Review Martín López y Sus Estrellas – Cocinando

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Martín López is one of Peruvian music’s most interesting and enigmatic characters. A policeman by day and singer by night, López and his revolving cast of musicians managed to play just about every genre of tropical music in its heyday of the 1960s and 1970s. More than 40 years later, Masstropicas and Light in the Attic Records are banding together to release on September 25th a remastered version of Martín López y sus Estrellas’s first LP, Cocinando.

Originally released in 1971 on the prolific Discos MAG label, Cocinando is one of those rare historical gems that gives us a feel for the huge impact the tropical music movement had in Peruvian and South American culture. On the record, López and his musicians alternate between salsa, guarachas, rumbas, chichas and boleros, proving their knowledge and mastery of the tropical music lexicon. This is no coincidence, as the “estrellas” that complete López’s orchestra are legendary musicians from the Discos MAG roster: Melcochita, Joe Di Roma, Ñiko Estrada, Coco Lagos and Tito Chicoma, among others. This lineup is responsible for incredible horn and piano arrangements, and hip shaking drum solos. You can hear this in most tracks, but specifically noteworthy is the mid album banger “El Botecito”. The track opens with a lightning fast conga and kettle drum solo, with López’s high pitched voice mimicking the instrument’s sounds and providing some friendly banter.

In Cocinando, López and his orchestra craft complex rhythms and melodies, but also manage to keep their music accessible to new listeners. The connoisseur will be able to pick out the influences and hear the nuances on each track, but it’s not necessary to know the history to hear the sheer awesomeness of the band’s compositions. The music on Cocinando also transports you to that era where big orchestras ruled the salons on the weekends and couples in fancy attire packed the dance floors. But, far from being nostalgic, the crisp, clean sound on the newly remastered album shows us that this is music that also stands the test of time. This is what makes the record a great find; not only is it a historical document, but it is also a testament to Peru’s contribution to the tropical music canon.

Masstropicas and Light in the Attic’s limited edition reissue was remastered from the original tapes in 24 bit/96kHz. The LP contains liner notes written by Martín López himself and never before seen photographs of Martín López y Sus Estrellas. Cocinando can be pre-ordered from Light In The Attic.

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