At this point of his career, Ray Barretto was still introducing his salsa hints from his former crossover period with Atlantic Records, as well as influences of jazz, his primary passion. As a result, he demanded only good soloists for his band, musicians who weren’t afraid of the spotlight (in Barretto’s band, everyone plays solos) or of expressing new things musically. Ray de la Paz, one of those rare breed of versatile singers who can master any style (and, in popular opinion, one of the most unjustly underrated talents), was still the official voice of the orchestra, a rebel band integrated by young virtuosos like Joey De Jesus, Ralph Irizarry, Oscar Hernández, Luís González and trumpeters Ray González and Angel Fernández, all of them now masters in their own right. This is the last regular album for this band (we’ll call it Fuerza Gigante in honor of the title of their previous album and the hit by the same name), as, again, Barretto’s organization will suffer big changes, although not as painful as that of 1972, the one that gave birth to Típica ’73.
“Rhythm Of Life” begins with “Manos Duras”, a continuation of the message in Fuerza Gigante (which was itself the continuation of Barretto’s declaration of principles in Indestructible). Here we see Barretto claiming his throne as the King with the Hard Hands (and understating it with a powerful quinto solo) as well as calling to all Hispanics to be proud of their roots as well as to defend their culture. “Amor Artificial”, penned by the immortal Tite Curet Alonso, is a bold exhibit of the existence of so-called salsa romántica (at least the one that could still swing) long before Ray de la Paz himself inaugurated the trend with Louie Ramirez’s Noche Caliente school. De la Paz’s own virtuosity is palpable on “Si No Eres Tu”, one of those rare occasions we find him singing boleros. The album’s original side A ends with a salute to “Granada”, Spain, with the same titled track, which has a few hints of Arallue, a tune recorded on their previous album.
“Mi Dedicación”, Barretto’s heartfelt tribute to Puerto Rico, his homeland (although Brooklyn-born, he always called himself a native of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where his father was born), is one of this album’s main dishes. This tune brands a bolder, more complex arrangement than your average salsa score (especially the ingenious chord progressions on the first chorus prefacing Oscar Hernandez’s piano solo). “Indiferencia”, formerly recorded in Cuba by Irakere under the title Tres Dias, continues the progressive trend in another aggressive arrangement, with Joey de Jesus showing his stripes on trombone. The band separates the main course for the very end with the title track, where Barretto not only starts the main melody on his three congas, but also sings it. Ralph Irizarry’s furious timbales and Luis González on bongo and cowbell also share the spotlight here.
This third salsa orchestra of Ray Barretto begins its metamorphosis shortly after he published this album. Ray González, and, later, De Jesus, leave to join Tito Puente, while two other main stalwarts, Hernandez and Irizarry, join 6 Del Solar. Luís González would eventually join Tito Nieves as his musical director. Meanwhile, Barretto keeps Angel Fernández on board (now a highly sought-after musical producer) as he builds his next great salsa band with top names like Jimmy Delgado, Jimmy Bosch, Chris Anderson, Ricky González and others. Barretto’s vision and keen eye still had a lot to say… and more barriers to destroy with his music.
Ray Barretto - Congas,
Ray González - Trumpet
Ángel Fernández - Trumpet
Charles Hernández - Trumpet, Maracas
Joe De Jesús - Trombones
Oscar Hernández - Piano
Joe Santiago - Bass
Ralph Irizarry - Timbales
Luís González - Bongo
Eddie Temporal - Maracas
Lead Vocal - Ray de la Paz
Chorus - Nestor Sanchez, Luís González, Ray de la Paz, Kelly Barretto, Audry Martell, Ray Barretto (“Rhythm Of Life”)
Producer, Supervisor - Ray Barretto
Executive Producer - Jerry Masucci
Arrangements - Oscar Hernández, Gil Lopez
Original Cover Concept and Art Direction - Izzy Sanabria
Original Design and Illustration - Willie Espada