Editor: Mandy Bolster.
In jazz music, the Latin tinge is well-documented, but its influence on pop music has been given far less space; although it's not often hard to connect the dots between Cuban or Brazilian rhythms in early swing, it's far more difficult to see how those rhythms eventually filtered through the rest of popular music, especially R&B and rock & roll. The astonishingly thorough compilation Rumba DooWop, Vol. 1: 1933-1954 provides no less than 64 examples of how vocal groups (nearly all of them black) incorporated Latin rhythms into their recordings, nearly always easily and naturally. The set begins in the mid-'30s, with early vocal groups or gospel combos like the Mills Brothers, Delta Rhythm Boys, Golden Gate Quartet, and the Ravens -- groups that weren't doo wop, but certainly paved the way for all the Coasters and Platters and Robins to come. The rock & roll era is accounted for too, both here on the second disc of the set, as well as on volume two (Rumba DooWop, Vol. 2: 1955-1956), mostly with lesser-known songs and artists. (Only one song on the second disc, "Ling Ting Tong" by the Charms, is well-known.) Aside from containing dozens of great songs by talented groups, listeners shouldn't assume that many of these sides from the '50s are radical departures from standard doo wop; in fact, the fusion of Latin and American was so complete by the late '40s that scads of doo wop sides could use Latin rhythms without even sounding exotic -- which works slightly to the detriment of the compilation, at least as a concept. The best course of action is to treat it simply as a repository for great sides by a variety of doo wop groups, both popular and obscure. ~ John Bush