This classic 1971 Fania All-Stars concert album (for many, the original cast of this legendary band) is the result of the fusion of six of Fania Records’ most popular bands and soloists. And their anthological performance at the Cheetah Club on August 21, 1971, is not only considered the birth of the legend that still defines the stellar band to this day, but also the birth of the 1970’s salsa boom. This performance also yielded four equally anthological products: the classic movie Our Latin Thing and its soundtrack and the two volumes of the Live at Cheetah albums. You’re holding volume two in your hands right now. ...MORE >
This classic 1971 Fania All-Stars concert album (for many, the original cast of this legendary band) is the result of the fusion of six of Fania Records’ most popular bands and soloists. And their anthological performance at the Cheetah Club on August 21, 1971, is not only considered the birth of the legend that still defines the stellar band to this day, but also the birth of the 1970’s salsa boom. This performance also yielded four equally anthological products: the classic movie Our Latin Thing and its soundtrack and the two volumes of the Live at Cheetah albums. You’re holding volume two in your hands right now.
By 1971, and with the then seven-year-old Fania label running at full potential, supported mainly by the popularity of the bands led by Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco (Fania’s co-founder), Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentín, and the new and highly sought after addition Ricardo Richie Ray, label president Jerry Masucci revisits the idea of his All-Stars, a concept he already presented in 1968 at the defunct Red Garter Club. Harlow suggests the idea of filming the new performance and making a movie, which Masucci agreed to. But the idea garnered little feedback from club owners back then, who thought a Fania All-Stars night wouldn’t be profitable. Only Ralph Mercado, a successful Dominican impresario whose resume listed clubs like the recognizable Three-and-One (made popular in the late 1960’s by Richie Ray on his tune 3 and 1 Mozambique, and who at the time ran the Cheetah Club, was attracted by Masucci’s idea. Assuming he’d lose money on this bet, Mercado negotiated the final conditions: the gig would be on a Thursday and he’d keep the ticket revenues, which Masucci agreed to since no one else was buying.
On that night of August, a whopping 4,000 attended the show, doubling the club’s capacity, in addition to a large number of people who could not enter the venue, a line, that according to those who witnessed the event, stretched two blocks long. Masucci’s gamble was a total success… and the preface of bolder, bigger plans for Fania’s president.
This second volume of “Live at Cheetah” starts with an impromptu rumba jam where the chorus salutes a certain Ruben in the audience.The chant: A donde está Ruben, a donde está?) for years has been mistakenly credited as dedicated to Ruben Blades, who wasn’t even in New York at the time. The actual person referenced here is a dancer named Ruben Santiago. Then Harlow takes the microphone and introduces Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz to a standing ovation, as they perform their own song “Ahora Vengo Yo”, composed especially for this show, with Ray’s younger brother and trumpet virtuoso Ray Maldonado sitting in. “Estrellas de Fania”, which was actually that concert’s opener, introducing singers Adalberto Santiago, Hector Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Pete El Conde Rodriguez and Santos Colón. (Note: the original LP notes credit the trombone solo to Reynaldo Jorge, but the actual soloist is Willie Colón)
“Que Barbaridad” is Miranda’s page in this songbook and it has its own story too—the band was having a hard time rehearsing this track earlier that day as Miranda had arrived to late to the sessions from the barber shop, which resulted in Pacheco dubbing him with the moniker El Niño Bonito, a curse that will mark Miranda forever. “Ponte Duro”, which became All Stars’ closing tune from that night on, is an open jam showcasing Roena’s skills on bongo. The lengthy “Macho Cimarrón” is a tour de force for El Conde’s prowess, with Pacheco, Harlow and Colón’s soloing as the icing on the cake. A reprise of the band’s intro theme brings this glorious night to its end.
Your salsa collection is not complete without this concert. But you’re even wiser than that. You’re already listening to it as you read this. Enjoy this cornerstone of Latin music history. It’s a true classic!
Johnny Pacheco - Band Leader, Flute, Percussion
Larry Harlow, Richie Ray - Piano (“Ahora Vengo Yo”)
Bobby Valentín - Bass
Orestes Vilató -Timbales
Ray Barretto - Congas
Roberto Roena - Bongos, Percussion
Yomo Toro - Cuatro
Roberto Rodríguez - Trumpet
Héctor “Bomberito” Zarzuela - Trumpet
Larry Spencer, Ray Maldonado – Trumpets (“Ahora Vengo Yo” & “Ponte Duro”)
Barry Rogers - Trombones
Reynaldo Jorge - Trombones
Willie Colón – Trombones
Chorus - Ismael Miranda, Cheo Feliciano, Héctor Lavoe, Pete El Conde Rodríguez, Adalberto Santiago, Bobby Cruz and Santos Colón
Masters of Ceremony - Symphony Sid and Izzy Sanabria