Willie Colón's first masterpiece benefits from the inventive arrangements of Colón and "recording director" Johnny Pacheco, plus the most precise, intricate group playing heard from any second-generation salsero leader. And Hector Lavoe's vocals are probably his best on record, opening with the brisk, catchy, effusive "Che Che Cole" and "No Me Llores Mas," but extending through slower material like the magisterial "Ausencia." Highlights are literally all over this record, also including the playful, piano-driven "Te Conozco" and the deft "Sangrigorda," which features an amazing sneering trombone line. Featuring musicians as brutal as the hitman on the cover and some of the smoothest vocals of any New York salsa LP, Cosa Nuestra is not only Willie Colón's first masterpiece, it's his best. ~ John Bush
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