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
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.