Lead Vocals – Ada Chabrier, Nancy O’Neill, Rosa Soy
Piano – Carol Parker
Timbales – Susan Hadjopoulos
Trombone – Kathy Cary
Trumpet – Ellen Seeling, Trudy Cavallo
Arranged By – Luis “Perico” Ortiz (tracks: B1), Marty Scheller (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B2), Randy Ortiz (tracks: B4), Sonny Bravo (tracks: A3, B3)
Producer – Larry Harlow, Rita Harlow
Engineer – Irv Greenbaum, Mario Salvati
This curious little record seems like it ought to have a lot of great stories surrounding it. Maybe somebody will come by and tell us some in the comments section here, because there really is not a lot of information out there on the internet. When I bought it, I assumed that Larry Harlow actually played on the session, and I continued thinking that for a while before I stopped being lazy and actually read the info on the back cover. I have been noticing signs that I am getting old lately. One of them is that I do not religiously read album credits like I used to when I was a young lad, back before the days of being flooded with more music than we can possibly listen to in one lifetime. Another clue that I am getting old is that I actually enjoyed the hell out of a Dire Straits album the other day and thought it was pretty groovy.
So, the truth is that Latin Fever was an all-female group, playing mostly bi-lingual salsa but with strong inflections of latin jazz, soul, funk, and even some rock thrown in the mix by way of Bev Phillip’s plonky guitar solos. Nearly all the members had an
impressive resume as session musicians, but the idea of an all-woman Latin band was (and still is) rather unusual. One thing that immediately jumps out from the list of credits is that Latin Fever shared many members with another group of women that was shaking up expectations, the relatively unheralded soul-funk band Isis. In fact there is so much overlap that you could say they nearly form the core of the band. I love the first two Isis records, so it is no surprise that I took to this album right away. The soldiers from the ranks of Isis on this album are: Ginger Bianca on drums and Nydia Mata on congas holding down a solid percussive foundation; Ellen Seeling on trumpet, and Jean Fineberg on saxophone and flute. With the exception of Bianca, all these musicians also played on a bunch of records from the likes of Laura Nyro, Chic, Sister Sledge, Teresa Trull. Jean Fineberg also contributed vocals to some classic David Bowie tunes.
Latin Fever featured three lead vocalists, often switching up throughout the tracks, which makes it difficult to say anything about them as individuals. Ada Chabrier, Rosa Soy, and Nancy O’Neill all put in time as backup singers with Ray Barretto, Joey Pastrana, Fania All-Stars and Orchestra Harlow, among others. There is quite a bit of talent among the three arrangers as well (who, alas, are all men). The most impressive CV here is from Luis “Perico” Ortiz, who only arranged one track here which happens to also be my favorite on the album. As a trumpet player he appears on dozens of great records in the families of Fania, Vaya, Inca, and Allegre records, but as an arranger he also worked with all the greats, as they say: Hector Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Sonera Ponceña, Mongo Santamaria, Roberto Roeno, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon and Ruben Blades, and naturally Orchestra Harlow. Also notable is the presence of Sonny Bravo on some arrangements, who has too many credits to name but in the years leading up to this record had worked with Tipica ’73, Charlie Palmieri, La Lupe, and Azuquita e Su Melao. However the majority of material on the album was arranged by a relatively unknown Marty Scheller, who has a much more modest list of credentials.While the first cut “Digan Que Si” is a reasonably strong opener, the record seems to take it’s time getting down to business. I can’t help but thinking that it was sequenced in a way that wouldn’t threaten too many male egos by having a group of ladies come out and kick serious musical ass, instead opting to ease the listener into the idea of female instrumental virtuosity. My first real “wow!” moment on this record comes with “Chirrin Chirran” which in my opinion could really have opened up the album instead of being sequenced as a deep cut at the end of side one. It’s the song that really ties together their whole aesthetic into one seamless bundle, with melody and hooks galore. I like it so much that it was included on one of my early podcasts here. I can understand why they didn’t want to open the record with it for the simple reason that it isn’t their own song, but a cover of a hit by Los Van Van. The original is classic, so I’ve linked it below (and check out that dragging beat on the drums). It is impressive how Latin Fever managed to turn it into a monster jam, complimenting rather than imitating the earlier recording. They flatten out the jaggedness of the original – which was naturally part of its appeal – but that seems to make it easier for them to stretch it out to jam-worthy lengths, and also add a verse in English of their own.One function of a great deep cut at the end of Side One is that it compels you to waste no time in flipping the record over, promising more treasures. And indeed things seem to open up a little on the second side, with the immediately compelling “La Mujer Latina,” which must have been something of an anthem for this group and a showcase in their live sets. It is the only completely self-authored composition on the album, credited entirely to Cuban-born vocalist Rosa Soy. Opening with only vocals and percussion that make the hairs on my neck stand up like an invocation to an orisha, it morphs from salsa into jazzy soul, at which point the lyrics begin to sound a bit like a self-help manual of affirmations and aphorisms I might find at Women and Women First bookstore (“show them you’ve got soul; proving you’re versatile / you’re mother and sister and friend in one”). I’m down with the message, though, because they are important sentiments, then and now. The song structure is just as progressive as the lyrics, with four distinct sections that do not repeat.
“Que Te Pasa Corazon” starts as a ballad and ends in a jam. “En La Habana” is a pleasant and uplifting nod to Cuban son music with a deeply grooving bridge section. “Our World” has a riff that reminds me of Chicago’s great tune “Beginnings” – I wish I hadn’t made the association because now I can’t get it out of my head when I hear this song and I probably just passed it along to you too, so sorry about that. It has kind of a disco-gliding-across-the-floor mid-tempo groove to it that almost gets kind of Vegas, before the band once again treats us to a tasty bridge that unfortunately isn’t given the time to come to a full climax before coming back into the final verse.
So what happened to Latin Fever? The liner notes promise more to come, and from the material here it seems like they were off to an auspicious start. One would think that having Larry Harlow’s name attached as producer and presenter would have helped sell records and draw attention. Rita Harlow essentially assembled the band, however, so there is an element of them being “artificially” created by management, drawing from a deep pool of studio talent. Perhaps there were personality conflicts we’ll never know about which kept them from continuing, or perhaps the members realized they could make more money as individual sessions players than as a group, especially since they were probably ceding disproportionate chunks of their income to the Harlows and to Fania’s Jerry Masucci. Or maybe there was just a lack of interest in the record and they gave up on the idea. DJ and music writer Aurora Flores remarks in the liner notes that all-female Latin groups were not completely unknown in the past, but were usually relegated to ‘novelty group’ status. And this LP seemed deliberately trying to avoid that trap, down to the choice not to put a band photo anywhere on the album that would tip off the potential record buyer that this was an “all girl” group. Hell, look how long I had it in my own collection without picking up on that. I tip my hat to them for not relying on sexual exploitation on an album cover to sell records – and remember how this was far more socially acceptable and common in the 70s – and refusing to objectify the women in Latin Fever. On other hand a tasteful group photo, even just on the back cover (I like the painting for the front cover just fine), might have not have hurt. This is a solid record with moments of real brilliance that seemed to hint at greater achievements ahead. It’s a shame they called it a day after this LP.
Joey Pastrana And His Orchestra Let’s Ball 1967 Cotique (CS-1006)
Let’s Ball 4:22 Bien Dulce 3:25 La Grimas Negras 2:57 Mani Picante 3:00 Jammin’ With Joey 3:35 My Shingaling 3:35 Rubon Melon 5:35 Flamenco Ole’ 3:57 En Nada Estas 5:00
Ismael Miranda – vocals Johnny Riviera – bass Chicky Perez – bongos Becky Rivera, Junior Morales, Sonia Rivera – chorus Willie Pastrana – congas Joey Pastrana – band leader, drums Paquito Pastor – piano Jack Hitchcock, Wilfred Vasquez – trombones Dave Gonzalez – trumpet
Photography – Charles Stewart Album jacket design – John Murello Engineer – Gary Kellgren Produced by George Goldner
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair with mono fold-down; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
*As you can plainly see, Joey’s name is spelled PASTRANO all over this release. This was an error by the Cotique label who rushed it’s release. It’s particularly odd because they got his brother’s name right.
Poster courtesy of herencialatina.com
Joey was a prolific musician whose hits got more radio airplay outside of his home turf of the Big Apple, in large part because of unfriendly relations with the Fania clique who had scary control over disc jockeys at the time. As a teen he studied the drum kit under Gene Krupa, gave it up because it was too much of a pain in the ass to carry his gear home on the subway at 3 a.m., and switched to percussion, soon becoming an accomplished timbalero while playing with Bobby Valentin’s group.
This is a very nice album debut for Joey Pastrana as a bandleader, highlighting one of his traits that contributed to his survival beyond the boogaloo craze – he always diversified his repertoire with different rhythms. In fact fact I’m glad he breaks things up, because I often can’t handle entire records of boogaloo all at once. Although Joey and his brother Willie (on congas) were young dudes when they made this record, they swing their mambos, salsas,and descargas like old pros here. The title track “Let’s Ball”, “Bien Dulce,” and “My Shingaling” are really the only boogaloos here, and the spectacular track “Rumbon Melon” became something of a salsa standard. Another special treat is Joey’s arrangement of
Lágrimas Negras (inexplicably written as La Grimas Negras on the jacket
and label), a classic tune from Trío Matamoros first recorded in the
30s. The instrumental “Flamenco Olé” allows brother Willie to take some liberties on the congas, and the trombones have echoes of “A Night In Tunisia.” The lead vocals on the LP are from none other than a young Ismael Miranda, who made only this one album with Joey in between gigs with the Harlow brothers (first Andy, then Larry). Joey was also ahead of his time having women backup singers in the coro, one of whom was his sister-in-law, Sonia Rivera.
Fun fact: I actually did pay only 49 cents for this record (plus
tax!), still sealed in the original shrinkwrap. I don’t remember
exactly where I found it except that it was someplace very unhip, like a
K-Mart or a Sears or one of those department-stores places that used
to sell vinyl. It was in the 1990s, when such stores still had some
stock, and you would sometimes randomly wander through one and see a
bunch of LPs on clearance Like this one, which they
obviously had no idea what the hell it was. You’re not likely to find this for fifty cents now. So grab this here, burn it to a CD-R and give it to everyone you know, and without an ounce of misgiving: Joey never made a cent off his Cotique recordings, and (as per this 2005 interview) was exploring ways to sue them.
1973 Fania Records (SLP 00456)
2006 Reissue (FANIA1042232)
1. El Hijo De Obatala
2. El Diablo
3. Yo Tengo Un Amor
4. La Familia
5. La Orquesta
6. Llanto De Cocodrilo
7. Ay No
Produced by Ray Barretto
Arranged by Louie Cruz, Eddie Martinez & Louie Ramirez
Ray Barretto – conga, clave
“Little” Ray Romero – timbales
Tony Fuentes – bongo, cencerro
Edy Martinez – piano
Julio Romero – baby bass
Art “Artie” Webb – flute
Roberto Rodriguez – lead trumpet
Joseph “Papy” Roman – second trumpet
Manuel “Manny” Duran – third trumpet, flugelhorn
Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez – possibly maracas
Felo Barrio – guiro (3,5)
Menique – chorus (2,3,4,6,7,8)
Hector Lavoe – chorus (1,2,3,4,6,7,8)
Roberto Rodriguez – chorus (5)
Felo Barrio – chorus (5)
Willie Colon – chorus (1)
Tito Allen – lead vocal
After Ray Barretto’s band essentially fell apart when he was at the top of his game around the release of the `Our Latin Thing` film, he made a brief diversion into non-salsa jazz fusion (The Other Road) and then returned to form with this triumphant record and a new band. Along with the classic album cover, the original pressing also advertised a gimmick of an unbreakable LP made from kryptonite, leading some buyers to have allergic reactions and threaten with a class action suit. Fania was forced to withdraw the indestructible album and reissue it on plain old petroleum product. Now that we’ve contextualized the classic packaging, what can I say about the music? It’s classic early-70s Fania, full of descarga, guaracha, guapacha, and even a son thrown in for good measure. The latter, the beautiful “El Diablo” is actually my favorite cut on here. In the dark nights of the soul when I am battling my inner demons, I drag myself up off the floor where I am huddled in fetal position and turn on the stereo just to play THIS SONG really loud. Then I feel better. The rest of the album smokes and is top-shelf material, but man, this song just gets stuck in my head. There is a also a Gershwin quote tucked in there. I know a bunch of Puerto Ricans in New York playing son montuno is probably not going to cut it for you Cuban-music purists, but too f`ing bad for you if thats the case. Besides I am pretty sure there must have been a Cuban in the band somewhere. It`s a huge band. The new star on this album was vocalist Tito Allen, who makes a believer out of me right away, but the other secret weapon is Latin jazz flautist Art Webb. Art was from the exotic tropical island of Philadelphia and everything he plays is sunny.
The people over at descarga dot net love this album too, with a bunch of its editors having given it praise over the years:
“A super-duper-must-have! This record debuts his second Fania band and has a bunch of hits on it. Featuring Tito Allen on vocals and introducing Artie Webb on flute.” (Phil Riggio, 98/99 Catalog)
“My favorite Barretto CD with the hot Tito Allan kicking it on ‘El Hijo De Obatala,’ ‘La Orquesta,’ ‘Indestructible,’ ‘La Familia,’ and ‘Llanto De Cocodrilo.'” (Nelson Rodriguez, 98/99 Catalog)
“I love this album as much as I love Rican/Struction, but Indestructible has a charanga undertone that really reminds me of Orquesta Aragón. Brilliant arrangements by Louie Cruz, Eddie Martínez and Louie Ramírez.” (Rebeca Mauleón, 96/97 Catalog)
“Whenever a friend or student wants to know what salsa is, this is the album I recommend. Little Ray Romero absolutely smokes and the piano artistry is second to none. Great tunes, solos, coros and inspiraciones.” (Chuck Silverman, 96/97 Catalog) (DR, 2010-09-01)
You know that when anyone uses the word “super-duper”, they mean business.
EDDIE PALMIERI – The Sun of Latin Music (1973) 320kbs
with Lalo Rodriguez
1 Nada de Ti Palmieri 6:31
2 Deseo Salvaje Rodriguez 3:41
3 Una Rosa Española Palmieri 5:21
4 Nunca Contigo Palmieri 3:51
5 Un Dia Bonito Palmieri 14:52
6 Mi Cumbia Palmieri 3:18
Credits: Arranged By – Rene Hernandez
Bass – Eddie “Gua-Gua” Rivera*
Bongos – Tommy Lopez
Congas – Eladio Perez
Coro – Jimmy Sabater , Willie Torres
Engineer – Dave Palmer (2) , Dave Wittman , Ralph Moss
French Horn – Peter Gordon
Lead Vocals – Lalo Rodriguez
Mastered By – Al Brown (5)
Piano – Eddie Palmieri
Producer – Harvey Averne
Saxophone [Baritone], Flute – Mario Rivera (2) , Ronnie Cuber
Timbales, Percussion – Nicky Marrero
Trombone – Jose Rodriguez (3)
Trombone, Tuba [Tenor] – Barry Rogers
Trumpet – Virgil Jones
Trumpet [Lead] – Vitin Paz
Tuba – Tony Price (2)
Violin – Alfredo De La Fe
This is original album, The Sun Of Latin Music, *not* the double-CD anthology released by the revamped Fania Records. Please don’t leave a comment if all you are going to do is ask for that anthology… The sound quality on this edition (on the label `Musical Productions`) is deplorable, and there are apparently are other CD pressings out there, on Charly and Sony records. But this is the one I have, so love it or leave it.
Now that I have given you the hard sell, let me tell you that this is an essential album. It won Palmieri the first of many Grammy awards, but that’s not why it’s essential. For a guy who was always pushing boundaries during this period, this record still stands out. One thing that will immediately grab your attention is the presence of a violin on the album – not an instrument sometimes heard on salsa records but which always sounds unique to me. Alfredo de la Fe will make you forget that’s the case, as he blends seamlessly with the ensemble while adding a unique tonal edge. All of the songs are winners here, but the stand-out centerpiece is the fifteen-minute Un Dia Bonito, which took up most of the second side of the original LP. It is everything that was great about Barretto during this period — beginning with moody, ‘out’ jazz explorations, laced with psychedelic fringes (this was recorded at Electric Lady, after all), it culminates in a smoking descarga jam that, well, leaves you rather short of air. The Sun of Latin music, indeed.
Alegre All-Stars – The Best of..(2005) 320kbs
Released pm Vampi-Soul, 2005
This set of music really cooks. VampiSoul is a cool label that puts out great music, but isn’t exactly known for thorough packaging or notes. The blurb below the tracklist here is literally all we get. The lineup listed on the inside of the digipack is filled with heavy hitters, but probably not playing all the same time! But, the music is fantastic and that’s what counts!!!
1. Ay Camino y Ven
2. Rareza del Siglo
3. Soy Feliz
5. Peanut Vendor
7. El Sopon
8. Sono Sono
9. Guajira en “F”
10. Clo Clo Ki-Ki-Ri-Ki
12. Los Dandies
13. Ensayo Pa’La Luna
14. Se Acabo lo Que Se Daba
The first Alegre All Stars was recorded in 1961, and it became an immediate favorite of latin oriented musicians and the so-called “super-hip”. The public did not take to it so rapidly, and it became a “sleeper”. In retrospect we must remember it was released at the time when the latin record business was geared mostly for the “le lo lai” market (a typical Puerto Rico festival). Guitar music of trios and quartets were the thing then. The latin dance music of New York was limited to the connoisseur (i.e., D.J’s, musicologists merchant marines and the Palladium crowd). Eventually it had its impact: it was loose, relaxed and it ventilated many brain cells. It blended latin and jazz, improvised yet melodically interesting because the soloists were not guessing, they were confident, they knew their horns, skins and tonsils and were playing and singing for themselves at a party. Not a recording session, a real party. Without charts, less restrictions and less organized, it was therefore freer to swing and be creative. Over the years the Alegre All Star albums have become “classics”, and this album is a compilation of their best.