Tito Puente and His Orchestra - Dance Mania (1958), 4/10


Dance Mania
is another collection of mambo tracks that are clearly beholden to the limits of primitive Latin jazz and dance music. While these limits would later be shattered and their evolution would prove timelessly wonderful, this iteration has lost its appeal beyond simply optimistic ambience. Yes these songs are upbeat and rhythmic, yes they are celebrating an under-appreciated musical movement, yes they can even be fun at times, but there is still a monotony in its frustratingly monotone consistency and especially in its presentation. There are far more interesting mambo albums from the fifties and obviously massively more interesting ones beyond the decade, especially in the seventies. It has an undeniable surface level appeal, as most underappreciated early records do, but fails to follow through with worthwhile substance. “Lleg√≥ mijan” stands out in the mix for its harmony in contrast to its surrounding of songs lacking such memorability. The variety in percussion adds just enough to make it through the unexceptional vocals and average mambo sound. A track right in the middle of the list in “Hong Kong Mambo” is a great example of a song with great potential, in theory, that falls completely flat and blends into the mix with almost no individual, identifiable traits. Then “Mabo Gozon” falls prey to the same errors immediately after, apart from a marginally more enticing set of percussively explored avenues. All of that being said, the record could potentially serve as a decent starting point for someone completely unfamiliar with mambo's typical tropes, although it may even exhaust a new listener after just under forty minutes. It is an easy listen for those not fully engaged or lacking context. The accessibility and historical, cultural importance are not lost on me, but the appeal as a listening experience, unfortunately, is.