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Poncho Sanchez Raise Your Hand Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Despite guest appearances by R&B royalty, this side step from Poncho's signature sound...

Martin Longley 2007

The prolific Sanchez has been signed to Concord Picante since 1982, and it's been a highly stable relationship, with no artistic interference from the label. This means that we can blame the conga-man himself if we don't dig this album's side-step from a signature Latin jazz sound. As the Texas-born singer and conguero grew up in the Los Angeles area, he was obviously steeped in soul, funk and rock'n'roll, so he shouldn't really be compartmentalised as a Latino purist. His early years were spent singing with an R&B combo. Nevertheless, it's hardcore Latin jazz stewing for which we eventually came to know and love him!

So, Sanchez has invited guests with mighty statures, including Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd and Maceo Parker. Such names couldn't be bettered in the R&B pantheon. The problem is that, despite their sterling presence, the album's non-Latin end tends to pale beside its more salsa and Cuban-influenced side. After the unremarkable opening title track (a hit for Floyd in the 1970s), Poncho slaps his solo skins on "Tropi Blue", sounding too cleanly isolated and too close-miked, lacking in frazzled reverberation. Then, there's a version of "Shotgun" that can't possibly do battle with Junior Walker's original, despite Maceo's best saxophonic efforts. The production sound is unfortunately too lacking in live presence, but when "El Agua De Belen" glides in at track four, there's a marked vibrant lift, consolidated by the Cuban-infused "Donde Va Chichi?", the disc's finest number. Listen out for when that hand-locked salsa piano riff starts up...

The album closes with Eddie Floyd revisiting his classic "Knock On Wood", but it's taken at an almost leaden pace when set beside his recent version as frontman for Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. In theory this album's concept and guest line-up sounds hot, but the reality is only a partial success.

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