Live At The Red Garter Vol 2
Fania Allstars (LP 364)
Live At The Red Garter Vol 2
Fania Allstars (LP 364)
From the late 60s to the mid 90s, the Fania Allstars were probably the most important and influential group in salsa, Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican music. What began as a showcase band for a young label developed into a Latino supergroup capable of filling stadiums. The band's members were either succesful bandleaders or the top musicians on their instruments at the time. As Fania Records expanded it's horizons and endeavoured to reach outside it's traditional Spanish speaking market in the 1970s, the Allstars became their musical ambassadors, travelling across the globe from South America to Africa to Europe spreading the salsa gospel.
But that was the future! The Fania Allstars began at the Red Garter Club in Greenwich Village. By 1967 Fania Records was on the rise and label owner Jerry Masucci was wanting to feature a showcase of all his artists, which now included long-established bandleaders Ray Barretto and
Fania co-owner Johnny Pacheco, alongside the new generation (Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Monguito, Joe Bataan, Louie Ramirez, Ralph Robles, Bobby Valentin). The idea was to record a live session which would serve as a showcase for the label using the "allstar" format which had already proved popular by Fania’s rivals Tico and Alegre.
In 1968, Masucci and popular Latin music/jazz DJ Symphony Sid talked Red Garter promoter Jack Hooke into putting on a series of nights with the Fania musicians, but to broaden the appeal of the concerts and records, a host of guest stars were added to the bill. "Live At the Red Garter Vol 2" album sleeve reads like a who's who of Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican music in the late 1960s! Special guest stars include the mambo king Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri on piano and timbalero/sonero Jimmy Sabater from the million
selling Joe Cuba Sextet. A supporting cast from the bands of Puente, Palmieri, Pacheco and Barretto included vocalists Ismael Miranda, Pete "Conde" Rodriguez, bassist Bobby Rodriguez and timbalero Orestes Vilato. A truly staggering bill though at the time, many musicians were just starting out - Willie Colon was just 18 - however, almost every player present at these sessions would go on to be a salsa star in the next decade.
I remember buying my first copy of "Live At The Red Garter Vol 2" in Paris in 1982 and being so excited about it! From the first second I dropped the needle on Side A, track 1, I knew it was special album. After Barretto's introduction, the band gets counted in and that unmistakeable bassline starts.....8 bars of low-end heaven as smooth as Baileys on ice, the trademark riff to "Son Cuero Y Boogaloo", a Barretto's signature tune of the period. It's much more than just a boogaloo - it's a son montuno with soul! An earlier version of the song had appeared on Barretto’s album "Hard Hands", but this live version smoked! After the coro and brass sections traded 8's the tension builds, then the band hits a break and timbalero Orestes Vilato comes in and blazes a monsterous solo.
The next track "Noche" featured it's composer, pianist Larry Harlow, on a slow guajira montuno. Harlow was a non-Latino but his solo is pure Cuban proving it's not where you from but it's how you play and what you feel that matters! The last track on the opening side was a full-on soul/funk instrumental jam called "Red Garter Strut", the Fania Allstars kicking like Jnr. Walker or the Famous Flames! Another example of the cross-cultural experiments going on at the time in New York.
Side two was equally mixed, a Charlie Palmieri funky montuno salsa called "Kikapoo Joy Juice" opening the set. An uptempo dance tune with the vocalists singing in English, a sign of the times when boogaloo ruled everything in sight. Next up, "If this world were mine", a Marvin Gaye cover featuring Joe Bataan and female vocalist La La doing their best Marvin and Tammi Tyrrell impression over a slow soulful latin-tinged groove."Richie's Bag" closes side 2, written by and featuring pianist Richie Ray, another soul montuno dancefloor classic with the vocalists singing English lyrics quoting Joe Bataan's present and future hits - "Gypsy woman", "Subway Joe", “Ordinary Guy".
And that's it! The whole album is just 6 tracks long but it serves as a historical musical document of something new and vibrant evolving in Latin New York in the 60s. A coming together of black, white and brown as music crossed ethnic barriers. Music, like society, was attempting to integrate. What Masucci and Pacheco succeded to do with this recording and Fania Records in general was to bring together the older and new generations of Latin musicians, where it became the roots of what became "salsa" in the next decade, whilst making the first recordings of the Fania Allstars, the band that would be most associated with spreading the music to a global audience. These reasons make this album a must for any true aficionado of Puerto Rican music from New York.
Fania All Stars
Special Guests Stars
Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez
Produced by: Jerry Masucci
Recording Director: Johnny Pacheco
Audio Engineer: Richard Alderson
Album Designer: Izzy Sanabria