Rating: NNNA comprehensive collection of the late Tito Puente's influential 50s recordings is long overdue, but this cheaply packaged six-CD.
A comprehensive collection of the late Tito Puente’s influential 50s recordings is long overdue, but this cheaply packaged six-CD box — the first volume of his stylistically defining RCA Victor label output — is a disappointment. The music itself, even the commercial stuff, is consistently high-quality and often explosive, revealing Puente’s ability to use a studio orchestra like a percussion instrument. He often said he only played dance music, and these 108 tracks recorded between 1949 and 55 prove it. Yet the material could’ve been squeezed onto five discs, and session information, photos and sleeve images should’ve been included. Considering how many records Puente sold for RCA, his work deserves better than budget-line treatment.