Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca - Retrospectiva
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Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca
Mopiato Music ( www.makinaloca.com)

African-born, Los Angeles-based Ricardo Lemvo and his fiery backup band Makina Loca could have easily thrown together a retrospective consisting of an album's worth of their hottest tracks, but that would be too easy. Lemvo has been a trailblazer in Afro-Latin fusion for so long and on so many levels (even successfully tossing in elements that are neither African nor Latin from time to time) that instead he felt compelled to reconfigure some of his own tunes and cover a few Angolan standards. The results? Well, I'm sitting here trying to write a meaningful review while listening to the CD, but I can hardly stop swaying or bobbing my head long enough to construct a complete sentence. The arrangements (which are the work of multi-instrumentalist Jesus "El Nino" Perez and veteran Congolese guitarist Bopol Mansiamina, among others) are such a seamless blend of African and Latin that the two are truly one, which is as it should be.

Yet individual characteristics, such as the re-do of the Cuban classic "Yiri Yiri Bon" in Colombian cumbia form and the Lusophone sway added to Lemvo's own "Sao Salvador," are clear. Lemvo's voice is richer and more assured with each release: he sounds like he could make dancers dance and lovers swoon from any stage in the world. Plus, his command of multiple languages makes the transitions from one style to another (son montuno, kizomba, soukous, etc.) as smooth as the dapper suit Lemvo sports on this disc's front cover. What were once songs primarily for dancing pleasure, like the title tracks from Lemvo's past albums Tata Masamba and Mambo Yo Yo, now are taken higher via more interplay between rhythms from both sides of the Atlantic. But the grooves emerge intact, the distance between Africa and the Western Hemisphere is inconsequential and Ricardo Lemvo has made another blazingly good album. - Tom Orr

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