by: Johnny Pacheco

For a man who cut as many records and worked with as many artists as Johnny Pacheco has -- as bandleader, collaborator, producer, and label boss -- a mere two CDs doesn’t seem to be enough as a retrospective. Nonetheless, that’s what we have in Anthology. It collects 28 album tracks from near the beginning of his career, from his stay at Alegre from 1961 to 1964, through his classic movement toward defining salsa in New York at Fania -- the powerhouse label he formed with Jerry Masucci -- from the mid-'60s through the '70s, and subsequent tracks through 1985 on Vaya. The material is arranged chronologically. Disc one leans heavily on the '60s, as it should, given the many hit singles Pacheco recorded -- but many are missing. Disc two’s concentration is not so pointed. It continues through the '60s and moves all the way through the '80s, but leaves out many key songs from the '70s -- there are no performances with the Fania All-Stars, for example -- to fill in the picture of Pacheco’s very direct involvement in the development of salsa. This is made more poignant by the fact that Anthology is almost a mirror image of 2006's double-disc Maestro: A Man and His Music, with two less cuts! Shortcomings aside, this is still a fine introduction to one of the most important and innovative figures in Latin music. ~ Thom Jurek

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