Joe Bataan shot to popularity in Latin music circles by covering soul hits, starting with a radical revision of Curtis Mayfield and the Impression's "Gypsy Woman" that's brassy and built around the chorus. He also ethnicity-switches Aretha Franklin to "Young, Gifted and Brown," and his version of "Shaft" floats Latin horns and flute over that circular rhythm undercurrent. The liner notes focus on his "Joe the Rebel" persona, and one trademark is a rowdier edge than most Latin musicians. Tracks like "Muneca" and "Mambo de Bataan" fall within the canon but their energy (check the former's rat-a-tat-tat bridge) and blowsy trombones add an extra kick, just as the ragged loose ends in the vocals don't detract from the locked-down-in-clave-city pocket of "Aguanta La Lengua." "Magic Rose" has a brassy trombone solo over a strong piano hook that's off-kilter from the Latin norm, but totally killer at hip level, while "Chili Beans" is just a fine example of a lean, clean Latin soul instrumental. "Riot (It's a Good Feeling)" is pretty oddball, though, since it seems to celebrate dancing in the streets more than running wild in them. "Good good feeling" is the chorus over a bring-it-on-home gospel foundation riff and the very Latin R&B/rock & roll feel recalls Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels' take on "Little Latin Lupe Lu." "Subway Joe" is a pure N.Y.C. street life tale about hitting the subway for Chinese food and getting into a funny subway battle with a pretty girl who physically kicks his butt with blaring trombones over a frenetic rhythm. "My Opera" is a story song that builds drama with dynamics and tempo shifts but doesn't rate the "sicko song" label it gets in the liners (which are sketchy, marred by inaccuracies, and spend more time on Bataan's later career than his Fania stint or these tracks.) "Special Girl" is a nice salsa ballad, and "What Good Is a Castle" goes from slow part one to rip it up a bit on part two.
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