The Rough Guide to Latin



The Rough Guide to Latin: 100 Essential CD’s

Sue Steward (2001)

Pub. Rough Guides

One of a series of cheap and cheerful pocket sized guides to world music, this 200 page book somewhat unsurprisingly concentrates on “Latin” music. Salsa and Afro-Cuban music are well represented but other types of music, such as samba, bachata, merengue, Latin jazz, bossa nova, ranchera and cumbia get hardly a mention as a result. 100 albums, with an accompanying photo of the cover, are outlined and some biographical information is also given. Suggestions for further listening are made related to each of the 100 albums covered. You can hear Sue Steward talk about some of the artists selected for this book here and read a little bit about her background here.

Why you might buy it:

It’s very well presented, a genuine pocket guide, contains a lot of information for its size, gives good detail on those featured in the space provided, it’s also relatively cheap.

Why you might leave it:

Tries to cover a number of genres and does no justice to any in the process (to be fair this is acknowledged in the introductory notes), the selection of albums is of course based on opinion, but even so there are no mentions in the top 100 of artists like Machito, Tito Rodriguez and Larry Harlow….. and Tipica ’73, Mongo Santamaria and Roberto Roena’s Apollo Sound … and Candido, Joe Cuba and the Lebron Brothers (OK, I’ll stop there). A number of the essential albums are UK compilations, not all of which are either representative of artists work or necessarily better than “proper” albums by the same artist. A number of the artists included, from a salseros point of view, are at best questionable given the volume of great artists and albums available to choose from. Some of the included artists albums might struggle (and I feel I’m being kind here) to make a top 100 salsa only list, let alone one covering the entire range of Latin music. At the time of writing this there has been a pleasing move back towards a more dura sound in salsa – the book will be dated in that respect.


Complete list of the 100 albums covered and sample extracts here under “look inside this book” option.

Other Reviews by Enrique Torres
Having a somewhat extensive Latin music collection that includes,45’s, 78’s, lp’s(yes, I can and do still play them), some tapes, both cassette and reel to reel and into the modern digital era formats, I was more than curious to see what was considered “essential.” The author, Sue Steward, who also wrote “Salsa, Musical Heartbeat of America,” gives a bit of a disclaimer in the acknowledgement by stating the difficulty in selecting 100 essential discs among the thousands of choices covering so many decades and so many countries and varied genres. The result is a book that draws heavily on salsa (remember the title of her book) but the contributing specialists reviews of other styles of Latin music gives the book a pretty good balance. The terrific thing is the convenience of this handy mini- pocket book that can fit into the pocket of a mans shirt pocket! You can take this book anywhere and read it anytime to get information on your “unknown discovery” or to read about one of your favorite discs. Each disc is very professionally and competently reviewed. Each review is about two pages and besides the actual music information there are complete biographical backgrounds on the artists, the development of the musical style, including influences and assorted interesting side notes. Since the book is limited to 100 cd’s at the end of the review there are a few suggestions for further exploration of either the artist or similar artists within the genre. There is lots to discover in this mini-book. This is a good book for the person looking for some of the best Latin music ever, whether the shopping is virtual or real this book will inform and help you make a better decision on your next selection. I have enjoyed reading this book and keep it handy when it comes time to add a new disc to the collection. Curiously I did find a few personal “gems” missing but why complain if what you get in return is learning about what you haven’t heard. The musical years covered spans many decades and the styles range from bossa nova to cumbias, salsa to boleros, rock Espanol to merengue, Latin jazz to Cuban, Tango to folkloric and just about everything else considered Latin. This is a great little book for a great little price. The price is absolutely right and you’ll have change from that new colorful twenty to buy your new “discovery” cd in Latin music. There is a small section on websites suggested to buy the discs, which includes Amazon with as Sue Steward says, “seemingly bottomless well of stock.”


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