|I'll Be A Happy Man|
|Return To Spanish Harlem|
|You're Moving Much Too Fast|
|You Gotta Love Me|
|Sing A Simple Song|
In our two previous volumes of El Barrio, we provided an exciting introduction to the Latin music world of the late '60s and early '70s. It was a period of rapid political and economic change, a change that would often manifest itself through crisis. These exciting and sometimes frightening times generated many a leap forward in the arts. It was no different for a Latin world that was on the cusp of change between the crossover world of boogaloo and Latin soul and the pure salsa orthodoxy that would dominate the '70s. It is from this specific cultural moment that we love to discover hidden gems and dancefloor winners cherished by DJs and producers, exposing them to a wider audience.
We leave the pure salsa tracks to the parallel series of compilations New York City Salsa. What we have here is Latin music with an American twist - funk, soul or a touch of jazz.
Theoretically, we would be left with recordings made only in New York. This time, however, three of the tracks here were recorded in Puerto Rico.
The first one is by Roberto Roena and the Apollo Sound, culled from the Apollo Sound Vol. 1 LP. Roberto had been a member of both Cortijo’s group and El Grand Combo, and he would become a core member of the Fania All Stars. His main orchestra was the Apollo Sound, which he formed in 1969. Recorded at Trans Recording Studio in Santurce, the band's first two albums were clearly heading in the direction of mainstream salsa. Still, the group favored a progressive aesthetic, with a horn lineup inspired by mainstream rock bands like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. It recorded covers of songs by the likes of Santana and, in this case, Sly and the Family Stone. The group was made up of some of the most forward thinking musicians in Puerto Rico - always at the top of their game.
Roena was also present when the Fania All Stars made their debut in San Juan in 1973 - n fact, Apollo Sound played two numbers in the middle of the Fania All Stars set. Tracks from that concert were used when compiling the two volumes of Live At The Yankee Stadium and also the Latin Soul Rock LP. The tapes were edited and overdubbed. Recently, we recovered and remixed them to sound as they would have that night. The first fruit of this effort is the version of “Soul Makossa” that we feature here - slightly longer than the previously released one, and with Larry Harlow’s organ sounding more fully than ever before. Check out the guest appearance by the song's composer, Manu Dibango.
Our final Puerto Rican track is by Orquesta International, which recorded for the short lived Mavi label - a joint effort by Fania’s Jerry Masucci and Rafael Viera, owner of Puerto Rico's legendary Viera Discos. You may recognize “Mucho Control” from the version recorded by Ismael Quiñones for the Vaya imprint. This is the original, and in my opinion, the better of the two versions.
The Fania All Stars appear for a second time under the guise of Harvey Averne’s Barrio Band, with the Santana soundalike “Cucaraca Macaraca” from the Barrio Band’s only LP on the Heavy Duty label. That imprint was another Fania joint venture - this time with Harvey, who would later go on to form the Coco label and win the first ever Latin Grammy for the Eddie Palmieri LP The Sun Of Latin Music. Averne had been a successful building contractor before he devoted himself to the Latin music business. In the early days, he had effectively ran Fania for Masucci and Pacheco, when they were both busy with other matters. His own recordings had more of a soul and rock based groove. He released his first album, a Fania Production, through Atlantic in 1967, launching two other albums and several singles before the Barrio Band release. Still, this wasn't his Fania swan song. In 1971, he started to record what would have been the third album by the sweet voiced Ralfi Pagán. Even though the project was not completed, a single was prepared featuring the awesome funk tune “It’s Alright" - unreleased, except for a 45 rpm promo.
Central to this volume of El Barrio is the name of Bobby Marín - a Nuyorican who grew up in the Spanish Harlem wanting to sing like Frankie Lymon and spending too much time at the Apollo Theatre. His brother Richard was a producer for Decca and RCA. Inevitably, Bobby got into the game, making a number of fantastic records that filled dancefloors the world over. Two years ago, Christina Aguilera based her international pop hit “Ain’t No Other Man” on a rhythm track based on Bobby’s I’ll Be A Happy Man” for the Latin Blues Band on the Speed label. Like other classic slices of New York funk, the groove was played by Bernard Purdie. Bobby also produced Tony Middleton and Bobby Matos on “Return To Spanish Harlem” - an amazing record that was based around a James Brown-styled groove. Bobby first worked with Middleton when he was recommended to sing “Spanish Maiden” on an album by Chuito and the Latin Uniques.
Bobby didn’t make a lot of solo records. One of them was his only single for Speed: the fantastically rare “Your Moving Much Too Fast,” a fine shing-a-ling groove that would command a lot of dollars from collectors - if only they knew about it. It would likely follow the fate of Richie and the PS 54 Schoolyard’s “Hey Mr Skyjacker,” which commands three figures after becoming a cult club item. The Richie in this case was Ricardo Marrero. The label, Rabo, was a short lived company owned by Bobby and Ralph Lew.
Bobby also worked with two of Latin music’s biggest legends, writing songs for Tito Puente and filling in for Pete Bonnet on Ray Barretto's group. Both of these artists are present in this compilation. Even though he was responsible for some of the most incendiary Latin soul cuts ever recorded and was also a key salsa figure, Ray was also a serious jazz conga player, participating in a number of New York sessions in the early '60s before his own career exploded with the success of “El Watusi.” On numerous occasions throughout his career, he would prove his improvisational skills. “Drum Song” was originally an eight-minute percussion and poetry workout outlining the importance of the drummer.
The Puente track included here is a jazz-funk piece that verges on disco. Puente’s many talents are further highlighted by his production work on Quetcy De Alma’s London club favorite “Deep,” a tune that is far from typical but would sit well alongside La Lupe’s “Fever.”
Only a brave man could have predicted that Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe would become the biggest salsa stars of the '70s when Fania released their debut album in 1967. The 17 year-old Colón and his band were thought to be kids playing a man’s game - they were criticized for being "not proper musicians." They ended up having the last laugh, of course, but even this first album was a joy to listen to - including the hit boogaloo “Willie Whopper.”
The final three cuts are from George Goldner’s Cotique label. Goldner was a legendary figure in the New York record biz, running a series of labels starting with Tico in the late '50s, working with Roulette, End, Gone, Red Bird and ending with Cotique. He was great at discovering talent, but had a weakness for the race track that caused him the loss or bankruptcy of all those labels - he held on to Cotique probably because he died in 1970, before things could go wrong. Cotique found George returning to his Latin roots and discovering new talent while the boogaloo boom was in full swing.
Johnny Colón kick-started this wave with “The Boogaloo Blues,” and then made some fine LPs in a similar vein such as Boogaloo 67, from where “Got to Love You” is taken.
The Lebrón Brothers had a long and illustrious salsa career ahead of them, but their first few years owed plenty to the vocal tradition of doo-wop. The sumptuous “Summertime Blues” is a perfect example of this tendency, and would have taken Goldner back to the late '50s, when his labels were leading exponents of the doo-wop sound. “My Girl” comes from a similar place, though maybe with a more contemporary big-city soul sound. It was one of several Joey Pastrana tracks that followed this route - all of them stunning.
Liner notes written by Dean Rudland.
By the time they released "Back To Back" in 1982, the dynamic Nuyorican duo of keyboardist Richie Ray and vocalist Bobby Cruz were fully devoted to the dissemination of Christianity through the feverish beat of Afro-Cuban music.
The combination of upfront religious messages with salsa is not exactly something you encounter every day. Add to it the classical influence in the keyboard playing of Richie Ray, who is always ready to borrow bits and pieces from his favorite masterpieces and turn them into salsa songs, and the result is an idiosyncratic sound brimming with personality and melodrama.
It is interesting to note that the partnership between Ray and Cruz blossomed before they converted to Christianity. Their first big hit as a duo came as early as 1965 with the infectious Comején. And in 1970 they released Agúzate, one of the most transcendental albums in their career, focusing not on spirituality but on earth shaking party music.
Ray became a born again Christian in 1974, and for a while it seemed as if his decision would result in the permanent split of the duo. But Cruz soon followed Ray's example. Their song Adiós A La Salsa bid goodbye to secular music, and from then on, those powerful coros and addictive moñas were performed with the purpose of focusing the listeners' attention on the Gospel.
The duo dives into biblical territory right after the bouncy opener “Coco Coquito”. Anyone familiar with the immortal works of Johann Sebastian Bach will recognize the dramatic intro of “Nabucodonosor”, a motif that returns halfway through the tune: Richie Ray's spidery solo, which reproduces the ubiquitous melody from Bach's Toccata and Fugue, underscores the fun that can be had by modernizing the classics. Brass and percussion emphasize the majestic mood of the piece until the song erupts into a soulful chorus that combines male and female vocals.
The soulful female choruses are a trademark of the entire session, courtesy of Ray's wife Angie Maldonado and Cindy Grohowski. Grohowski duets with Cruz on the syrupy “Búscame”-- perhaps the only track on this album that has not withstood the test of time as successfully as the other ones.
“Tu Ausencia”, on the other hand, is a buoyant salsa jam. An impassioned Cruz vows not to forget the divine even though the manifestation of God may take a while to actually take place. Regresa ya que no soporto tu ausencia, he sings. Come back, Your absence is unbearable. A smoldering timbales solo adds combustion to a tune that burns with the same power as Fania's non religious material.
On El Sonido de la Bestia, a record released two years before "Back To Back," Ray and Cruz had demonstrated that they knew how to bring an album to its conclusion with an epic sort of feeling. Here, they do it again with “Señales”, one of the record's most intriguing tracks. The duo focuses on the current sociopolitic events of the time by mentioning the Falklands war, then unleashes an implacable chorus: Y la tierra va a temblar. And the earth will tremble. The duo's prophecy is biblical, sure enough, but the earth did indeed shake in 1982 on the strength of the piano solo that closes the record.
Christian music has something of a reputation for sounding didactic, even a bit harmless. With "Back To Back," the inimitable Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz proved that they could deliver a thoughtful religious message and a dynamite Afro-Caribbean session-- all in the same album. For Christian salsa fans, it's the best of both worlds.
Richie Ray – Acoustic Piano, Fender Rhodes, Casiotone, Claves
Bobby Cruz – Maracas, Güiro
Ken Grohowski – Drums
Jose Madera – Conga, Bongo, Güiro
Mike Collazo – Timbales
Ray Maldonado – Trumpet, Flugel Horn
Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham - Trumpet Solos (“Nabucodonosor”, “Caridad”)
Mac Gollehon – Trumpet, Flugel Horn
Lead Singer – Bobby Cruz
Chorus – Richie Ray, Angie Maldonado, Cindy Grohowski, Ken Grohowski
Producer – Ricardo Ray, Bobby Cruz
Recording Engineers - Irv Greenbaum, Mario Salvati
Mix Engineer – Irv Greenbaum
Arrangements – Ricardo Ray, Bobby Cruz
Recorded at – “La Tierra” Recording Studios, N.Y.C.
Original Album Art Direction and Illustration – Rickey Ricardo Gaskins
Written By Ernesto Lechner
Cuando lanzaron "Back To Back" en 1982, el dinámico dúo de orígen puerorriqueño formado por el tecladista Richie Ray y el cantante Bobby Cruz estaba dedicado a la diseminación del cristianismo a través de la música afrocaribeña.
La combinación de mensajes religiosos con la salsa no es algo de todos los días. Si a esto le agregamos la influencia clásica en los teclados de Richie Ray, el resultado es un sonido lleno de personalidad y melodrama.
Es importante destacar que la asociación entre Ray y Cruz conoció la fama antes de que ambos se convirtieran al cristianismo. Su primer éxito llegó en 1965 con el irresistible Comején. En 1970 lanzaron Agúzate, uno de los discos más trascendentales de su carrera. El énfasis no era la espiritualidad, sino más bien la satisfacción de los bailadores.
Ray descubrió la religión cristiana en 1974, y por un momento parecía que este cambio determinaría el final del dúo. Pero Cruz se adherió a las creencias de Ray. La canción Adiós A La Salsa fue una simbólica despedida a la música secular. De ahí en más, los impresionantes coros y las sabrosas moñas del dúo fueron interpretados con la finalidad de resaltar los mensajes del Evangelio.
El disco se adentra en territorio bíblico después del tema de apertura “Coco Coquito”. Los que están familiarizados con la obra de Johann Sebastian Bach reconocerán la majestuosa introducción de “Nabucodonosor”, que es repetido durante un pasaje instrumental de la canción: el hipnótico solo de Richie Ray reproduce la conocida melodía de la Tocata y Fuga. Los metales y la percusión enfatizan el clima majestuoso del tema, que concluye con descollantes coros de voces masculinas y femeninas.
Los coros femeninos están presentes a través de la sesión, interpretados por Angie Maldonado (la esposa de Ray) y Cindy Grohowski. Grohowski canta un meloso dúo con Cruz en “Búscame”-- quizás el único tema del disco que no haya sobrevivido los embates del tiempo con la misma gracia que los demás.
“Tu Ausencia”, por otro lado, es pura euforia salsera. Con su conocido fervor vocal, Cruz promete recordar a la divinidad, pese a que su manifestación física tarde en llegar. Regresa ya que no soporto tu ausencia, nos canta. Un explosivo solo de timbales le agrega gasolina a un tema que tiene el mismo fuego que el material no religioso de la Fania.
Ya en El Sonido de la Bestia, una placa que salió al mercado dos años antes que "Back To Back", Ray y Cruz habían demostrado saber cómo concluir un disco con un sentimiento épico. En este oportunidad, lo vuelven a hacer con “Señales”, una de las canciones más interesantes del disco. El dúo habla de los acontecimientos políticos del momento, mencionando la guerra de las Malvinas, y después nos regalan un implacable coro: Y la tierra va a temblar. Esta profesía es claramente bíblica, aunque es también cierto que el solo de piano de esta canción hace que, efectivamente, tiemble la tierra.
Por lo general, la música cristiana tiene la reputación de ser didáctica e inofensiva. Con "Back To Back", los inimitables Richie Ray y Bobby Cruz demostraron poder entregar un mensaje religioso y una explosiva sesión de salsa-- todo en un mismo disco. Para los amantes de la salsa cristiana, la combinación no podría ser más acertada.
Richie Ray – Piano Acustico, Fender Rhodes, Casiotone, Claves
Bobby Cruz – Maracas, Güiro
Ken Grohowski – Bateria
José Madera – Conga, Bongó, Güiro
Mike Collazo – Timbales
Ray Maldonado – Trompeta, Flugel Horn
Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham - Solos de Trompeta (“Nabucodonosor”, “Caridad”)
Mac Gollehon – Trumpeta, Flugel Horn
Cantante Principal – Bobby Cruz
Coros – Richie Ray, Angie Maldonado, Cindy Grohowski, Ken Grohowski
Productor – Ricardo Ray, Bobby Cruz
Ingenieros De Grabación - Irv Greenbaum, Mario Salvati
Ingeniero De Mezcla – Irv Greenbaum
Arreglos – Ricardo Ray, Bobby Cruz
Grabación – “La Tierra” Recording Studios, N.Y.C.
Dirección De Arte e Illustración Del Album Original – Rickey Ricardo Gaskins
Escrito por Ernesto Lechner
During the heyday of the boogaloo and shing-a-ling era, Fania released an album titled Bad Breath by Bobby Valentín, who at the time was a trumpet player. It was Valentín's third album, following his debut with El Mensajero, which he recorded for Fonseca Records, and the 1966 release of his first Fania LP, Young Man With A... Valentín, who formed his own orchestra after playing and recording with Joe Quijano, Tito Rodríguez, Willie Rosario and Charlie Palmieri, was the third artist recruited by Fania Records, following the releases of Johnny Pacheco's debut and the LP Heavy Smokin by Orchestra Harlow. In 1967, Valentín was still living in New York. Even though he tried to adapt his orchestra to the boogaloo style that reigned supreme at the time with tracks like “Bad Breath” and “Love Me So,” the experiment was a commercial failure. Dancers preferred the hit singles by pianist Pete Rodríguez, the genius responsible for gems such as “I Like It Like That” and “Micaela.” And yet, Valentín showcased his talent as an arranger from the very beginning of his career. In 1967, his band was made up of Cookie Mattero on sax, trombonist Glen John Miller, John Rivera on bass, Joe Torres on piano, Fred Pagani on timbales, Jimmy Maeylen on congas and George Del on bongos. All of them remained in New York when Bobby moved to Puerto Rico in 1969. The combination of tenor sax, trumpet and trombone created harmonies that echoed the aesthetic of the big orchestras led by masters like Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodríguez - in fact, Valentín has covered songs from their repertoire throughout his career. His knack for fusing a variety of rhythms and styles within a few bars of music is evident on the arrangement of “Tú Eres Mi Coco,” which combines a guaguancó beat with cha cha cha and mambo. His weakness for jazz is shown on the self-penned “Zip Zap,” a fusion of descarga and instrumental salsa, with solos by timbalero Poppy Pagani, saxophonist Cookie Mattero and pianist Joe Torres. The lead singer on Valentín's first four albums (El Mensajero, Young Man With A..., Bad Breath and Arrebatarnos) was Marcelino “Junior” Morales, a competent sonero, guarachero and bolero crooner who unfortunately was underrated by the music industry. To this day, he has yet to receive the recognition that he deserves. If you pay attention to the quality of Morales' voice, his phrasing and the flavor with which he sings the montunos, you can tell that he had a big influence on Marvin Santiago. His guaguancó delivery on “Consuélate,” “Changó Ta Bení” and “Barengue Manengue” are a good example of his artistic range. An expressive interpreter of boleros, Morales will be remembered for his gorgeous version of Bobby Collazo's classic “Tenía Que Ser Así.” Junior had no problem tackling a number of Caribbean fusions like Joseíto Mateo's “Ritmo Merembe” and the son montuno “Que Mate.” The interpretations are stunning in their swing and sense of technique, even though the lyrics are far from substantial. In 1967, salsa narratives were, for the most part, irrelevant affairs. That said, Junior Morales was an extraordinary singer, able to dominate the spotlight on Valentín's first four albums. Even though Bad Breath is not one of Valentín's most successful recordings, its reissue confirms Morales' talent, paying tribute to an artistic legacy that should not be ignored. Credits: Bobby Valentín – Leader, Trumpet Cookie Mattero – Tenor Sax Glen John Miller – Trombone John “Flaco” Rivera – Bass Joe Torres – Piano Fred “Poppy” Pagani – Timbales Jimmy Maeylen – Conga George “Chu” Del - Bongos Lead Singer – Marcelino “Junior” Morales Written by Jaime Torres Torres En la época de mayor efervescencia del bugaloo y el shin-aling el sello Fania editó el disco Bad Breath del entonces trompetista Bobby Valentín. Fue el tercer álbum de Valentín tras su debut con el lp El Mensajero que grabó con Fonseca Records y el lanzamiento en 1966 de su primer disco con Fania, Young Man With A... Bobby Valentín, quien organizó su orquesta después de tocar y grabar con Joe Quijano, Tito Rodríguez, Willie Rosario y Charlie Palmieri, fue el tercer talento reclutado por Fania Records, tras los primeros álbumes de Johnny Pacheco y el disco Heavy Smokin de la Orchestra Harlow. En 1967 Valentín aún residía en Nueva York y aunque a través de números como “Bad Breath” y “Love Me So” intentó atemperar el estilo de su orquesta a la moda del bugaloo, lo hizo sin resultados a su favor porque la atención del bailador y la afición se concentraba en las propuestas del pianista Pete Rodríguez, el genio creador de “I Like It Like That”, “Micaela” y otros éxitos. Sin embargo, desde un principio Valentín impuso su talento como arreglista y orquestador. En 1967 su banda estuvo configurada por el saxofonista Cookie Mattero, el trombonista Glen John Miller, el bajista John Rivera, el pianista Joe Torres, el timbalero Fred Pagani, el conguero Jimmy Maeylen y el bongocero George Del, instrumentistas que permanecieron en la Ciudad de los Rascacielos cuando en 1969 Bobby decidió establecerse en Puerto Rico. Con la combinación de saxofón tenor, trombón y trompeta armonizaba al estilo de la sonoridad pesada de las grandes orquestas de Tito Puente, Machito y Tito Rodríguez, tanto así que a través de toda su trayectoria los éxitos de los Reyes del Mambo han sido recurrentes en su repertorio. Su facilidad para enlazar diversos ritmos y movimientos en pocos compases es evidente en su arreglo de “Tú eres mi coco”, en que combina el guaguancó con el chachachá y el mambo. Su gusto por el jazz es obvio en su composición “Zip Zap”, un cruce entre la salsa instrumental y la descarga, con solos del timbalero Poppy Pagani, del saxofonista Cookie Mattero y del pianista Joe Torres. El cantante de sus primeros cuatro discos (El Mensajero, Young Man With A..., Bad Breath y Arrebatarnos) fue Marcelino “Junior” Morales, un sonero, guarachero y bolerista muy competente que, lamentablemente, fue subestimado por la industria y aún en 2008 no ha recibido el reconocimiento póstumo que merece. Junior Morales, si analizan bien la tesitura de su voz, su fraseo y el sabor con que sonea en los montunos, desafiando la métrica, ejerció una fuerte influencia en Marvin Santiago. Sus interpretaciones de los guaguancós “Consuélate”, “Changó ta beni” y “Barengue Manengue” son un buen ejemplo del temperamento rumbero de Junior Morales, a lo sumo un bolerista expresivo y muy sentimental que será recordado por interpretar una de las versiones más hermosas que se conocen del bolero “Tenía que ser así” de Bobby Collazo. Junior también abordó sin dificultad algunas fusiones caribeñas como el “Ritmo merembe” de Joseíto Mateo y el son montuno “Que mate”. Interpretaciones ejemplares por su técnica y sentido de la clave, aunque sus letras e historias no son muy sustanciosas porque en 1967 la narrativa salsera versaba sobre asuntos no pocas veces irrelevantes. Sin embargo, Junior Morales debía ser un extraordinario cantante para cargar sobre sus hombros el peso del repertorio de los primeros cuatro discos de Bobby Valentín. Bad Breath es la confirmación de su talento inmenso y la reedición de este disco, a pesar de que no sobresale entre los más exitosos de Valentín, un oportuno tributo a su memoria. Creditos: Bobby Valentín – Lider, Trompeta Cookie Mattero – Saxofón Tenor Glen John Miller – Trombón John “Flaco” Rivera – Bajo Joe Torres – Piano Fred “Poppy” Pagani – Timbales Jimmy Maeylen – Conga George “Chu” Del - Bongó Cantante – Marcelino “Junior” Morales Productor – Jerry Masucci Director de Grabación – Johnny Pacheco Fotografía de la Portada Original – I. Elkin Dirección del Arte Original – Izzy Sanabria Escrito por Jaime Torres Torres
Roberto Faz y su Conjunto
|Orgullo y Altivez|
|Cuando Tu Me Quieras|
|El Pregón De La Montaña|
|Quiereme y Veras|
|Cositas Que Tiene Cuba|
|Tu Mi Adoración|
|Para Gozar, Cubita|
The Joe Cuba Sextet
Cortijo Y Su Combo
|Alegria y Bomba|
|Dejalo Que Suba|
|Te Lo Voy a Contar|
|Huy Que Pote|
|El Chivo de La Campana|
|Con La Punta Del Pie Teresa|
|Lo Deje Llorando|
|A Bailar Mi Bomba|
|El Negro Bembón|
|Lo Tuyo Es Crónico|
La Sonora Matancera