For Tourists Only: "Cugat in France, Spain, and Italy"


No survey of "The Latin Invasion" would be complete without mention of Cugat. Xavier Cugat was born in Spain, and this set of tunes, recorded in 1959, are his impressons of the three countries visited in his sensational tour of the Continent. Earlier in his career, Cugat recorded for both Columbia and RCA in the "78" era, but most of his prime years were with Columbia, with Mercury and RCA later. This was one of the last LPs he recorded for RCA. Generally, the Columbia years are considered his best.

What we have here sure doesn't sound latin. The album opens in Italy with shimmering mandolins, a full string section and an accordian for Ciao, Ciao Bambina. Not my idea of latin - there is no recognizable latin beat or percussion for that matter. It's pretty, in a stereotyped Italian restaurant kind of way. Souvenir d'Italie is much the same, with the lead handled by acoustic guitar and more mandolins. It's easy listening - real easy. More of the same as we move Under Paris Skies, a tune I do like, with flute and accordian rather than mandolins. The Living Stereo sound is so lovely, that by this point, you are starting to get used to the idea that you will not be dancing the rhumba any time soon. At this point while I was auditioning this record, my partner walked in (a latin) and said "what is this shit?", so I didn't hear the rest of the album, and to tell the truth, I really didn't care. Your Living Stereo fund would be best spent elsewhere. Bob Simpson did due a superb job with the sound, but this is for Cugat (or Living Stereo) completists only.

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