After having spent close to five years in a penitentiary in Lexington, Kentucky, Ismael “Maelo” Rivera comes back to New York with a vengeance. He had already done a comeback production with his childhood “homie” Rafael Cortijo called “Bienvenidos.” But even though Tito Puente gave a hand to Rafa availing him of his orchestra while the King laid back on coro, Puerto Rico refused to welcome back the pair. ...MORE >
After having spent close to five years in a penitentiary in Lexington, Kentucky, Ismael “Maelo” Rivera comes back to New York with a vengeance. He had already done a comeback production with his childhood “homie” Rafael Cortijo called “Bienvenidos.” But even though Tito Puente gave a hand to Rafa availing him of his orchestra while the King laid back on coro, Puerto Rico refused to welcome back the pair.
Maelo returns to New York forming his own, “Los Cachimbos.” What distinguishes this sound from what made his name with Cortijo’s is the New York cultural backdrop that includes two boogalus along with some melodically funky bass lines that are found throughout most of the Cachimbo repertoire.
Some funky bass lines suggest a “guaguanco” quickly turning into a “rumba abierta” type of descarga in the first number “De Colores.” Done first as a “cumbia” then brought to Maelo by his “compay” Sammy Ayala, it was rearranged into a salsa format by Tito Puente. A festive, carnival type of life affirming number, it is joyful, danceable and full of swing.
The following “son montuno” written by Cuban flautist Lou Perez again highlights the bass lines into melodic as well as rhythmic patterns that follow the master singer throughout his vocal journey. “Los Cazadores” is a warning to male “hunters” to keep away from his “bird.”
A delightful, playful bomba written by the maestro himself, “King Kong” gives the giant ape a Latino last name, Colon, while singing about his trauma on the Empire State building and his tenacious grip on the blonde as a metaphor for people of color. In Maelo’s version however, King Kong comes out the winner.
A danceable, happy romantic number, “Dice la Luna” extols the virtues of falling in love. But the way Maelo sings it, it’s an ode to life in general.
“El Difficult Facil’ marks Maelo’s territory letting everyone know that this vocalist can easily and naturally sing the most difficult of songs while making the simplest of genres such as the plena, into something much more difficult and complex than what it seems. A measure of Maelo’s prowess as a singer, Rivera was considered a “master” (sonero major) for his ability to sing any genre and his masterful interplay with the clave and the spaces between the notes.
The boogalu was at its height during the late sixties and “Magoo’s Boogalu,” also written by Maelo, reflects the genre in a most witty and humorous format that highlights the fumbling antics of Mr. Magoo. A cartoon the singer was most fond of. Bringing his rapid fire, tongue twisting rhythmic phrases into the hybrid dance, Maelo does boogalo like no one else can.
Elliot Romero’s “Agitando” brings a big band rumba feel to this mix that is precisely arranged and sung to excite the dancers. Featuring a searing trumpet solo by Hector “Cabeza” Meriño, a Dominican musician, neither Maelo nor the band disappoints the dancer here.
Another Lou Perez number, “Este Montuno” underscores the crystal clear timber of Maelo’s vocalization powers. A swinging “son montuno” Maelo see saws the song on one hand while firing out notes like a machine gun on the other.
Romero’s “Super Raton” is one of those guy numbers where getting a hold of a “Super Rat” becomes a metaphor for saving one of their “boys” from a whop down.
Ending with another boogalu that has Maelo phrasing in English as well as Spanish, brings the singer back to his early days with Cortijo when they would play the West Indian festivals with Maelo singing in the language of the British throne. He also sung in English in his debut recording with Orchestra Panamericana where he did “Beautiful Girl.” LESS >