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1)Ruben Blades: There might be “better” salsa singers as far as improvisation and swagger goes, but as a singer-songwriter package, no one can’t get close to Blades. His compositions are as important today as they were in the mid 70’s amidst all the turbulence and instability in South America. Throw in the two best selling Latin records at the time, Siembra (with the great Willie Colon) and Buscando America, and you arguably have the most complete and accomplished singer of the genre.
WILLIE COLON & RUBEN BLADES......OJOS - YouTube
2)Tito Rodriguez: Despite not being considered a salsa singer per se, Tito is considered more of a Mambo and Bolero crooner, his work during the 60’s (along with Tito Puente’s music) were the foundations of what we now know as salsa. Tito’s album Live at the Palladium is thought of as the blueprint of Latin Music internationalization, and to this day nobody has been able to duplicate his skills at singing boleros.
Tito Rodriguez - Que Sera - YouTube
3)Cheo Feliciano: Cheo’s baritone smooth voice was just perfect, not only for salsa music, but for boleros as well, and when it came to improvisations, his work with the Joe Cuba Sextet is top notch. Joe Cuba Sextet’s original sound (no brass section, and driven by vibraphone) gave Cheo the perfect platform for his phrasing and occurrences. The song “El Raton” (“The Mouse”) was a major hit during the 60’s. Cheo was absent during the early 70’s boom of the NYC salsa due to a drug addiction rehabilitation, but his comeback with the album Cheo, cemented his position as one of salsa’s great.
Cheo Feliciano - Los Entierros.avi - YouTube
4)Marc Anthony: Marc comes from an era of salsa that is sort of controversial amid salsa fans, the so called “Romantic Salsa” (A toned down version of the NYC salsa of the mid 70’s with lyrics focusing on relationship themes.) Marc narrowed that gap between old and young fans by bringing full powerful salsa orchestration to his music, a la Tito Rodriguez, and a passionate versatile voice with hints of r&b and soul. While he ignored some of the customs of salsa music (specifically improvisations), he made up by singing some of the most beautifully written songs in any genre. His first three salsa records breathed new life to a fading genre, and has been the best selling salsa records of all time. Definitely the best salsa singer, or just singer, of this generation.
Marc Anthony - Contra La Corriente (Live) "Madison Square Garden" - YouTube
5)Ismael Rivera: Many salsa fans would kill me for putting Ismael Rivera behind Marc Anthony. When it comes to swagger and soneo (improvisations) no one can’t touch Maelo “El Sonero Mayor” (“The Biggest Improviser”, as he is affectionately called). Ismael Rivera’s work with Cortijo’s Combo is regarded as pivotal when it comes to Afro-Caribbean Music; songs like “Quitate de la via Perico” and “El Negro Bembon” are considered sacred songs in Latin America, especially in Afro communities.