Charo & The Salsoul Orchestra: Cuchi-Cuchi (Big Break Records)

salsoul charo

It’s easy to dismiss Charo as hokum, a camp act with little talent. Sure, she did a great job of cultivating that image of a ditsy blonde who barely knows the language, often delivering funny comments in her broken English, all while making sure to shake her body and yelling her catch-phrase “Cuchi-cuchi!” But behind that image is a woman of true talent; her first claim to fame came not with her comedy act, but with her classical guitar playing, which came to attention when she married exotica orchestra leader Xavier Cugat.

Of course, by the 1970s, her musical talents were being overshadowed by the shtick, but some knew that she had a real talent for music, both in singing and playing. Those somebodies included the masterminds behind Salsoul Orchestra, the house band for Salsoul Records. The resulting album, Cuchi-Cuchi, may have served as a great cash-in, and the novelty of the title track, capitalizing on her catchphrase, was innocent, cheesy fun.

Yet Cuchi-Cuchi surprises. While “Speedy Gonzales” and the title track are slightly cheesy numbers that play up her ethnicity, her number “Borriquito” finds her taking on her musical roots in a straightforward fashion–also highlighting her fantastic guitar playing–and is a surprisingly great dance number. Slower groove numbers like “Only You” and “Dance A Little Bit Closer” ditch the humor and are great Latin/Disco crossovers, with Charo’s breathy, seductive singing perfectly blending with the dance groove. Don’t miss the romantic “More Of You,” a song that probably would have been a smash hit had the name “Charo” not been on the label. Only one song is forgettable, and that’s her cover of “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” a cover that sounds great musically, but suffers for her practically spoken vocals, and she doesn’t pull it off.

Still, this collaboration was a rewarding one, and overall Cuchi-Cuchi is that rare cash-in record that actually serves to prove that its artist is more than the silly personality she cultivated and is still utilizing. Thus, Cuchi-Cuchi is a pleasantly surprising collection of mellow disco numbers from an unlikely source.

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