Covering classics made great by distinctive voices is always a risky proposition.
Covering classics made great by distinctive voices is always a risky proposition. Alquimia managed to do it with Sonora Matancera's repertoire by presenting itself as a vocal novelty act, even as it remained faithful to the original Sonora arrangements. 3 con Salsa (which, like Alquimia, includes one female singer and two male singers) faces a more difficult task in its homage to Fania All Stars, given the range of singers who have collaborated with Fania and the almost sacrosanct stature many of the original versions of these songs have. As a result, Homenaje works best the further it departs from the originals, even as the musical arrangements remain unflinchingly faithful. The opening "Sombras," the best track here, features marvelously warm male/female vocals, done with personality and swing. But "Químbara," originally recorded by Celia Cruz, sets itself up for comparisons and ends up lacking—singer Diane's remarkable vocal prowess notwithstanding. The palest replica of all is Rubén Blades' "Pedro Navaja," which should never have been attempted. Despite its imitation-only shackles, 3 con Salsa manages to rock in many places, but in others it can't help but sound restricted. A little vocal liberty would have gone a long way here.—LC