Radio Espantoso Official Soundtrack Vol 7 - Grand Theft Auto Vice City
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Lonnie Liston Smith
Tito Puente

To go along with the release of the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto sequel set in the '80's era Miami (but called Vice City), Rockstar released a series of soundtracks from each of the major radio stations (heavy metal, pop, techno, hip hop). Each station came with a lot of well-known songs from popular acts of the time. Espantoso's focus was on the latin music scene at the time and included a variety of tracks from names like Tito Puente, Deodata, Bene Moré and Lonnie Liston Smith. Along with the music are a few in-game bits with DJ Pepe taken straight from the game and at the end of the album are two of the many comical radios ads you can hear throughout the game.

Some tracks of note:
Deodata's Super Strut opens the album musically with tons of groove and style and the right kind of energy that sets a tone that just carries throughout. The horns ensemble that pipes up every now and then works great as a balance to the smooth guitar and keyboard work.

Cachao's A Gozar Con Mi Combo is a solid piece that's heavy in Latin style and charm. The smooth music is complimented well with the group vocals.

The horn-work for Mongo Santamaria's Me and You Baby (Picao y Tostao) is a standout amongst a number of fine performances and the bright opening of the track just grabs the listener's attention right away.

Mambo Mucho Mambo by Machito and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra is a fun piece that is infectious in its groove. It's the kind of track that makes you just want to get up and dance.

Deodata's Latin Flute is a wonderfully casual piece that manages to both be laid-back yet exciting at the same time. The percussion and flute work go hand-in-hand to create a strong piece.

Even though I've only noted a few tracks here, each and every track is excellent in its own right. I give Rockstar high marks for going all out and collecting not only a series of tracks that represent the genre at the time but manage to work well together as a collection.

While each act brings their own style and setup to each track, you can't help but notice that the Espantoso album is strong in its instrumentals - most noticeably keyboards, bass and horns. Even though a number of the tracks do have some fine vocal parts, there are no vocal primadonas to take away from the serious music being played. Because of that, this album, more than some of the others, feels more like a true soundtrack rather than a collection of songs pieced together for nostalgia and "namesake". Don't get me wrong - the vocals are finely done, but they feel more like another instrument, rather than the storytelling device that's featured in most popular music.

Espantoso does a wonderful job at capturing a culture through music. There is a fine bit of charm that flows through the album. While it is both a soundtrack for a videogame and a retrospective collection of music from the era, the album works wonderfully as a single piece to be enjoyed on it's own. Very few collection albums work so nicely and this soundtrack plays just fine out of the in-game context it's used in.

- - Kinderfeld

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