I wasn’t sure if I should share this here without first sharing some of LKJ’s musical records first. But I decided it’s worth it. For one, this record is a bit harder to find than his landmark late 70s dub/reggae albums. But also because in many ways it makes a perfect introduction to his work, since he began his career as a published poet rather than a recording artist. For anyone interested in reggae, Caribbean cultural history, in poetry – Linton is a crucial figure. His literary output recently gained him recognition as one of the only living writers to be considered a ‘Twentieth Century master’ or something like that by Penguin Books, in a recent collection. I saw LKJ speak last year and left hoping that these accolades, however hard-earned, would not change him. It seemed he felt compelled to give a more academic presentation along the lines of a lecture on the poetics of Jamaican dub toasters, and only read a few of his own poems. This was a shame, as hearing him read his own work is infinitely more powerful than hearing him situate it intellectually in some kind of canon. In that spirit, I share this record. If you don’t get it after hearing this, you probably never will, no matter how many intellectual gymnastics you do.
RAY BARRETTO – Acid (1968)VBR
Psychedelic salsa? Not quite, except for the occasional Austin Powers-isms like “yeah, baby” and “sock it to me”. But this is a landmark record and needs to be in the collection of any fan of salsa or Latin soul. The closing track is the most ‘out’ of any of them and for me is worth the price of admission all on its own.
Tracks (of the original LP)
1. El Nuevo Barretto (Barretto) – 5:50
2. Mercy, Mercy, Baby (Barretto) – 2:44
3. Acid (Barretto) – 5:05
4. Deeper Shade of Soul (Barretto) – 2:46
5. Soul Drummers (Barretto) – 3:48
6. Sola Te Dejare (Barretto/Lopez) – 3:49
7. Teacher of Love (Barretto/Cruz) – 2:27
8. Espiritu Libre (Barretto) – 8:27
Ray Barretto – Percussion, Congas, Vocals
Big Daddy – Bass
Rene Lopez – Trumpet
Roberto Rodriguez – Trumpet
Adalberto Santiago – Vocals, Bells
Orestes Vilato – Timbales
Pete Bonet – Vocals, Guiro
BONUS TRACKS ( I do not know where Sony got these tracks from.. No information in the booklet. Production sounds like early 70s. Anyone with session/line-up data feel free to comment and enlighten me!)
10. Vina Pa’Echar Candela
11. Vale Mas Un Guaguanco
12. Canto Abuaco
REVIEW from John Ballon at ‘allaboutjazz dot com’
By the time 1968 rolled around, Ray Barretto was a celebrated studio session player whose hard-driving conga rhythms could be heard all over the records of Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley, and countless others. Once he dropped Acid onto the music world, Barretto firmly established a reputation for himself as an innovator in his own right.
Like the drug itself, Acid had a mind-expanding influence on everyone, allowing for a far more adventurous and eclectic edge to slip into New York’s Latin music scene. A lot less psychedelic than its title and cover might lead you to believe, Acid remains one of the most far-out fusions of Latin and soul music ever conceived.
Catchy as hell, the records four original Latin/soul numbers (”Mercy, Mercy Baby”, “The Soul Drummers”, “A Deeper Shade of Soul” and “Teacher of Love”) are obscure classics loaded with plenty of vintage ’60s soul references—punchy James Brown and Stax Records sounding horns, thickly grooving bass lines, fat-back drums, and cliché soul catch-phrases such as “What I say,” “Lord have mercy,” “Come on, come on baby” and “Sock it to me!”
El Nuevo Barretto (The New Barretto)” opens the album on familiar ground, with its high-energy boogaloo-styled salsa sung passionately in Spanish. With the second track, “Mercy, Mercy Baby,” the sound shifts dramatically as soul gets a serious drenching in hot sauce. The band chants “Mercy, Mercy Baby” behind Memphis-styled horns, catchy lyrics, timbales, and Barretto’s kicking congas. The title track, “Acid,” opens up sparsely with a lazy hypnotic bass and percussion groove over which stretches the muted trumpet sounds of Rene Lopez (who was soon to be drafted and shipped off to Vietnam). After a rock-steady timbales solo by Orestes Vilato, the band begins calling out “Barretto, Barretto,” and master Ray steps forward, obliging them with one of his most fiery and intense conga solos ever. The lyrics on “The Soul Drummers” totally sums up the record: “Have you heard them cooking / The Soul Drummers / well they play so cool / Soul Drummers / so hard to resist / Soul Drummers / with the African twist.”
The album’s most psychedelic soul sounds can be heard on its closing track, the appropriately titled “Espiritu Libre (Free Spirit).” This instrumental opens with some pretty far out-there trumpet statements that sound as if they could’ve come straight off of Bitches Brew—pretty advanced stuff for a 1968 Latin record! The track builds into a full blown drum-heated jam flavored with odd rhythmic time-signatures, passionate brass, and feverish bass lines, bringing the album to a satisfying peak that leaves you in bad need of a smoke.
Acid turned on a lot of important players with its irresistible blending of Latin and soul music, significantly helping to bring about the rise of the Afro-Latin funk revolution.
This is a beautiful record, aside from the legitimate complaints from Hathaway fans that his legacy as a live performer has yet to receive proper documentation. What this record does is combine tracks from 1972’s “Donny Hathaway Live!” with tracks from “In Performance” (recorded in 1973 and released after his death), so the end result is somewhat confusing indeed. It’s a sandwich of music recorded live before and after his magnificent 1973 album ‘Extensions of a Man’ was made, and it’s fantastic. Even if you already grabbed the ’72 live record here earlier, give this one a try — the sound has been remastered by Rhino and the extra songs are well worth it. ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ still gets me weepy every time. ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,’ and “I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” are also highlights missing from the other collection, and of course the Leon Russell-penned tune ‘A Song For You’ is a classic. (Thanks to Cristina, a loyal fan of The Carpenters, for reminding me of the confusing legacy of this song.. I probably should have looked it up first — Leon did in fact record it first on a 1970 record called ‘Leon Russell and the Shelter People’, which I own, but it’s been covered so many times I actually thought he had written it from someone else. I’ve seen Willie Nelson perform it live (also recorded it on a 1973 record) and it fits him perfectly, so I’d begun thinking Leon wrote it for him.. wrong! For a history of the song, look here)
Donny Hathaway – These Songs For You, Live! (2004) VBR
1 Flying Easy [#] Hathaway 3:11
2 Valdez in the Country [#] Hathaway 4:08
3 Someday We’ll All Be Free [#] Hathaway, Howard 5:30
4 You’ve Got a Friend King 4:34
5 He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother [#] Russell, Scott 7:49
6 What’s Going On Benson, Cleveland, Gaye 5:27
7. Yesterday [#] Lennon, McCartney 5:24
8 Superwoman [#] Wonder 6:42
9 A Song for You Russell 5:48
10 Sack Full of Dreams McFarland, Savary 5:30
11 Little Ghetto Boy Hathaway, Howard 4:33
12 I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know Kooper 5:55
13 The Ghetto Hathaway, Hutson 12:22
14 Interview [#] 2:58
This is just pure magic from start to finish. Lets forget about Bill’s amazing story for a moment and just focus on his music, his unique sound, and immediately identifiable voice and writing style. The fact that he was a ‘music business outsider’ of sorts no doubt contributes to all of the above, but in many ways its beside the point. This is some of the most soulful music ever committed to wax. It’s in the rare cadre of records that is simultaneously sad and joyful, youthful and mature, with Bill belting out lyrics that can be dryly biting but never never bitter, sung from a place of pains and sorrows suffered with an eye towards the warmth of a future yet unlived, sophisticated and yet disarming in its forthright matter-of-factness. Familiar yet with a new twist around every measure, this is Still Bill…