According to this disc’s own liner notes, written by noted drummer and bandleader Bobby Sanabria, the boogaloo movement died fifty years ago. Just goes to show that music doesn't need to ride the coattails of a movement to stay alive. Boogaloo, the ‘60s-spawned combination of Latin styles with soul and rhythm and blues, was one way the mambo and cha-cha found their way into the mainstream. It could be campy in its approach but was too good an idea to simply perish. The members of New York City’s Spanglish Fly understand this, and while they can’t be called the sole revivers of boogaloo, they’re certainly among the hardest and best.
Ay Que Boogaloo! hits the ground dancing with “Bugalu Pa’ Mi Abuela” an instant sizzler that opens on a hand-clapping, chorus-shouting note before diving into a classic arrangement that’s naturally heavy on horns, percussion, piano, bass and guest vocals by El Callegueso to get the party started. Not all is fever pitch once it does, though. No less a legend than Joe Bataan handles the lead vocals of “New York Rules,” a swinging invocation of the B Train and the basic goodness possessed by multi-ethnic Big Apple denizens.
While a mention of Black Lives Matter (also referenced on the front cover) makes it known that there’s some social conscience at work, fun stays front and center throughout the album. Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” gets a handy son treatment before going mambo, and tracks like “Boogaloo Shoes” leave no doubt as to their sweat-inducing intentions. But don’t fret thoughts that musical substance goes astray. This crew plays and sings as tightly as any topflight Latin unit you’d care to name, and their instrumental take on “Chain of Fools” (featuring UK conguero Snowboy) proves it. Plus, “Ojala-Inshallah” highlights the Arabic roots in Latin music, a connection that hasn’t quite gotten its due.
The band also combines English and Spanish vocals with the same seamlessness that enables them to blend and bend grooves that are equally Afro-Cuban and East Coast American. They’ve obviously done their homework and even more obviously love what they do. Whether or not your own boogaloo shoes are currently in a state of dancefloor-worthy repair, you’ll love it too. -Tom Orr