Latinized!/Casa Musica

Latinized!All Latin, 22 tracks, mostly vocals (2007)
Overall: B+

Another in Casa Musica’s Original Hits for Dancing series, this CD is a collection billed as “Latin-Flavoured Hits selected by Dancesport-DJ Berry Bleij.”

About half of the cuts on this CD from Casa Musica are strong, with most having a contemporary Latin sound. Whereas so often, a Samba featuring drumming without much melody is just, well, drumming, both “Mi Bombon” and “Amambanda” are Sambas that combine good energy with melodic interest. The Cha Cha “Less Talk More Action” is catchy with good energy but the lyrics may be a bit racy for some.

If you like pop songs redone in Latin style, Hotel California (Samba) is actually quite a good rendition. “Like a Virgin” (Rumba) does not fare as well. And if you really need to add another version of “Lipstick, Powder, and Paint” to your collection, this one by Roomful of Blues is definitely the one. It would do as well on the Ballroom floor as in a Myrtle Beach Shag club and clocks in at a nice 2:41.

Another classic in its own right, “Matchbox” by Carl Perkins is a good, high-energy Jive as is “Girls All over the World” by the cover band Big Town Playboys. “Satisfy My Soul” (Rumba), performed by the great Paul Carrack, is stirring, with a perfect tempo despite not having a Latin flavor. It’s worth buying the CD for that track alone.

“Hey Boy (Get Your Ass Up)” could have/should have been left off, being neither Latin nor a good Jive. Ditto for “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”

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Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Bologna Open 3–Latin Classic/Prandi Sound

Bologna Open 3--Latin ClassicAll Latin, 18 tracks, mostly vocals (2007)
Overall rating: B+

A good collection of Latin pop hits remade in strict tempo by Prandi Sound. Often remakes of Latin music by Ballroom orchestras are flat—but not this time. Naturally, this music doesn’t have as much heat as the original Latin versions, but it does a pretty good job.

Standouts include the Sambas “Hips Don’t Lie” and a respectable remake of Azucar Moreno’s “Ven Devorame Otra Vez.” Surprise treats are updated versions of “Mas Que Nada” (Samba) and “Bang Bang” (Cha Cha). Well-worn standards by any measure, both tunes benefit from modern arrangements, and “Mas Que Nada” is freshened up with just the right amount of rapping! “Somos Novios” (Rumba), never a bad selection, offers a male and female duet that is just lovely, if sounding a bit old-fashioned. One of the prettiest melodies, “Para Amarte” (Rumba) appears twice, once as a nice female vocal and once as an instrumental, as does “Where Do I Begin” (Rumba).

As far as the two Jives, well, as usual on this type of CD, they are throwaways and hardly worth a listen. Only one Paso is included, and it’s a nice break from Espana Cani, but nothing to get excited about.

Most of the cuts are under three minutes—an advantage over the original Latin versions, which typically ramble on too long for competition practice or even for social dancing.

Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Short Guide to Ballroom Dance Music

By Richard S. Mason
January 1, 2001

Note that since this Guide was written, times have changed—for both music and technology… As of March 2007, Telemark has a Blog! Richard S. Mason and other contributors review new and old CDs, write about the evolution of Ballroom dance music, and comment on dance music trends and other topics of interest to dancers.

For the past 40 years or so, the best recorded Ballroom dance music has come from dance bands in England and Germany and, more recently, from Japan and Italy. In the 1960s and earlier, it was the orchestras of Victor Silvester and Joe Loss in England, and of Hugo Strasser and Max Greger in Germany. Virtually all of these recordings were instrumental and also strict tempo, meaning that the band played at the proper tempo for the particular dance and kept it steady for the duration of the recording.

In the United States, many Big Bands played for dancing, but only the Jack Hansen Orchestra in New York played strict tempo and was the only one suitable for dance competitions. These musicians played for both Standard and Latin events at the annual U.S. Ballroom Championships at the Waldorf-Astoria. Also they played for the Standard events when the World Professional Dance Championships were held for the first time in the United States, in New York City, in 1973. The Machito Orchestra, also a U.S. product, played for the Latin, although some of its tempos seemed strange to the dancers from overseas. For the other competitions in the United States, recorded music was played by DJs such as George Chopourian in the East and Joe and Bobbie Rodgers in the West.

In 1962 the newly formed Telemark Dance Records began importing vinyl 45s and LPs from England (Victor Silvester and Joe Loss) and somewhat later from Germany (Hugo Strasser and Max Greger), and they began to replace popular 45s and a few U.S. studio orchestras such as Hoctor Records in dance schools and competitions. Soon Telemark Records began to produce, under license from British and German firms, 45s and LPs of British and German bands. At about the same time, Jack Hansen’s orchestra began to record, and these recordings also became popular.

Alas, in the mid-1970s, Jack Hansen committed suicide, and his band, America’s only strict-tempo orchestra, was dissolved. After that, only recorded music was played at U.S. Championships, by DJs Jack and Judy Hughes starting in about 1980 and continuing to the present. The most popular of the dance orchestras in U.S. studios during this period was that of Gunter Noris of Germany, which was called “The Big Band of the Bundeswehr.”

In the early 80s, British Professional dancers began using recordings of famous popular singers, American and British, for their shows. Telemark Dance Records picked up on this trend and, over the next few years, produced ten singles, under license from record companies, in a Sing and Dance Series. The artists were mostly British—the Mike Sammes Singers, Vince Hill, and others. At about the same time, DJs Jack and Judy Hughes began using vocals for dance competitions, including those of Frank Sinatra.

Beginning with the 1990s, the European record companies that had sprung up to produce dance records began to issue an increasing number of vocal recordings. These found their expression in collections of artists, among them many Americans, by the German firms of Condor Musik and of Casa Musica. Whereas, in the past, dancers would have to buy a whole album to get one or two danceable tracks from a vocal artist, they could now buy single albums with a full complement of danceable tracks. For some reason, it was easier for these German record companies to produce collections of Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Connie Francis, and others than it was for American dance record companies!

During the 90s, the popular dance band leaders of the previous 30 years, such as Victor Silvester, Joe Loss, Billy Ternent, Charles Barlow, and Ken Turner died, and the bands either broke up or continued in the hands of others—but in general they did not record. Electronic music, which was cheaper by far to produce than that of full-size orchestras, found its way into dance music. In the United States, Thomas Bevans, using a synthesizer and the occasional traditional musical instrument, pioneered this trend with his Musica Caliente series, which got a good reception outside the States—in England, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Shortly thereafter, Andy Fortuna, using a sound studio and musicians in Philadelphia, launched his Latin Jam series, which instantly became very popular worldwide. Dance Vision in Las Vegas, owned by dance entrepreneur Wayne Eng, also has entered this field recently. In Europe, one of the more notable practitioners of this art is Face the Music Ltd., whose Starlight CD became a top seller in 1997.

Canada, too, has been actively producing dance recordings in the past 20 years. Two of the three most popular recording groups have disappeared, leaving Claude Blouin, a studio orchestra that has issued 11 CDs. These are very popular in dance schools for their moderate tempo, appealing tunes, and a clear, steady beat, and they are especially good for teaching beginners and at dance parties.

In the new millennium, it is the new dance media that are the most popular, forging ahead of the German orchestras (Max Greger, who is still recording, and the no-longer-recording Werner Tauber and Hugo Strasser), the British bands of Tony Evans and Ross Mitchell (the latter, with a full orchestra and four singers, plays for the top British competitions and continues to record regularly), and Hiroko Sudou and the New Downbeats Orchestra of Japan, which has not issued a new recording in years but whose older recordings, all instrumentals, still generate a modest demand.

Many of the better CDs by most of the musical groups discussed above are included in our catalog. We have listened to and evaluated all of them and have left out those with no redeeming features. If you have any questions about any of this music, especially about their suitability for particular ability levels, please send e-mail to us at telemark@telemarkmusic.biz, leave a voice mail message at Phone: (503) 265-8884 (Oregon) OR Phone: (858) 487-8316 (California) or, if you still write letters, contact us at

Telemark Dance Records
9002 SW 35th Ave
Portland, OR 97219

Published in: on January 1, 2001 at 7:38 pm  Leave a Comment