In Buena Vista Social Club terms, a relative youngster like 76-year-old salsa queen Celia Cruz has her best yet to come. And her fiery recent recordings show that after four decades at the top of her field, the powerhouse guarachera has lost none of her soul-stirring sizzle. Although Cruz's refusal to sing in English has kept her from crossing over into mainstream U.S. pop markets, tireless touring has made her a global superstar. Expect her upcoming Massey Hall show February 17 to double as a tribute to her long-time collaborator, the late, great Tito Puente. 178 Victoria. $39.50-$59.50. 416-872-4255.
There's no stopping the Carson Downey Band. Having spent most of the past year collecting Halifax music awards for their boisterous All The Way (Loggerhead) debut album, the brawny blues trio of guitarist Carson Downey, his drumming brother Murray Downey and bassist Marlowe Smith are now muscling their way into the megacity. By the time Downey and crew hit the Silver Dollar on March 2, they'll likely be carrying the mantle of the Toronto Blues Society's best new artist. Bet on it. 486 Spadina. $tba. 416- 975-0909.
Upstaged by the Ricky Martin phenomenon, the much-discussed rock en español revolution never happened, and many promising latin alternative artists were forced to regroup or return to their day jobs. King Chango didn't quit. They just got harder, faster and * as their new Return Of El Santo (Luaka Bop) album indicates * much smarter. King Chango have expanded their salsa-ska scope to include elements of hiphop, jungle, thrash metal, dub and blaxploitation soundtrack funk. It's an awesome mix. They roar into Lee's Palace on February 3. 529 Bloor West. $15-$17. 416-532-1598.
Now, this is kinda cool. Though waist-deep in the making of their next album * saucily titled J.E.E.P., or Just Enough Education To Perform * Welsh rockers and Tragically Hip devotees the Stereophonics break from the routine to acoustically showcase new material, with one Canadian show slated for February 12 at the Opera House. That band member Stuart Cable is staying home while his wife delivers a baby suggests the concept may have been prompted as much by recording inertia as a burning desire to test the waters with the fresh songs. Either way, our gain. The show is all-ages, seated and starts at 8 pm. 735 Queen East. $17.50. 416-466-0313.
Badu da boss
Soul diva Erykah Badu is a woman in control, and not just because she routinely dismantles feminine stereotypes in her no-nonsense lyrics. Not content with just writing, producing and performing on her latest disc, Mama's Gun, Badu also set about directing the video clip for the first single, Bag Lady * a task she was clearly up to, if commercial considerations are any measure of success. So you can bet the touring show the coolly sensual singer brings to Massey Hall on February 19 will be the full deal down to the last detail * which it should be, given the price of admission. 178 Victoria. $51.50-$76.50. 416-870-8000.