In my liner notes for the first volume of “Live at Yankee Stadium”, I emphasized some of the changes in the lineup for both this historical concert held on Friday, August 23, 1973, as well as its Puerto Rican sequel in November 1973 at the new Roberto Clemente Coliseum. This time the focus for these liner notes is the music itself, published on the commemorative official albums, specifically this second volume you’re holding right now. ...MORE >
In my liner notes for the first volume of “Live at Yankee Stadium”, I emphasized some of the changes in the lineup for both this historical concert held on Friday, August 23, 1973, as well as its Puerto Rican sequel in November 1973 at the new Roberto Clemente Coliseum. This time the focus for these liner notes is the music itself, published on the commemorative official albums, specifically this second volume you’re holding right now.
Unlike Volume One, here three of the five songs are actually from the Yankee Stadium concert itself. With the song “Hermandad Fania”, born-again Christians Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz were hinting to the salsa world of their religious transformation, yet they do not dive heavily into religious content here as they will do after 1976 with their Reconstrucción album. While Cruz’s soneos are about the bonding between the Fania members and lists some of them (despite the conflicts described on Volume One’s notes and the usual ego rubbing), Ray incinerates the stage with a pounding piano solo, followed by Nicky Marrero’s own display of virtuosity as, after an intense timbale solo, he astonishes the audience with a series of whistling and voice effects. (On a funny note, listen closely and you’ll hear Héctor Lavoe enjoying the stunt, dubbing him El Payaso Nicky, el que no se fuma el pito porque… (Nicky the clown, the one who doesn’t smoke his own whistle). Marrero later snaps back at him by saying: echa pa’ lla, que tu ni trabajas… (get out of here, you don’t even have a day job).
Album’s side A closes with the definite consecration of Celia Cruz as Queen of Salsa. Cruz’s voice takes possession of the Coliseum as she dances to the swing of Roberto Roena and Pete El Conde Rodríguez. She then brings the audience to their feet with her “Bemba Colorá”, a song from her 1960’s repertoire. Fania as a band provides her more than a sturdy cushioning, with Luís Perico Ortiz’s trumpet wailing over the ferocious trombone riffs of Barry Rogers, Lewis Kahn and Willie Colón. (Again, Ortiz replaces Roberto Rodríguez after this Puerto Rican concert.) As you can hear on this unedited version, the audience’s reaction was so deafening that an encore was in order.
Back to Yankee Stadium, side B opens with Ismael Quintana’s formal Fania solo debut with his own composition “Mi Debilidad” on a progressive arrangement by Bobby Valentín, which Quintana later records on his own. Here we also hear Larry Harlow’s prowess on the 88 keys (back then, they still used full-sized grand pianos at concerts).
With a tailor-made son montuno by Johnny Pacheco, Cuban virtuoso Justo Betancourt claims his space on “Echate Pa’lla”, showing his bravura and bold stripes on stage as well as showcasing Yomo Toro’s overwhelming mastery of the Puerto Rican cuatro guitar.
The album closes in big fashion with the torrid descarga, “Congo Bongo”. This version, which comes from the Coliseum concert, is the sequel to the bloody conga duel between Mongo Santamaría and Ray Barretto that ended the New York concert abruptly as the frenzy audience bypassed the security limits and walked into the Yankee Stadium playing field. Adding more firepower to the fireworks provided by the two late conga legends, Cameroon tenor sax superstar Manu Soul Makossa Dibango joins the party, peppered with the spicy and unrehearsed soneos of Héctor Lavoe and Cheo Feliciano.
Exactly 33 years from the original dates, these two Fania All-Stars concerts still mark a cornerstone in salsa history. And 30 years after their original release, these two “Live at Yankee Stadium” albums still preserve the energy of those nights in 1973 when Our Latin Thing exploded past the barrio borders to come out and conquer the rest of the world.
Johnny Pacheco – Conductor, Percussion
Larry Harlow – Piano
Richie Ray – Piano (“Hermandad Fania”)
Bobby Valentín - Bass
Nicky Marrero - Timbales
Ray Barretto – Congas
Roberto Roena – Bongo, Percussion
Yomo Toro - Cuatro
Roberto Rodríguez – Trumpet (“Hermandad Fania”, “Mi Debilidad”, “Echate Pa’Lla”)
Luís "Perico" Ortiz - Trumpet (“Congo Bongo”, “Bemba Colorá”)
Víctor Paz - Trumpet
Ray Maldonado - Trumpet
Barry Rogers - Trombone
Lewis Kahn - Trombone
Willie Colón - Trombone
Vocals - Ismael Miranda, Héctor Lavoe, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Justo Betancourt, Santos Colón
Guest Stars Courtesy of Vaya Records – Celia Cruz, Mongo Santamaría (Conga solo “Congo Bongo”), Bobby Cruz, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Quintana, Ricardo Ray
Special Invited Guest – Manu Dibango (Tenor Saxophone solo “Congo Bongo”)
Masters of Ceremony - Symphony Sid, Izzy Sanabria, Dick Sugar, Paquito Navarro, Joe Gaines
Producer – Jerry Masucci, Larry Harlow
Recording Director – Johnny Pacheco
Recorded Live at - Yankee Stadium, New York and Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Engineer – Alan Manger
Arrangements – Ricardo Ray and Bobby Cruz (“Hermandad Fania”), Johnny Pacheco and Bobby Valentín (“Echate Pa’Lla”), Bobby Valentín (“Bemba Colorá”, “Mi Debilidad”, “Congo Bongo”)
Mixed – Good Vibrations Sound Studios
Mixing Engineers – Jon Fausty, Larry Harlow
Original Album Photo – Lee Marshall
Original Album Design – Ron Levine