Lou Bega - A Little Bit of Mambo Lou Bega
A Little Bit of Mambo

Move over Ricky Martin, there's a new Romeo in town.

Bega may set back the women's liberation movement about 50 years with the Cassanova persona he promotes on this disc (complete with white pinstripe suit, spats and a Borsalino hat), but the girls will likely be smiling cuz he's got that south-of-the-border smile and a beat that won't quit.

On the leadoff track, "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of)" (a single that has already sold a couple million copies in Europe), he successfully melds electronic basses and beats with a classic mambo swing orchestra as he sings of his "love" for all women:

"A little bit of Sandra in the sun
a little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica here I am
A little bit of you makes me your man."

Later on in "I Got a Girl" he reprises the "woman for every occasion" theme of "Mambo No. 5" as he sings of having a woman in every port:

"I gotta girl in Paris
I gotta girl in Rome
I even gotta girl in the Vatican Dome
I gotta girl right here
I gotta girl right there
and I gotta girlfriend everywhere."

Monogamy may not be his strong suit, but Bega knows how to lay a smile-yanking hook down. With its background vocal stylings, instrument arrangements and "mambo" rhythms, the whole album is recorded to sound as if this was a classic '30s or '40s album by an Afro-Cuban big band.

At the same time, Bega throws in modern tricks with some rapping, scratching and synthesizer dance rhythms to kick it up a notch or five above the energy of the oldies. It's a party-ready mix with an excitingly exotic and yet old-fashioned feel.

Basically, it's just a lot of fun.


Phil Collins - A Hot Night In Paris The Phil Collins Big Band
A Hot Night In Paris

Don't buy this album if you think you're going to hear Collins rockin' and croonin' at the mike with a big band a la the Brian Setzer Orchestra. "A Hot Night In Paris" was recorded live last year and finds Collins enjoying time out of the spotlight and staying firmly behind the drum kit while a Lawrence Welk-ready orchestra turns some of his most famous solo pop hits into elevator music.

It's a good, relaxing listen if you're looking for background music; "Sussudio" has some nice horn action, the jazzy trumpet solos that color "Hold On My Heart" make it hard to identify this as having any relation to the original hit and there's a special guest appearance by jazz greats James Carter and George Duke on the funky instrumental Average White Band classic from 1974, "Picking Up the Pieces."

The orchestra also handles a Miles Davis track ("Milestones") and Collins' "That's All," "Invisible Touch," "I Don't Care Anymore" and "Against All Odds."


The Atomic Fireballs - Torch This Place The Atomic Fireballs
Torch This Place

"A man is a man and a rat is a rat
so swing, sweet pussycat."

— "Swing Sweet Pussycat"

John Bunkley is a sharp-dressing, bald, black man with an unshakeable charisma and a bourbon-sweetened growling voice that leads seven other Fireballs (who handle piano, guitar, bass, trumpet, trombone and sax) through a dozen rave-up swing numbers on this finger-snapping fury of an album.

The band projects a great image they're dressed in sharp "orchestra" suits posing for an album cover filled with voodoo skulls and other imagery; and the cover is a good way to judge the book.

This is not your grandfather's big band. (After all, your grandfather's big band would probably never have agreed to be produced by well-known heavy metal producer Bruce Fairbairn).

But they've certainly listened to granddad's big bands Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan and the like and probably to '90s swing trailblazers Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin' Daddies as well.

These horns know how to sway and there are lots of references on "Torch This Place" to old-style jump, jive, swing, but these drums pound harder and Bunkley sounds a bit more dangerous than any classic swing purveyors as he sings about "Caviar & Chitlins," "Spanish Fly," "Calypso King" and more.

This swing rocks.