original soneos in “Mi Bajo y Yo” and Cheo Feliciano does some originals in “Anacaona”. Luis Enrique does a nice intro to “Yo No Se Mañana”, and lastly, at the end of the last song of the concert, which was “Valió La Pena”, Marc Anthony invites all the other singers on stage to share a few soneos, before they collectively say “goodbye” to the audience in Curacao. I consider these brief and insignificant deviations of what I mentioned above.

– Many singers but No duets – with all these all-star singers together in the same event, there is not one duet in this album. Duets would have provide us, Salsa music fans, with some original content in this album, something new to enjoy. From a commercial standpoint, doing 3 or 4 duets in the album (no need to make it an all-duet album) would have provided original content that Salsa fans could ONLY find in THIS recording. But…that was another missed opportunity.

Cheo Feliciano, Salsa singer, Salsa song
Cheo Feliciano sang “Anacaona” (again) with noticeably difficulty.

– Cheo Feliciano singing “Anacaona” – of all the songs Cheo Feliciano has, Sergio George had to pick “Anacaona” yet again! WHY Sergio??? This must be the 7,942nd time that we have to endure Cheo singing “Anacaona”. Why not be original and do another of Cheo’s hits, like for example “Nabori”, or “Salome” or something from the Joe Cuba days, with a new orchestration? Or what about a bolero, or a medley of boleros? There were many other options.

I also have to mention that it’s evident Cheo Feliciano’s voice is failing him. He had to struggle to get through some parts of the song (that’s why a bolero or a slower song like “Salome” might have been better for him). But this is not the 1st time I notice Cheo’s failing voice. You can also notice his failing voice in the recording of “Juan Pachanga” with Ruben Blades and the Seis del Solar as part of their 25th Anniversary tour album. This is sad news for me, since Cheo Feliciano is one of my favorite Salsa icons.

My Recommendation of “Salsa Giants”

I must confess that I enjoyed listening to “Salsa Giants” for this review. This is a great collection of Salsa music hits performed by great Salsa singers. So it’s a great compilation of Salsa music. But the question is…would I recommend you to buy this Salsa album? No!

The reason I don’t recommend this album is that it provide no added value to what you might already have in your Salsa music collection. As I said, this songs are performed exactly the same way by exactly the same singers, so why buy them again? It doesn’t make sense.

Para Celebrar, Salsa song, Salsa album, Salsa music
“Para Celebrar” is an original Salsa hit with all singers in it.

However, I do recommend that you download the song “Para Celebrar” which is the 15th (last) song of “Salsa Giants”. Contrary to the other 14 songs, “Para Celebrar” was recorded in the studio and not “Live”, and all singers share the singing duties throughout the song. It’s a song with great swing, and a happy theme well worth enjoying.

So my suggestion is that you download “Para Celebrar” and add it to a playlist you create of your favorite songs of these 10 singers that you have in your MP3 player, and you won’t miss anything that “Salsa Giants” has. Oh yeah, you might not have the occasional sing along by the crowd or the occasional “Buenas Noches Curacao” by some of the singers. But I don’t think that alone is worth 9 bucks!

So that’s my review of Sergio George’s “Salsa Giants”. If you like this review, please “Like” it and “Like us” in the social media sites, and also share it with your friends. I’m sure they’ll appreciate you sharing a review you liked. Thanks for visiting Latino Music Cafe!

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