Raphie Martinez and his National Combo: Cool Man (Mary Lou)
This is a gritty little lo-fi Latin LP; nothing too pretty or delicate, perfect for getting directly down–just the way I like my boogaloo records. It’s not needy music; the measure of its goodness is its ability to make people move, and by that measure it’s pretty great (yeah). The cover captures the spirit and sound of the record well: solid and cool with some rough edges. The band is tight and together, which is heard in their ability to execute a wide variety of Latin styles–from montuno and guaracha to mambo and guaguanco–with passion and precision over the album’s ten tracks.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll be focusing on the boogaloo cuts, of which there are three–the first being the title track, “Cool, Man!” which stays true to its name by keeping in a relatively even mode throughout. The track tends toward the more instrumental side of things, but it is peppered with intermittent yelps, exaggerated reiterations of the title (“Coooool, Maaaan!”), and choral chants of “Boogaloo, boogaloo for you”–musical elements and conventions not uncommon to boogaloo.
The next boogaloo track, “We Taking Over,” is another solid instrumental cut. It is dominated by an infectious piano riff and powerful horns that ride the beat and really move the track along. Near the end of the song the piano gets to stretch out a little with a solo, while the bass carries the riff nicely.
The standout boogaloo cut on the album is definitely, “Do It All Over,” which features the leader/vocalist Raphie Martinez delivering an impassioned ode to the simple yet thrilling carnal joys of that thing we call romantic love, which has proven to be a deep and inextinguishable wellspring of artistic inspiration throughout human history. Raphie sings lines like, “Hey baby you thrill me fine/ Your kissin’, it’s just divine,” like a man who has really lived and loved–a man of great appetites who can enjoy the emotional complexity of a difficult yet well-timed breakup, as well as the thrill of a new conquest.