La Perfecta (Alegre, 1962)
Early on, Palmieri was enamored equally of Bach’s counterpoint and the work of Arsenio Rodriguez, a Cuban bandleader known for “re-Africanizing” the island’s music in the first half of the 20th century with crisscrossing rhythms. Both those influences are at the core of Palmieri’s debut album, but ultimately this scans like a pop record. All the tracks are compact, danceable gems, and none wander far from the three-minute mark. La Perfecta belongs alongside Meet the Beatles! and James Brown’s Live at the Apollo: It synthesized a musical lineage and pointed to a way forward in an era when commercial viability was now beholden to the delights of young listeners.