Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to Merengue Dance [World Music Network, 2009]
With its smooth disco hyperdrive, big-band merengue is cocaine music. These 15 tipsy tracks are different. Recorded mostly in the Dominican, supplied almost exclusively by a single U.S.-based label, they're nuevo tipico and proud. Just when it's time for the tempos to accelerate, hip-hop touchups add a roughness, and the dominant instrument is accordion, which as in Colombian cumbia evokes a rural idea of urban modernity even if the hands of virtuosos like María Díaz and Krency Garcia. Elsewhere find wild crossovers whose sonic reach could throw anybody's dance-music assembly line off kilter. And young accordionist Carlos Almonte earns not just his closing spot but the bonus disc that backs it up. A-