Like most of the albums that the late Nuyorican conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto released between 1971 and 1975, Que Viva La Musica is a transcendental recording-- one of the brightest jewels in the Fania crown, and a key document of the New York salsa explosion of the '70s. A number of Afro-Caribbean music scholars consider this particular album to be the very best of Barretto's prodigious discography. They may be right. ...MORE >
Que Viva La Musica
Like most of the albums that the late Nuyorican conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto released between 1971 and 1975, Que Viva La Musica is a transcendental recording-- one of the brightest jewels in the Fania crown, and a key document of the New York salsa explosion of the '70s. A number of Afro-Caribbean music scholars consider this particular album to be the very best of Barretto's prodigious discography. They may be right.
Months before Que Viva La Musica, Barretto had released a classic LP titled The Message. Here, the transition from the early charanga and Latin soul excursions of the '60s to the hard-edged salsa sound of the '70s had been successfully completed. Barretto had raised the temperature of his music as high as it could possibly get. The beats, the swing and the intensity of his musical manifesto was simply reckless. His band, too, had achieved a complete communion of musical souls: the unpredictable Adalberto Santiago as lead singer, the adventurous keyboard textures of Luis Cruz, and the devastating timbales chops of Orestes Vilató.
In retrospect, it is easy to predict that such a volatile combination of temperamental artists was not meant to last. Indeed, Que Viva La Musica was the swan song of this particular band. And what a swan song it is.
One listen to the gorgeous title track is worth the price of admission-- that ominous crescendo of soulful percussion and wailing trumpets, followed by the warmth of Adalberto's soneos and the tune's exuberant chorus-- how could you not dance the night away to this one?
Barretto's version of the Arsenio Rodríguez classic "Bruca Maniguá" (covered by countless artists before and after, including the Buena Vista Social Club) is noteworthy for its absolute lack of pretension. "La Pelota" is pure Afro-Cuban fire at the speed of light.
Still, the album's centerpiece is the 10-minute jam session "Cocinando"-- with its cool swagger and hypnotic groove, the expert interplay between congas and timbales, and the kind of psychedelic tendencies which, during the '70s, brought tropical music as close to rock'n'roll as it ever got.
Ironically, Barretto was about to suffer one of the biggest disappointments of his career. Following the release of this album, most of his musicians left the group in order to form Típica 73. The conguero would retreat into Latin jazz with the one-of-a-kind LP The Other Road, then return to salsa with renewed vigor, a new band and Indestructible-- a healthy slap on the face of those who had betrayed him.
Barretto would go on to release other legendary albums during the '70s (the self-titled Barretto; 1979's Rican/Struction). But he was always weary of the cuchifrito circuit that salsa was associated with.
"I suppose if you stay too long in one genre, you become part of the wallpaper," he told me during a conversation that took place a couple of years before his death in 2006. Barretto spent most of the last chapter of his career playing jazz, a move that was lamented by anyone who knew how important this man was to popular dance music.
"I've had my 15 minutes of fame," exclaimed Barretto during the interview. I was quick to point out that 15 minutes of fame was hardly a fitting description for a man who had single-handedly changed the course of Afro-Caribbean music with so many of his recordings as a bandleader.
"I know," he answered with a sigh. "But it all went by so fast."
Roberto Rodríguez - Trumpet
René López - Trumpet
Joseph Román - Trumpet
Orestes Vilató – Timbales, Caja
John Rodríguez – Bongos, Conga
David Pérez – Bass
Luis Cruz – Piano, Electric Piano
Adalberto Santiago – Güiro
Ray Barretto – Conga, Quinto
Vocals – Adalberto Santiago
Producer – Ray Barretto
Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci
Musical Arrangements – Luis Cruz, Ray Barretto
Recorded and Mixed at – Good Vibrations Sound Studios, N.Y.C.
Recording Engineer – Alan Manger
Mixing Engineer – Bernie Fox
Original Album Concept and Design – “We-2” Graphics Designs, Inc.
Original Album Art Direction – Izzy Sanabria
Original Album Cover Painting – Walter Vélez