Released in 1981, “Celia y Willie” is the second official collaboration between two of Fania's biggest stars: Celia Cruz and Willie Colón. The concept here was to repeat the success, both in commercial and artistic terms, of the duo's first album, the classic Only They Could Have Made This Album. To a certain degree, the two records have a lot in common. At this point of time, however, things were different than in 1977. ...MORE >
Released in 1981, “Celia y Willie” is the second official collaboration between two of Fania's biggest stars: Celia Cruz and Willie Colón. The concept here was to repeat the success, both in commercial and artistic terms, of the duo's first album, the classic Only They Could Have Made This Album. To a certain degree, the two records have a lot in common. At this point of time, however, things were different than in 1977.
At the time of this release, Celia was still the company's number one priority, wheras Willie continued being one of the label's biggest sellers. But Fania was already experiencing the collapse of the salsa phenomenon that it had created years ago. Record sales were lagging and some artists had left its roster. Willie Colón was the only artist and producer with consistent sales, as evidenced by his solo records and his collaborations with Rubén Blades. A year earlier, the experiment of teaming him up with singer Ismael Miranda had proved successful, resurrecting the latter's career following a brief hiatus. Now it was time to help the Queen of Salsa herself. Even though Cruz had just recorded a successful outing with Pete El Conde Rodríguez backed by Johnny Pacheco's Tumbao group, her records were not selling as much as they did during her mid-'70s heyday.
Musically, a number of changes were also noticeable. Willie was moving towards a more acoustic sound, as reflected in the Blades albums Canciones Del Solar De Los Aburridos and Maestra Vida. Celia, on the other hand, was catering to a new audience with which she identified closely: the Cuban exiles in Miami. She began incorporating into her repertoire tunes by songwriters that were well known within the Miami community such as Cuban/Puerto Rican actress Marilyn Pupo and the late singer Alexander Titti Soto (probably one of the most misunderstood artists in the Latin music business.)
In 1979, Pupo had already given Celia the anthemic Soy Antillana, which she recorded with Sonora Ponceña. For this recording, she delivered the clever opening track “Mi Caso.” Written by Soto, “Latinos En Estados Unidos” is an ode to Hispanic unity that resonates with particularly intensity in this day and age, where national division in the U.S. appears to be more evident than ever.
“Cucurrucucú Paloma” finds a direct parallel with Tú Y Las Nubes from the 1977 session: a classic Mexican corrido transposed into the salsa aesthetic. Yet another parallel can be found on the bolero “Ya Lo Puedes Decir”, previously immortalized by Puerto Rican crooner Tito Rodríguez. “Dos Jueyes” was the album's biggest hit. Written by Johnny Ortiz, “Apaga La Luz” is one of the collection's underrated gems together with the lesser known “Berimbau” by the excellent Tite Curet Alonso, and “Hay Que Recordar”, composed by Johnny Pacheco himself.
The last common reference between this record and the 1977 session is the cast of musicians. Willie's orchestra underwent few changes during the intervening years, but the appearance of Johnny Almendra on timbales did stir things up a bit. This is also the last session with Brazilian José Rodríguez as a band member. Otherwise, the orchestra remained the same, including the classic trio of Willie, Milton Cardona and José Mangual Jr. on backup vocals.
Willie Colón – Trumpet
Prof. Joe Torres - Piano
Sal Cuevas - Bass
José Rodriguez - Trombone
Leopoldo Pineda - Trombone
Lewis Kahn - Trombone
Johnny Almendra - Timbales
Jose Mangual Jr. - Bongoes
Milton Cardona – Congas
Lead singer – Celia Cruz
Backup vocals - Milton Cardona , José Mangual Jr., Willie Colón
Producer – Willie Colón
Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci
Arrangements – Jose Madera (“Mi Caso”, “Come Down To Miami”), Luis “Perico” Ortiz (“Cucurucucú Paloma”, “Kirimbambara”), Javier Vazquez (“Ya Lo Puedes Decir”) Titti Soto (“Latinos En Estados Unidos”), Carlos Franzetti (“Berimbau”), Louie Ramirez (“Dos Jueyes”, “Apaga La Luz”), Francisco Cabrera (“Hay Que Recordar”)
Original Cover Illustration – Ricky “Ricardo” Gaskins