A (Real) Little Bit of Mambo

Lou Bega - A Little Bit of Mambo
(RCA Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Dressed to the nines with dashing good looks and a smooth bacardi-on-the-rocks voice, 24 year-old Lou Bega is unabashedly proclaiming himself the new mambo king on his debut album A Little Bit of Mambo. But just because he wears a fedora and spats and has added catchy Latin rhythms to songs that swoon over his love of women, it doesn't mean that he's got the 'babalu' of Ricky Ricardo.
While the majority of the album is filled with fun numbers that blend Latin-flavored rhythms and horns with the turntable-scratchings of rap, the song structures of pop and an occasional hip-hop beat thrown in to keep things fresh, it never touches the Caribbean realism of the true Cuban mambo kings - Perez Prado, Tito Puente and Dezi Arnez.
This girl-crazy playboy's current claim to fame is with his snappy dance-floor hit "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of...)", which is currently sweeping the world with it's Latin-infused horns and unshakable chorus that mentions his long list of girlfriends. His name dropping of lovers continues through " I Got A Girl" (where Bega brags, "I gotta girl in Paris, I gotta girl in Rome, I even got a girl in the Vatican Dome"), "Tricky, Tricky", "The Most Expensive Girl In The World" and, come to think of it, every other song on the album.
Although a couple of the songs sound a little close to one another (if the number "1+1=2" doesn't add up to the same sum as "Mambo No. 5" then someone please check my math) there are, however, a few numbers that have a fresher sound. Bega comes off sounding like Louis Jordan having milk 'n' cookies with Raffi on the cute "Baby Keep Smiling", he raps over Latin-spiced horns on the infectious "Icecream" and burns up the disco floor on the high-octane, Havana hip-shaker "Can I Tico Tico You". Fueled by a bluesy bass-line and honky-tonk piano on "Beauty On The TV Screen" Bega croons the chorus ala "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", while "The Trumpet Part II" turns into a jazzy form of ambient dub with it's heavy hip-hop beat, frantic trumpet, repetitive lyrics and falsetto yelping.
Similar to all his worldwide, whirlwind lovemaking, Bega's music, although fun, becomes spread just a little too thin trying to blend all the right ingredients of world music and what's popular in music today.

Return to CD Archives
Return to CD Reviews
Return to Menu