By the time Ray Barretto had recorded this album, he had already established himself as a first call conguero in the world of jazz and as a bandleader on NYC’s vibrant Afro-Cuban dance music scene. His early roots, working with such luminaries as Tito Puente, José Curbelo and others were now a thing of the past. He had abandoned the charanga (flute and violins) format that yielded him a crossover novelty hit, El Watusi and now he had formed a conjunto (two trumpet based group) which was making a name for itself with his debut album ACID, for the newly formed Fania record company. ...MORE >
By the time Ray Barretto had recorded this album, he had already established himself as a first call conguero in the world of jazz and as a bandleader on NYC’s vibrant Afro-Cuban dance music scene. His early roots, working with such luminaries as Tito Puente, José Curbelo and others were now a thing of the past. He had abandoned the charanga (flute and violins) format that yielded him a crossover novelty hit, El Watusi and now he had formed a conjunto (two trumpet based group) which was making a name for itself with his debut album ACID, for the newly formed Fania record company.
In keeping with the tenor of the times, Ray continued to compose tunes that fused Rhythm and Blues elements with Afro-Cuban rhythm. The genre became known as Latin Boogaloo and this album has great examples of the style. The opening tune, titled after Ray’s sobriquet, “Hard Hands” (given to him by a fan at a radio station who Ray tapped on the shoulder) features the English vocals of trumpeter René Lopez. Ray’s powerful conga drumming is showcased and the tune became a hit on NYC’s R & B radio giant WWRL AM in NYC. It thus further increased and solidified his visibility outside of the Latino community, particularly among African Americans.
“Abidjian”, composed by Ray in tribute to that beautiful Ivory Coast City in West Africa, opens with Bobby Valentin’s mighty tumbao (repetitive pattern) on the bass. It’s a feature for Cuban born timbalero Orestes Vilato, whose virtuosic technique would influence a whole generation of drummers. Of note is the tunes unique arrangement which features three rhythms. NYC style mozambique in the opening, mambo during Orestes solo, back to mozambique for trumpeter Roberto Rodriguez’s solo and finally as a closing tribute to Mother Africa, the tune switches to bembé rhythm. “Love Beads” is an instrumental boogaloo which closes with some nice jazz influenced trumpet work by René Lopez.
“Mi Ritmo Te Llama” begins as a funky mid-tempo son montuno addressing how Barretto’s rhythm invites one to party. No doubt a tribute to the influence the legendary Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez had on Ray. The tune suddenly shift gears into an up-tempo guaracha featuring Luis Crúz on a tasty piano solo which segues into a short trumpet feature for Vilato’s fellow Cuban colleague, trumpeter Roberto Rodriguez. Puerto Rican born vocalist Adalberto Santiago has the last word with some great soneo’s (vocal improvs). Take note! Corista (background vocalist) Jimmy Sabater has the final word as he shouts Salsa! It possibly may be the first time the word was utilized on a NYC recording of Afro-Cuban based music. “Got to Have You” is in the boogaloo vein and it exemplifies Ray’s unique compositional technique. I have a knack for writing bass lines. Most of the things I write start with a tumbao (repetitive line). This tune grew out of that.
“Son Con Cuero” is another showcase for Vilato, but this time the tune opens with some beautiful trumpet work done by Roberto Rodriguez at a medium son montuno tempo. As the intensity of the eventual Vilato solo builds, the coro (background vocals) of Willie Torres and Jimmy Sabater rightfully exclaim, Vilato se boto! La puso en China! (Vilato has outdone himself! He’s knocked it out to China!). Hugo Gonzalez’s “Mirame De Frente” is a guaracha featuring Adalberto that deals with someone who doesn’t have the courage to face one face to face - in this case, a lover. “New York Soul” is another fine example of Latin Boogaloo with again, René Lopez featured on vocals which achieved airplay on NYC pop radio. The album closes with yet another funky son montuno penned by Ray entitled “Ahora Si”, an affirmation of things being right on in the positive. Ray gets the final word as his conga solo closes the disc in a beautiful example of controlled intensity. Fitting testimony to the beginning of the group that would become known as the most powerful conjunto of what would become known as, The Salsa Era.
Ray Barretto – Congas, Musical Director
Adalberto Santiago – Lead Vocal on “Mi Ritmo Te Llama”, “Mirame De Frente”, “Ahora Si”; Guiro on “Abidjian”, Lead Vocal on “Abidjian” in bembé section
Roberto Rodriguez – Lead Trumpet
Joseph “Papy” Roman – Trumpet
René Lopez – Lead Vocal on “Hard Hands, “’Got To Have You”, “New York Soul”, Trumpet Solo on “Love Beads”
Orestes Vilato – Timbales, Drumset on “Love Beads” and “New York Soul”
Tony Fuentes – Bongó, Cencerro (bongo bell), Cha-Cha Bell on “Love Beads”, Clave on “Abidjian”
Louis Crúz – Piano
Bobby “Mr. Soul” Valentin – Ampeg “Baby” Bass
Willie Torres and Jimmy Sabater – Coro (Background Vocals)
Jimmy Sabater – Vocal Exclamations – (“Ray Que Pasa?, etc.) on “New York Soul”
Produced by Ray Barretto
Executive Producer - Jerry Masucci
All arrangements supervised by Ray Barretto except “Love Beads” and “Mirame De Frente” done by Louis Crúz
Recorded at Century Sound in NYC in 1968
Recording Engineer: Brooks Arthur
Original Cover and all other photos: Leon Gast
Original album cover design: Izzy Sanabria