Joe Cuba Sextet – Wanted Dead Or Alive (Bang Bang! Push Push Push!) (1966)

Joe Cuba Sextet – Wanted Dead or Alive (Bang! Bang! Push, Push, Push)
1975 Fania/Tico Repress SLP-1146, Mono mix |||  1966 (Original release)

You can’t really talk about the Latin boogaloo without mentioning the song “Bang! Bang!”. The Joe Cuba Sextet had been around the flourishing New York scene for a while by this time, and had a bunch of records under their collective belts, so you can’t exactly call this a ‘breakthrough album.’ But the song – allegedly written on the spot during a live gig – catapulted them to newfound heights of popularity. But it’s definitely not all boogaloo either on this record, and the closing tune here, Cocinando, jams for 9 minutes in what is a prescient template of the genre that would soon become known as “salsa” around the world.  This is just fun music in every way, and a great way to get your summer started if you are in the Northern Hemisphere! Continue reading

Ray Barretto – Barretto Power (1970) (2020 Craft Records)

Ray Barretto – Barretto Power (1970)
Original release, Fania Records
This reissue, 2020 Craft Recordings CR003300

Have I mentioned how fantastic it is that the Fania catalog is finally being curated with the respect and attention to quality and detail that the music deserves?  After decades of crap CD remasterings, brick-walled for iTunes, Concord records has acquired the rights along with the family of labels Fania acquired when they bought out their competition (e.g. Alegre, Tico) and has been contracting the very skilled mastering engineer Kevin Gray of CoHearant Audio to do the honors. Continue reading

Joe Cuba Sextet – Vagabundeando (Hangin’ Out) (1964)


Joe Cuba Sextet – Vagabundeando! (Hangin’ Out)
1964 Tico Records SLP-1112
1990s CD reissue (undated)

The Good Doctor has been busy shaping young minds and maybe some hearts in recent days, toiling away on a class where I hopefully provoke them to think about music in different ways than they had before.  And while there is almost always a soundtrack involved, I have precious little time to share it with you all.  Here is another offering from the Joe Cuba Sextet, pre-boogaloo, containing so many of the elements of what would soon become the global phenomenon known as ‘salsa’.  Personal favorites here include Quinto Sabroso, Nina Nina, and El Raton, this last track a composition from Cheo Feliciano whose vocals grace the album.  Continue reading

Joe Cuba – Steppin’ Out (1963, Mono)

Joe Cuba – Steppin’ Out
 Seeco SCLP 9248
Original release 1963
This pressing, late 60s / early 70s
Style: Pachanga, Mambo, Guaguancó, Cha-Cha, Bolero, Salsa

The back cover of this early Joe Cuba LP includes instructions on how to dance the ‘Wabble Cha’, a dance step I presumed they hoped would take the world by storm. There are two great vocalists on this record – Cheo Feliciano and Jimmy Sabater.  “To Be With You” would become Sabater’s trademark song.

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Arsenio Rodríguez – Primitivo (1965)

Arsenio Rodríguez
Primitivo
Original release, 1965 – Roost Records LP 2261
CD reissue, 1999 Tico Records SLP-1173

The blind Afro-Cuban tres player, percussionist, composer and bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez was one of a handful of individuals who fundamentally changed Latin music in the twentieth century, a fact which history and audiences were somewhat slow to recognize.  This record features a lean, stripped-down ensemble he put together in early 1958 at the behest of Teddy Reig, who for some reason sat on the recordings for a full seven years.  Reig was apparently interested in “folkloric” Cuban music but Arsenio brought him a dozen new compositions.  It is kind of an “unplugged” album, though – the tres is unamplified, without the pleasingly gritty tone he would get when running it through an amp, and hence so of the most crystal clear playing he ever committed to tape.  The clarity is also helped by the absence of piano and bongó, leaving the middle and middle-upper registers all to the tres and the trumpets.  For me, “Rumba Guajira” is the most spell-binding cut here but all the tunes are excellent.  Maybe Reig’s thirst for folklore was quenched by the vernacular poetic form showed off in ‘Coplas de España” with Arsenio ripping 16th-noted arpeggios with hints of flamenco.  Shortly after this recording session, Arsenio made one of several tours to Chicago, playing for the Puerto Rican and  Cuban audiences on the city’s north side at clubs like the Capri.*

1 La Pasion
2 Me Engañastes Juana
3 Lo Que Dice Justi
4 Rumba Guajira
5 Coplas De España
6 Que Mala Suerte
7 Fiesta En El Solar
8 Me Equivoque Contigo
9 A Gozar Mujeres
10 No Lo Niegues
11 El Lema Del Guaguanco
12 Guaguanco De Puerta Tierra

Sessions recorded in 1958 in NYC.  Also issued as Arsenio y Kike: canta Monguito (Tico LP-1173) on vinyl.

Credits:
Ramón “Monguito” Quián – first vocal
Davy González – first vocal
Candido Antomattei – second voice
Israel Berrios – second voice and guitar
Agustin Caraballoso – trumpet
Johnny Malco – trumpet
Arsenio Rodríguez – tres
Abelardo Chacón – timbal
Kiki – tumbadora

Producer – Teddy Reig
Written songs composed by Arsenio Rodriguez except track 3 by Justí Barreto

*Information for this post was drawn from the excellent book, Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music by David F. García, 2006 Temple University Press.

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El Gran Combo – Por El Libro (1972) (EGC Records LPS-003)

El Gran Combo – Por El Libro
1972 EGC Records LPS 003

Vinyl rip in 24-bit/96 kHz | FLAC |  Art scans at 300 dpi

El Gran Combo is practically an institution in Puerto Rico, they have been around so long and had so many members over the years.  The group has also served as a launching pad for a number of artists who have gone on to solo careers. This is a pretty solid early-70’s record. Particular highlights are compositions by the prolific Claudio Ferrer, and the gorgeous, moody “Estas Equiviocado” by Osvaldo Farres (of “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” fame).

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