Latin Fever – Latin Fever (1978)

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Latin Fever 
Larry Harlow Presents Latin Fever
1978 Fania Records JM-00527
 
 
A1     Digan Que Si    
A2     Cancion De La Alegria    
A3     Lo Que Te Gusta Mas    
A4     Rumba Del Monte Adentro    
A5     Chirrin Chirran    
B1     La Mujer Latina    
B2     Que Te Pasa Corazon    
B3     En La Habana    
B4     Our World
 
    Bass – Linda LoPresti
    Bongos – Annette Lopez
    Congas – Nydia Mata
    Drums – Ginger Bianco  
    Flute, tenor saxophone – Jean Fineberg
    Guitar – Bev Phillips
    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. photo 04 - Label B_zpsfjwdcqgm.jpgLatin 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.

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Cal Tjader – La Onda Va Bien (1980)

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Cal Tjader
La Onda Va Bien
Concord Picante 1980
    1. Speak Low 6:04
    2. Serengeti 5:05
    3. Star Eyes 4:32
    4. Mambo Mindoro 3:47
    5. Aleluia 4:09
    6. I Remember You 4:33
    7. Linda Chicana 5:19
    8. Sabor 4:26
Sleeve notes:
Cal Tjader, vibes
Mark Levine, piano and Fender Rhodes
Roger Glenn, flute and percussion
Vince Lateano, drums and percussion
Rob Fisher, bass
Poncho Sanchez, congas and percussion
“La Onda Va Bien is a slang expression implying smoothness, hip-ness, and first rate quality. These characteristics are indicative to the music of Cal Tjader and also to the taste of those who listen.”
Recorded in San Francisco in July 1979.

This record lacks some of the fire of his Prestige work in the years leading up to this, with the ballads being a little too saccharine-flavored for me, but there are some real cookers on here too.   Serengeti is an aural safari. The one Tjader original, Mambo Mindoro, is a natural centerpiece, with Poncho Sanchez on fire throughout, and also notable for its brevity as it comes in at slightly under four minutes.   I’m rather fond of the very creative, liberal interpretation of the Edu Lobo/Ruy Guerra composition Aleluia.  Of the slower numbers, I enjoy the Johnny Mercer tune “I Remember You” here, with the Rhodes giving just enough gritty texture to balance the sweetness, and a nice jazz flute solo that could only have been improved if Roger Glenn had played it shirtless like Herbie Mann.  Mark Levine contributes a quietly smoldering original descarga jam in Linda Chicana, and the album ends on a high note with a composition from former Tjader band member João Donato, Sabor.

“La Onda Va Bien” apparently kicked off the “Picante” sublabel of Concord Records.  Like all Concord releases the sound quality is flawless – and that’s not always great, because I like a few flaws in both recordings and performances to keep it interesting.  Too much of the Concord catalog is so slick that it becomes sonic wallpaper.  But Tjader and Company carry off a laid-back, final-set-of-the-evening-at-3 a.m. feeling here.  This 80s-era CD pressing sounds stellar too, extremely warm with a ton of dynamic range.  If you’re new to Cal Tjader this might not be the place to start, but it’s a very solid album.

 

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Mongo Santamaria – Afro Roots (1958 – 1959)

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Mongo Santamaria – Afro Roots
Prestige PRCD-24018
Previously released as “Mongo” (1959) and “Yambu” (1958)

1. Afro Blue
2. Che-Que-Re-Que-Che-Que
3. Rezo
4. Ayenye
5. Onyae
6. Bata
7. Meta Rumba
8. Chano Pozo
9. Los Conguitos
10. Monte Adentro
11. Imaribayo
12. Mazacote
13. Ye Ye
14. Congobel
15. Macunsere
16. Timbales Y Bongo
17. Yambu
18. Bricamo
19. Longoito
20. Conga Pa Gozar
21. Columbia

Mongo Santamaria (conga, bongo, percussion)
Armando Peraza (congo, bongo, percussion)
Willie Bobo (timbales)
Vince Guaraldi (piano)
Paul Horn (flute)
Al McKibbon (bass)
Cal Tjader (vibes)
Francisco Aguabella (conga, percussion)
Modesto Duran (conga, percussion)
Emil Richards (vibes)
“Chombo” Silva (tenor sax)
Carlos Vidal (conga, percussion)

Tracks 1-12 recorded May 1959 and released as the LP “Mongo” (Fantasy 8032)

Tracks 13-21 recorded December 1959 and released as the LP “Yambu” (Fantasy 8012)

The track “Mi Guaguanco” was left off due to the time constraints of the CD. Oh, the 80s!
_____________________________________________________

Well there was a bit of unexpected news announced today and my mind is kind of blown.  And burned out too – I’m working against several deadlines right now and have not really had any time to think much about this blog.  But I can’t resist posting today, given that history was just made and all that.  And it is just as well that I don’t have time to pontificate, as even the usual pontificators and bloviators out there seem to have been caught off guard, and even my preferred news sources have largely just fallen back on reporting either contemporary or historical factoids and sometimes a bit of context.  In other words, there will be plenty of time for analysis soon.

The record I’ve chosen for this post is not particularly symbolic.  It’s a CD of two records from the great Mongo Santamaria that literally straddle the cusp of the Revolution.  The earlier album was put last in the sequence presumably because Prestige/Fantasy thought it might scare white people in the 1980s.

And now for some nice liner notes by Ralph Gleason.  Nice liner notes are really the main reason to buy CDs rather than original LPs, aren’t they?  Oh, that and the outrageous prices that original pressings are fetching now.  Actually the notes are kind of odd in that they say very little about this particular set of recordings and more of an abbreviated primer in music history.  The stories of Cuba and it’s relationships with the US may be complicated and tendentious, but they’ve always had a great soundtrack.

Thanks to my friend Ossian for the EAC rip.  Enjoy, and I’ll try and post again before the end of the year!

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LINER NOTES:

Although the American public got its first view of conga
drums in,of all places, the I Love Lucy show via Desi Arnaz ,those portions of
the public more into jazz, specifically, or just entertainment, generally , had
been familiar with the sound of the instrument and what it stood  for musically
back to the 30s.
Until Castro, Havana had been a kind of Latin Las Vegas
catering to the East Coast (particularly in winter) tourists with gambling (not
just casinos but excellent racing at Oriente Park) , night clubs and girls. The
cultural cross fertilization had begun early, back as far as the beginnings of
jazz when Cuban and Caribbean melodies and rhythms brought to New Orleans by
black exiles from the Caribbean Islands, were incorporated into the new music.  Havana’s adaptation of swing style big bands
and Latin rhythms crossed back to the United States  in the
rhumba and then  the conga line
dance crazes of the 30s. In the 50s it was the mambo and the cha-cha-cha which
brought many Cuban musicians to the States to work  in the Broadway  night clubs or the Hollywood  studios
in bands  such  as
Noro Morales, Enric Madriguera and Xavier Cugat.
Out of them came Miguelito Valdez, who had quite a run as a
popular dance band leader and who
included in his band some of the very best Cuban percussionists.
Musicians such as Chano Pozo worked for him and to all students of conga
drumming, Chano remains the King.
Chano Pozo (Luciano Pozo y Gonzales) was a black Cuban, two
generations from Africa and a native of the Cayo Hueso in Havana where he was a
member of the Abakwa cult. He had been working in the big commercial Latin
bands in New York in the early 40s and had composed several Latin hits. Dizzy
Gillespie, who had long been fascinated by the whole Afro-Cuban rhythmic
concept, brought him to the attention of the world of jazz by featuring him
with the Gillespie big band of the late 40s which recorded “Cubano Be,
Cubano Bop”, “Manteca” and “Guarachi Guaro”. Chano
Pozo was killed in a Harlem bar in 1948, but despite his brief career in jazz
was THE dominant influence in Cuban rhythm.
Present day jazz audiences are probably unaware of it, but
when they hear Joe Cuba playing “I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia” they
are hearing the Dizzy Gillespie big band (with Chano Pozo) version of the
Gillespie-Pozo composition “Manteca” and when they hear Cal Tjader’s
hit, “Soul Sauce” they are hearing another Gillespie-Pozo collaboration,  “Guarachi  Guaro .”
Although the Miguelito Valdez band (which was  a
lot  more  ethnic
than  most  people thought; it included almost complete
the whole Cuban brass section concept as well as the conga drumming) was
popular, it did not last and  the  main commercial  carrier
of  conga drumming in the pop
world was left to Nat King Cole. Stan Kenton featured  a Chicago
born dancer named Jack Costanza as bongo and conga drummer on several
tours and numerous records and Costanza later joined Nat King Cole and toured
with him for several years.
Meanwhile the authentic Latin bands in New York disappeared
, as far as the general public was concerned, playing mainly for their own
ethnic audience. Machito with arrangements by ex-Cab Calloway trumpeter, Mario
Bauza and lito Puente did play the big jazz clubs occasionally as did the more
widely known Perez Prado (remember his hit discs, “EI Mambo” and
“Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”?). Those bands built up a heavy
circuit of engagements in New York with occasional tours to the West Coast.
Emerging  from  those
bands  in the  mid-50s were three musicians who have become
highly  influential  in jazz while retaining their musical
authenticity: Mongo Santamaria , Armando Peraza and Willie Bobo. Mongo toured
with Prado and later joined Tito Puente and then Cal Tjader . In the latter two
bands he was joined with Willie Bobo in some of the most exciting Afro Cuban
rhythymic exchanges the continental United States has ever heard. Armando
Peraza, oddly enough, worked for a long time initially with Slim Gaillard (he
taught Slim how to  play  cow
bell!) and then toured for many years with George Shearing  and  Cal
Tjader .
During the  later 40s
and early 50s, the United States still had a series of taxes on  entertainment   which
included  a night club tax
that  applied only when there was singing. This inhibited, believe it or not, any of the
Afro Cuban bands or groups from using many of the chants (the rituals dating back
to their origins in the barrios or the hill country in Cuba) that might
otherwise have been used. Jazz audiences in general dug the sounds of the
rhythm instruments but were less entranced by the vocals even when, as in the
case of Carlos Vidal who played briefly with Charlie Barnet, the two were
intertwined in an exciting mixture.

 

Tito Puente and Machito, as well as the Pal­ mieri brothers
and the other Latin big bands , were unable to make regular tours outside the
ethnic showcases for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the whole
economic pinch which had reduced the big bands to a mere handful. But both the
Shearing Quintet and the Tjader Quintet worked constantly through the 50s and
60s and brought to every jazz club-and to the
giant  jazz  festivals-in the country authentic Cuban
percussion virtu­ osi in Mongo, Armando and Willie Bobo.
Tito Puente and Machito, as well as the Pal­mieri brothers
and the other Latin big bands , were unable to make regular tours outside the
ethnic showcases for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the whole
economic pinch which had reduced the big bands to a mere handful. But both the
Shearing Quintet and the Tjader Quintet worked constantly through the 50s and
60s and brought to every jazz club-and to the
giant  jazz  festivals-in the country authentic Cuban
percussion virtu­ osi in Mongo, Armando and Willie Bobo.
As evidence of the importance  of
Chano Pozo, there is Mongo’s own composition in his honor on this album
. Most of the numbers in this package, incidentally , are compositions of Mongo
Santamaria and sev­ eral of them include chants and have sym­ bolic and direct
references to various aspects of authentic Afro Cuban culture . Mongo’s own composition,
“Afro Blue” , has had at least 17 versions by other artists in the
years since it was first cut by him. Joining Mongo in some of these numbers is
another Cuban virtuoso percussionist , Pablo Mozo, who is well known in Latin musical
circles though almost totally unknown to the public. He is an expert in the
dexterous use of sticks on any object that will produce a sharp resonance. Even
a chair or box will sometimes do. He is also an expert on the use of the cowbell
and was  brought to these sessions specifically
to perform that function.
Once,  in a  rare
interview,  Mongo  Santamaria said that the best and most
important of all rhythms was produced by “skin on skin”. His whole
life has been a proof of that.
-Ralph J. Gleason

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Fruko, El Bueno – Ayunando (1973) Fruko y Sus Tesos

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FRUKO, EL BUENO
“Ayunando”
Released 1973
Disco Fuentes (LP 200748)

01 – Fruko Power
02 – Ayunando
03 – Tu Sufriras
04 – Yo Soy el Punto Cubano
05 – Lamentdo del Campesino
06 – Mosaico Santero: A Santa Bárbara – San Lázaro – A la Caridad del Cobre
07 – El Ausente
08 – Canto a Borinquen
09 – Pa’ Teso Yoi

Vocals: Joe Arroyo and Wilson Saoko
Trumpets: Jorge Gariria, Salvador Pasos
Trombones: Gonzalo Gómez, Freddy Ferrer
Timbales: Rafael Benitez
Conga – Fernando Villegas
Bongo: Jesús Villegas
Electric Piano: Luis Felipe Basto
Bass, arrangements: Fruko

Executive Producer: Jose Maria Fuentes E.
Produced by: Mario Rincon P
Musical Director: Fruko
Recording Engineer: Mario Rincon P.

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, some isolated clicks removed using Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000

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Anyone who has heard the compilations from the likes of Soundway Records or VampiSoul covering cumbia, salsa, or Latin funk sounds has no doubt had the tracks from Fruko jump right out at them. His band went through a variety of sounds over the 70s and I haven’t heard anything I didn’t like yet. Here we see him in a humorous counter-spin on the campy ‘bad boy’ image he had been using (modeled somewhat after Willie Colon’s album covers) on his earlier album art, by becoming the benevolent “Fruko the Good”!

Fruko’s discography is so huge, and I am familiar with such a small portion of it, that it’s difficult for me to say anything of much profundity. However, he is known to a lot of us non-Colombians for some of the funkier stuff he recorded as well as his bad-ass cumbias. But on this record, the only thing funky is the rather creepy and slightly nauseating album cover (thank the stars for the strategic use of glass decanters…) featuring Fruko in his best Bacchus impersonation, and there is no cumbia to had. This is pretty much a straight salsa album with strains of Latin Soul via the Nuyorican scene. Although I prefer Joe Arroyo’s vocals slightly over Wilson Saoko, Wilson definitely knows how to kick it on the more ‘soulful’ bits, and his singing on the wonderful “Lamento del campesino” is fantastic. The idea of having two lead singers in his band — both of them great, really – is just one of the things that makes Fruko and this record special. That, and the disturbing album cover. Check out the electric piano (Wurlitzer, I believe) work on this album too, in place of the more traditional acoustic piano. There isn’t a bad tune in the bunch, with some of my favorites being the title cut, “Mosaico Santero”, “El Ausente” (which has appeared on some compilations), and the tribute to ‘my people’ in Puerto Rico, “Canto a Boriquen.”

Oddly enough there are not just song samples but entire songs from this album available from the website of COLOMBIAN NATIONAL RADIO

I would like to say that personally I find my own vinyl rip much more satisfying to the ears…

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Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-75 (2006)


From ‘Dusted’ online magazine
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One might guess that Panama’s strategic geographic location between continents, cultures, oceans and seas would contribute to a local music flowing with varied streams of influence. Proof of such a supposition can be found on this engaging collection. Focusing on the fecund 1960s and ’70s, Panama! reveals an effusion of hot and cool grooves that draw from various blends of indigenous styles and rhythms, Afro-Latin jazz, and funky American soul.

The collection begins in high style with strong descarga-style blowing by sax-man Jose “Chomba” Silva on Los Exagerados’s “Panama Esta Bueno Y Ma.” With a big-but-gentle Sonny Rollins tone, Silva lays down lines that dance with the rhythmic facility of Antillean Beguine. Rafael Labasta adds searing, stratospheric Cuban-style trumpet to the dialed-in montuno laid down by piano, upright bass and percussion. It’s Latin jazz with a few surprising – and very appealing – twists. (The Afro-Cuban/Puerto Rican/Salsa continuum was obviously beloved in Panama during those decades, and related approaches show up on many of the tracks collected here.)

There are other directions represented, too, including the sort of soul-funk workouts exemplified by the likes of The Exciters, Los Fabulosos Festivals, and Los Mozambiques. Here we are treated to some ripping, heavily-effected guitars to go along with a distinctively Latin/Caribbean poly-rhythmic spin on funk and rock, and, perhaps best of all, some compelling and soulful Spanish-inflected vocals that are quite unlike anything else in the Afro-Latin Diaspora. There’s a certain accent and timbral warmth in these vocal tones that seems unique to the region.

Papi Brandau Y Sus Ejecutivos’s “Viva Panama” offers up a taste of the accordion-driven cumbia that is the music of the nation’s interior, and it also features some fine vocals, in this case a mix of male and female voices with a definite country tinge.

The collection also opens up what might be a whole new direction worthy of exploration: Panamanian calypso and mento. Los Silvertones’s “Old Buzzard” is a smooth mento with sweet, skipping high-life horns, elegant vocals, and a little taste of charanga flute. And sung in a rasping, story-telling style over rippling string band accompaniment, Lord Cobra’s reading of the Calypso classic “Rocombey” is an attention-getting tale of love and Voodoo .

As musically engaging as Panama! is, its overall appeal is enhanced by excellent liner notes. Roberto Ernesto Gyemant does a fine job of setting up the cultural and musical contexts of the records he and label honcho Miles Cleret selected. Even better, he tells some good stories about his own connections and how his quest turned up some interesting sources, conveying with passion and honesty the way his own heart led him to the heart of this not-so-well-known music. For those seeking “new” sounds in vintage Afro-Latin music, Panama! might well be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

This is an exceptional compilation from my favorite traffickers in rare grooves, Soundway Records. This one has inspired a second volume (which I don’t have), that’s how good it is! It’s hard for me to say much more than the Dusted review above, in all truth.

I swear the tune “The Exciters Theme” by The Exciters here made it onto a soundtrack somewhere, $5 to anyone who can clear that up for me.. Two of my favorite tracks on this are from The Exciters actually. Aside from the tunes, the liner notes are really something special. As mentioned in the review above, they are both personal and informative. Written by Roberto Ernesto Gyemont, they contextualize the music historically and culturally and in a very flowing and readable style. I *highly* encourage everyone who grabs this to take the time to read them, as it’s not everyday you come across this amazing combination of words, music, and also rare photos in a compilation like this. The sound is also excellent, surpassing much of the rare African material on other Soundway compilations. (This is not a criticism — a great deal of Soundway’s material iis extremely rare and sourced from the best vinyl available, which often is not in perfect shape….). I have yet to come across a Soundways comp that isn’t worth getting hold of, and this is one of the best they’ve done.

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