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With the Latin Music Billboard Awards just around the corner, we got nostalgic for some of the old school classics for the era that saw the rise of salsa romantica. It ushered in a new generation of greats and saw icons continuing to reinvent themselves and the genre. Here’s a brief list of some of our hands down favorite singers and albums from that era.

Tito Puente/Eddie Palmieri, Obra Maestra/Masterpiece, RMM, 2000

Timbalero master Tito Puente and “the son of Latin music,” pianist Eddie Palmieri, grew up 10 blocks apart in Harlem. But didn’t record together until this album. Combined, there’s over 100 years of Afro-Antillean musical power on this recording and the masters are at the top of their game. Sadly, it was Puente’s last major recording before he joined the orishas in 2000.

Listen to:

“Picadillo Jam”

“El Puente Mundial”

“Paris Mambo”

Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri salsa album cover

Celia Cruz, Irrepetible/Unrepeatable, 1994, Sony/RMM

Long after she died in 2003, the Afro-Cuban Queen of Salsa still reigns as one the greatest Spanish language singers on the planet. This Willie Chirino-produced gem, recorded when she was 69, finds her in fine form. Whether singing charanga, classic salsa or salsa romantica, Cruz shows why she will always be the standard.

Listen to:

“La Guagua”

“Bembelequa”

“Cuando Cuba Se Acabe de Liberar”

Celia Cruz salsa album cover

La India, Dicen Que Soy, RMM, 1994

If Celia Cruz es la reina, then the Puerto Rican La India started her career as its princess. With her major-label debut, co-produced by Ralph Mercado and Sergio George, she quickly made her mark as the industry’s new female voice. With her dark brown beauty, Nuyorican swag and jazzy, clave-coded vocal phrasing, this album came out the gate with so much potential. Time will tell if she ever reaches those heights again.

Listen to:

“Ese Hombre”

“No Me Conviene”

“Vivir Lo Nuestro “(duet with Marc Anthony)

La India salsa album cover

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