"Yankee Stadium? Are you nuts, Jerry?" By 1973 Fania Records' flagship super-group, the Fania All Stars, were on a roll. Their two-volume album Live At The Cheetah (1971) had became the biggest selling live Latin recordings up to that point and the 1972 movie Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa), prominently featuring clips from the Cheetah concert, was opening doors abroad. Despite advice to the contrary, label boss Jerry Masucci (1934-1997) took the bold step of booking New York's massive Yankee Stadium for a salsa concert on Friday, August 24, 1973. They thought we were crazy, said Masucci. But I rented the place for one night for $180,000 cash. ...MORE >
"Yankee Stadium? Are you nuts, Jerry?" By 1973 Fania Records' flagship super-group, the Fania All Stars, were on a roll. Their two-volume album Live At The Cheetah (1971) had became the biggest selling live Latin recordings up to that point and the 1972 movie Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa), prominently featuring clips from the Cheetah concert, was opening doors abroad. Despite advice to the contrary, label boss Jerry Masucci (1934-1997) took the bold step of booking New York's massive Yankee Stadium for a salsa concert on Friday, August 24, 1973. They thought we were crazy, said Masucci. But I rented the place for one night for $180,000 cash. His gamble paid off, because the event attracted a crowd of about 45,000.
It was a condition of the stadium rental that the performers should stay on the platform stage and the audience remain in the stands, located far away from the stage. All went according to the stipulation during performances from Típica 73, El Gran Combo and Mongo Santamaría's group. However, midway through the Fania All Stars' rendition of "Congo Bongo," an incendiary conga duel between Ray Barretto and Mongo written by Larry Harlow and Heny Alvarez, the audience could no longer contain themselves, and charged the stage. Police intervened, the lights went up and the event had to be abandoned with about five numbers still to perform.
1974's "Latin-Soul-Rock" was the first album to include material from this historic concert, namely the tracks "Congo Bongo" and "El Ratón." The two-volume Live At Yankee Stadium, released the following year, featured four more songs from the concert. The live recording of "Soul Makossa" on "Latin-Soul-Rock," a cover of the 1972 hit by Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, and the remaining six cuts on the Live At Yankee Stadium albums were all recorded at the Fania All Stars' debut in San Juan, Puerto Rico, opening the new Roberto Clemente Coliseum. For the rest of "Latin-Soul-Rock," the band and its invited guests, Dibango, Jorge Malo Santana, Billy Cobham and Jan Hammer, reconvened at Good Vibration Sound Studios to record the material they were supposed to have performed at Yankee Stadium.
The five studio tracks, "Viva Tirado," "Chanchullo," "Smoke," "There You Go" and "Mama Güela," were intended to demonstrate the All Stars fusion chops – hence the album's title – as well as their crossover potential. These tracks comprised the A-side of the original vinyl release with the concert material on the B-side.
The All Stars' version of "Viva Tirado" stays pretty faithful to the 1970 hit by the East Los Angeles group the V.I.P.'s (subsequently renamed El Chicano), itself a cover of a song by jazz composer Gerald Wilson in homage to the Mexican bullfighter José Ramón Tirado. Barretto, Dibango and Hammer each take solos. "Chanchullo," penned by mambo and descarga pioneer Israel López Cachao, showcases the guitar work of Santana, brother of Carlos and leader of the Latin rock band Malo, and trumpeter Ray Maldonado, the older brother of pianist Ricardo Ray. The studio set concludes with a driving reworking of "Mama Güela," a Tito Rodríguez mambo he originally recorded around 1949 under the title Mambo Mona with his Los Lobos Del Mambo. Hammer, best known for scoring the Miami Vice TV series in the 1980s, lifts the number with his blazing Hammond organ solo.
The Fania All Stars were at their best in a live setting, and this includes the gem of the album, Cheo Feliciano's remarkable reinterpretation of "El Ratón" featuring a soaring solo from Santana. "El Ratón," which Cheo originally wrote and sang when he was a member of the Joe Cuba Sextet for their album Vagabundeando! Hangin' Out (Tico Records, 1964) refers to a snitch and is one of his trademark tunes. Footage of this performance is also one of the highlights of the 1976 movie Salsa (the soundtrack album received a Grammy nomination) co-directed by Masucci and Leon Gast and made up largely of film from the Yankee Stadium and Roberto Clemente Coliseum gigs.
Written by John Child, contributor to Descarga.com
Introduction - Dick Sugar (WHBI FM)
Vocals - Bobby Cruz, Cheo Feliciano, Héctoe Lavoé & Ismael Miranda
Produced By - Jerry Masucci & Larry Harlow
Recording Director - Johnny Pacheco
Arrangements by Bobby Valentín except “Viva Tirado” and “There You Go” arrangements by Marty Sheller
Ray Barretto – Conga (solo on “Viva Tirado” & “Congo Bongo”)
Willie Colón – Trombone
Larry Harlow – Piano (organ on “Soul Makossa”)
Johnny Pacheco – Musical Director, Güiro, Chimes & Percussion
Roberto Roena – Bongos (solo on “Smoke”)
Bobby Valentín – Bass
Pete El Conde Rodríguez
Lewis Kahn – Trombone
Ray Maldonado – Trumpet (solo on “Chanchullo”)
Nicky Marrero – Timbales (solo on “Congo Bongo”)
Víctor Paz – Trumpet
Barry Rogers – Trombone
Yomo Toro – Tres
Lou Soloff – Trumpet
Luis Perico Ortiz – Trumpet
Special Guest Stars Courtesy of Vaya Records:
Mongo Santamaría – Conga (solo on “Smoke” & “Congo Bongo”)
Bobby Cruz – Vocals
Cheo Feliciano – Vocals
Ismael Quintana – Vocals
Ricardo Ray – Piano (“El Ratón” & “Soul Makossa”)
Invited Guests -
Manu Dibango – Sax (solo on “Viva Tirado”)
Jorge Malo Santana – Electric Guitar (solo on “Chanchullo” & “El Ratón”)
Billy Cobham – Drums
Jan Hammer – Hammond Organ (solo on “Viva Tirado” & “Mama Güela”)
Manu Dibango and Billy Cobham appear courtesy of Atlantic Records
Jorge Santana appears courtesy of Warner Bros. and David Rubinson, Fillmore Corporation
Recorded at Yankee Stadium by Location Recorders and at Good Vibrations Sound Studios
“Soul Makossa” recorded live at Coliseo Roberto Clemente, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Recording Engineer - Alan Manger
Mixed at Good Vibrations Sound Studios
Mix Engineers - Alan Manger, Bernie Fox & Jon Fausty
Special Thanks to Aaron Baron & Larry Dohlstrom of Location Recorders
Photographs By - Lee Marshall & Tom Monaster