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As always I like to look at the Latin Grammy 2020 nominees as a kind of recommendation list of best recordings to check out. I’ll start my Latin Grammy 2020 comments with the category of Best Salsa Album.
Best Salsa Album 2020
To keep this short and sweet, I’ll list the nominees along with my comments below…
40 (Grupo Niche)
The legendary Colombian group celebrates 40 years in the Salsa scene, although it’s really 42 years since they were founded in 1978. They just were a bit slow getting their anniversary album out.
But it was worth the wait. The song “Cuarenta Ruedas” is a homage to their great milestone. This song, like others in the album, bring original arrangements that deviate from the normal Salsa arrangements we’re used to. All in all, “40” is an enjoyable album from Niche, with a bit of everything both in the lyrics (Salsa Romántica, Clásica, etc.) and the music in terms of arrangements.
40 Años De Power (Luisito Ayala y La Puerto Rican Power)
Another band celebrating their 40th anniversary is Luisito Ayala and his Puerto Rican Power. They maintain their signature “Salsa Romántica” themes with their usual thicker Salsa sound, which makes it good for listening and dancing.
The first song, “Ya Me lo Dieron en Vida“, celebrates the band’s 40 years in the Salsa scene. The title is an obvious reference to Mike Amadeo’s song popularized by El Gran Combo “Que Me Lo Den en Vida“.
It’s curious that of the 9 songs contained in the album, the last 3 were recorded at a different session and time. The orchestration is different and the sound quality cloudy. Does give the impression that they needed more songs to complete the album and un-shelved some from a previous recording.
Tentaciones Vol. 1 (Charlie Cruz)
This is almost an EP rather than an album as it contains only 6 songs. The first one “Pa Que Enamorarse” was flagged in Spotify for explicit content, for good reason.
Basically, these are Salsa Romantica / erótica songs with the same formula on all songs. It just changes the lyrics. As singles, the songs individually are ok, but as an album, all songs sound similar. Not much variation on the arrangements; the old Salsa Romantica formula that should be obsolete by now.
Un Gallo Para La Historia (Tito Rojas)
The veteran Salsa Romántica idol is back after 5 years of a recording hiatus with more of his signature music. Although with a voice a bit more hoarse, perhaps due to a prolonged period of inactivity in addition to getting older, the Salsa in “Un Gallo Para la Historia” is still good. Tito Rojas fans will be delighted with this recording by “El Gallo Salsero“.
Memorias De Navidad (Víctor Manuelle)
This is a DVD/CD Christmas-themed album, and it’s a very good one. Because it’s a Christmas album, I think it should’ve been in the “traditional” category. That said, I’m glad it’s in this category because with its catchy Salsa Navideña I find it the most enjoyable album in the bunch.
Victor Manuelle did a great job with the song selection and performance in the album. The DVD video is very entertaining with Victor playing an abuelo (grandpa). This serves as a base for remembering the spirit of Christmas from yesteryears.
You can read my full review of “Memorias de Navidad” at this link.
My Favorite Latin Grammy 2020 on Best Salsa
In summary, if I were a Latin Grammy 2020 judge, I would go for either Grupo Niche’s “40” or Victor Manuelle’s “Memorias de Navidad“. After seeing some good hard Salsa albums compete in this category in the past few years, especially last year, it’s a bit disappointing that we didn’t get one of those this year. But, that’s how it goes.