Liner Note Author: John Child.
This two-disc, 20-cut Anthology by the legendary Fania All-Stars doesn't come close to rivaling the brilliant four-disc Ponte Duro: The Fania All-Stars Story issued in 2010, but it does have a selection of burning live cuts and studio sides. For those who own that fine document, or the separate albums Live at the Red Garter, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2; 2011's Our Latin Thing package featuring a double-disc and DVD of the film documentary of the FAS at the famed Cheetah Club concert (which kicked off the salsa frenzy); or Live at Yankee Stadium, this is superfluous. All of the other sets featured terrific liner notes and presented this music as it happened chronologically. Here, a brief liner essay is more hype than history, with a couple of interesting quotes from Jerry Masucci. The other complaint is that it is universally acknowledged that the best FAS recordings were made live; Ponte Duro separated the live material from the studio sessions by including the latter on a separate disc. No such luxury here. The tracks range from late '60s and '70s on disc one, and the '70s and '80s (both live and in recording studios) on disc two -- and feature a cut from a reunion concert in Puerto Rico 1994. The one genuine rarity is an unreleased live full version of "Juan Pachanga" from 1979, with Rubén Blades singing his composition -- but the band threatens to overwhelm him at every turn. The lack of context here is problematic. It's a decent introduction with a fair price tag, but Anthology is not a truly representative, let alone definitive collection. ~ Thom Jurek