In 1979, Héctor Lavoe recorded the album “Feliz Navidad” This was a huge moment for salsa. Six years after the release of Lavoe’s second album, Asalto Navideño with Willie Colón, the aguinaldo and the seis still echoed in the voice of Lavoe, who delivered décimas better than any other salsa artist in history. His performances boasted troubadours Flor Ramito Morales Ramos and Jesús Sánchez Erazo, known as Chuito el de Bayamón. Lavoe was born Héctor Juan Pérez Martínez, and grew up listening to the trova jíbara in his native Ponce, Puerto Rico. ...MORE >
In 1979, Héctor Lavoe recorded the album “Feliz Navidad” This was a huge moment for salsa. Six years after the release of Lavoe’s second album, Asalto Navideño with Willie Colón, the aguinaldo and the seis still echoed in the voice of Lavoe, who delivered décimas better than any other salsa artist in history. His performances boasted troubadours Flor Ramito Morales Ramos and Jesús Sánchez Erazo, known as Chuito el de Bayamón. Lavoe was born Héctor Juan Pérez Martínez, and grew up listening to the trova jíbara in his native Ponce, Puerto Rico. His childhood and adolescence were rife with cultural experiences like the Fiestas de Cruz, rosaries to the Virgin Mary, and promises to the Three Kings. He shared many of these experiences with his father, Luis Pérez.
Alongside Héctor, Willie Colón discovered the passion of the seis: the heart and soul of Puerto Rican folkloric music, known as the Puerto Rican blues. Yomo Toro’s cuatro and Willie and Eric Matos’ trombones revolutionized Christmas music: their unique, refreshing, innovative style wove the classic chords of the aguinaldo with montuno and mambo beats.
Héctor always dreamed of making a third Christmas album. But after kicking off a new recording session in late-1973 with the guaracha jíbara number Que Bien Te Ves and the bomba/plena medley Potpourri Número 3, Héctor and Willie announced they were splitting up. Both numbers were released on the album The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in 1975. Héctor made a comeback in 1978 with the album Comedia, and in early 1979 he revived the repertoire of Venezuelan bolero artist Felipe Pirela. But it was the music he had grown up with that pumped through his veins, and in 1979 he convinced Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco to finance his third Christmas album.
Willie Colón was busy working with Rubén Blades, so Héctor recruited Yomo Toro and Daniel El Inquieto Anacobero Santos for the job. The result? “Feliz Navidad”, whose first single was the controversial “Joven Contra Viejo,” a traditional melody recorded by Chuitín and his son. Héctor and Daniel Santos’ sizzling delivery sent the number to the top of the charts in 1979.
He may not have matched the euphoric introduction Polito Vega recorded for Asalto Navideño, but Héctor inaugurated the release of “Feliz Navidad” by expressing his joy and gratitude at being able to share his dream with Yomo Toro, Johnny Pacheco, and Daniel Santos.
The album starts off with “Montserrate,” a sumptuous bomba whose humorous lyrics are comprised of several short stories. “Mr. Brownie” is the first bilingual aguinaldo ever recorded; ironic and fun, the song asserts that assimilation and imported brands will forever alter a country’s culture and values.
“La Parranda Fania,” penned by Yomo Toro, is a red-hot salsa number in which Lavoe rings in Christmas and the New Year, saluting Puerto Rico and all Latinos. “En la Navidad” is one of the three songs on the album written by Chuitín. A seis number with deeply spiritual verses, it captures the essence of the most wonderful time of the year by recreating the mystery of the Annunciation:
María fue por cierto/Sí Madre del Cordero/Pero con amor sincero/fue su nacimiento/Un raro portento/claro se verá y con voz de edad/veremos el día/de gran alegría/ en la Navidad
The party doesn’t end there. “El Lechón De Cachete,” another number penned by Yomo, strikes a balance with its lyrics, blending humor, uproar, and the Christmas spirit. “Una Pena En Navidad,” also written by Yomo, captures the mood of the Lelolai, underlining the paradoxical sadness that often haunts people during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.
And last but certainly not least, “Dame Un Chance” is another irresistible Puerto Rican bomba that was penned by Chuitín and recorded with Johnny El Bravo’s orchestra by Chuitín’s father, Chuito el de Bayamón. The song tells the tale of a womanizing husband who begs his wife to let him go out for a drink with the guys.
“”Feliz Navidad”, which showcases Yomo Toro’s virtuosity on the cuatro (Puerto Rico’s national instrument), is an indispensable Christmas album still today. A perfect complement to the holiday season, this album is a gift straight from the greatest artists of salsa to you.
Johnny Pacheco – Conga
Yomo Toro – Cuatro
Professor Jose Torres – Piano
Salvador Cuevas – Bass
Milton Cardona – Conga
Luis Mangual – Bongo
Jimmy Delgado – Timbales
Ray Maldonado – Trumpet
José Febles – Trumpet
José Rodríguez – Trombone
Papo Vázquez – Trombone
Chorus: Johnny Pacheco, Milton Cardona, Ramón Rodríguez
Producer – Jerry Masucci
Recording Director – Johnny Pacheco
Arrangements – Jose Madera (“Monserrate,” “Mr. Brownie,” “La Parranda Fania”), Paquito Pastor (“Joven Contra Viejo,” “En La Navidad”), José Febles (“El Lechón De Cachete,” “Una Pena En Navidad”), Louie Ramírez (“Dame Un Chance”)
Art Director – Tony Greene
Original Album Photo – Lee Marshall
Original Album Design – Ron Levine