Stocking Stuffers: Dennis Brown & La Lupe

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton

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We got to figure that if you’re even reading this on Christmas Eve, you are most likely in a mad search for last minute gift ideas. If chocolate is not enough, may we suggest two of the other kind of goodies (CDs! Remember those?) that will make ideal stocking stuffers for the Caribbean music lover in your life.

Dennis Brown, The Crown Prince of Reggae: Singles 1972-1985 (North Parade/VP records).  This excellent compilation of 45s from the one and only Dennis Brown will no doubt be lost amidst all of the heartfelt tributes to the late, great Gregory Isaacs, who was Brown’s contemporary and sparring partner. And that’s a shame because it comprises two discs (actually three–disc 3 is a DVD of live Brown performances at Montreaux Jazz fest in 1979) of amazing music. The completist singles collection includes rare versions of some absolute classics like “To The Foundation” and “Promised Land” (which was just made famous again by Nas & Junior Gong). Not every track on here is Brown’s best–“Black Magic Woman” may not even be the best reggae cover of the Carlos Santana tune–but in our experience there actually is no such thing as a bad Dennis Brown song–unless by bad you mean wicked. And although no one can tarnish the legacy or impact of Jamaica’s beloved Gregory, there was only one artists of that generation who was recognized by Bob Marley as his rightful successor–and that’s why this record is called the Crown Prince of reggae.

La Lupe, La Dama y Su Musica: La Lupe Puro Teatro (Fania Records). Whether you (or yo’ secret santa) are already indoctrinated in the latin program or just now got put on by Bobbito Garcia’s Top 10, Fania did you a serious Christmas look with this compilation of Cuban diva La Lupe.  We personally recomend “Bomba Na’ Ma'” but there are tons of ballroom bangers to choose from because this is also a two-disc collection–and just to keep the symetry extra-symetrical, where Brown was the Crown Prince of reggae, La Lupe was the undisputed Queen of Latin Soul. She has also been described as “a cross between Edith Piaf…Eartha Kitt, Tina Turner (and) Nina Simone”–and if that’s not enough to sell you there’s also a 32-page booklet of unreleased LP covers and photos from the days when La Lupe ran New York’s ballrooms with the likes of Tito Puente. This is a classic Cadillac of a record from the place where Cadillacs still run the streets.