Ray Barretto – Indestructible (1973)

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Ray Barretto
INDESTRUCTIBLE
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
8. Indestructible

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

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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:

Editor’s Pick:
“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.

Check this out if you don’t already know it!

 

Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente – Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions (1957)

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Cachao y Su Ritmo Caliente
Descargas – Cuban Jam Sessions (1957)

Originally released by Panart as “Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions In Miniature”. Reissued by Vampi Soul (Spain) using this title and adding extra tracks in 2005

THIS CD PRESSING: EGREM (Cuba) 1996

1. Descarga Cubana
2. Goza Me Trompeta
3. Cogele el Golpe
4. Trombon Criollo
5. Malanga Amarilla
6. Pamparana
7. Oye Mi Tres Montuno
8. Controversia de Metales
9. A Gozar Timbero
10. Sorpresa en Flauta
11. Estudio en Trompeta
12. Guajeo de Saxos

These tracks are all massive, amazing, landmark recordings. Israel “Cachao” López pretty much singlehandedly invented the Cuban upright bass by transposing the tumbao rhythm to the instrument. This pre-Revolution recording session is not only amazing 33 minutes of music but also very important historically, as it is one of the earliest examples (maybe THE earliest example) of taking themes from Cuban popular and folk musics and using them as a springboard for out and out jazz improvisation, a technique that would have reverberations far outside the island itself. According to the stories, this record was recorded almost spontaneously in the wee hours of the early morning after the musicians had finished their night’s work playing in the popular clubs and casinos of the day. (One myth even says this album was recorded after-hours at the Tropicana club, which is ridiculous – crystal clear fidelity and wide dynamic range is proof this was recorded at an actual recording studio.)

I have not heard the VampiSoul pressing of this with the extra tracks, and it seems to be out of print. They are a cool enough label but I often find their mastering to be a bit on the loud side — plus, since I know of a few cases where they have been tied up in legal wrangling over royalties, I am doubtful about what master tapes they are using sometimes. This is not a slag against VampiSoul, really: they have made all kinds of extremely rare recordings available that I would otherwise have never heard (several of which have already been featured here). But they don’t give the same kind of TLC to their releases that other reissue labels (like Soundway or Analog Africa) give with their exceptional liner notes, photos, research, and generally great sound.

This pressing was mastered in Cuba in the mid-90s and sounds quite nice to my ears. It makes no real attempt at noise reduction so you get lots of warm tape hiss when things get quiet. Me likes.

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Willie Rosario – El Fabuloso y Fantastico (1964)

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“El Fabuloso y Fantastico”
Willie Rosario e Su Orchestra
Released 1964 (Alegre Records??)
This reissue 1998 on Neliz Records

1. Wobbly Blues
2. Los generales de la capital
3. Quedate en tu tierra
4. A Villa Palmeras
5. Nos engano la vida
6. “Yayi’s” Instant Mambo
7. Yenye
8. Me voy para el bonche
9. Triunfo el amor
10. El charlatan
11. Mayimbe
12. Bailan guaguanco

I know relatively little about this early album from bandleader and timbale tickler Willie Rosario other than it has Bobby Valentin on the trumpet and it’s a fun listen. The opening boogaloo, “Wobbly Blues” is horribly annoying to my ears, sort of like Mongo Santamaria’s “El Pussycat” except that it’s not any good. My personal favorites off this one are the handful of original Rosario compositions sandwiched together on the first half, two of which I’ve included here – “Quedate en tu tierra,” and “A Villa Palmares.” The latter is a bomba, a musical contribution particular to the island of Puerto Rico. The album spans a lot of styles, however – cha cha cha, guajira, guaracha, bolero, and mambo are all given some time on the dancefloor. This CD reissue is actually a vinyl rip, and I can’t restrain myself from saying that I probably could have done a better mastering job on this one, but since this record is pretty damn rare I suppose I will allow myself contentment. It sounds pretty okay good, okay? Good.

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Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76

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Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76
Various Artists
Soundway Records (SNDWCD008)
Every Soundway compilation is a labor of love and this one is no exception. This collection focuses on the Fuentes label of Colombia, which has been active there since the 1930s. Covering a mighty chunk of stylistic territory and a span of over fifteen years is no mean feat and it’s remarkable the collection holds together as well as it does. It has its flaws but they are relatively minor and far outweighed by the fact that Soundway is making this music available to a wider audience that to a large extent have not had much access to it.

Trust me when I say you do not want to be in the middle of a conversation between a Puerto Rican, a Cuban, a Venezuelan, and a Colombian about who was the best salsa music or, Lord have mercy, it’s origins. This release does nothing to clarify that contentious morass. In terms of the salsa and descarga jams on this collection, the influence of the Nuyorican sound is definitely in force, not too surprising given its enormous popularity during the time period, as well as merengue and mambo. And while these tracks are excellent, what really interests me here is the costeña music, the sounds from Colombia’s pacific coast with its heavily African and indigenous elements. Particularly cumbia but also fandango, mapalé and other variants, this stuff is the shit you want off this compilation. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough of it to satisfy me.

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And you thought Colombia’s finest export was.. oh, nevermind

The liner notes by Costa Rican music scholar Roberto Ernesto Gyemant start out beautifully with a compelling narrative of his experiences as a crate-digger and fanatic of Colombian music trying to track down some of these records and the people who made them. They provide a lot of historical and cultural context for which I am always grateful, and a fair amount of detail. Unfortunately that detail starts to bog the text down after a while, and is perhaps catering to musicologists and specialists. After the strong initial pages the text takes on a hurried, somewhat sloppy quality, as if the writer was rushing to meet a deadline. Exhibit A is the sentence appearing at the end of one paragraph that says merely, “Sentence about cienaguera,” obviously a note the author made to himself… I know I am an asshole for pointing that out but it cracked me up. Besides, I am dying to know what he was going to write about cienaguera, it keeps me awake at night, restless and anxious.

The text also spends a lot of time focusing on Fruku e sus Tesos (see photo below) and The Latin Brothers to the exclusion of other artists included on the disc. Some of the personalities involved in this part of Discos Fuentes story went on to have huge international hits, none of which are included on this collection. Thus in a way, for the relative outsider to this scene it is as if you are missing some important elements of “the big picture”, as I imagine that some of those smash hits are still generating royalty revenue for the artists and are were thus not available for inclusion on a comp such as this.

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The tracks included by Wganda Kenya (the farfisa-driven “Tifit hayed” and the highlife of “Elyoyo”) are pure delight but relegated in the text to the last paragraph, where we are told this sound was popular in the mid-70s but nothing else beyond that declaration. (Actually Wganda Kenya is described as relying on “a new generation of synthesizers”, none of which are present on these two tracks..) I would really, REALLY like to know more about the band Afrosound, whose sole track here closes out the compilation and brings a genuine creole fusion of African and Latin American musical greatness.

The album jackets included in the booklet are one of the best things here, a visual feast of kitschy contemporary design and layout. However the lovely sultry cover featured above appears to be unrelated to any of the music on the album, although I’m not about to complain about it’s inclusion.

On the whole this is not as organized and coherent a collection as Soundway’s Panama compilation (actually, there are three volumes now but I only have the first one and can’t comment on the others in the series). There is still plenty here to sink your teeth and ears into, so those who are interested should most certainly check this out.

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**P.S. There are typos in the archive folder that originated in the freedb (Free Database) information from which tracks and artists get downloaded within EAC. Thus, they are not my fault, I swear!! I know better than to spell Colombia with a “u”. However I will take the blame for not noticing it until now. I will probably rename the folder and rehost it, because I am obsessive-compulsive that way. Until then you can do it yourself. Just highlight the folder and press F2….

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Joe Cuba Sextet – Bustin' Out (1972)

The Joe Cuba Sextet
“Bustin’ Out” (1972)
Vampi Records CD 019

Whereas Joe Cuba’s 60s output was prolific to the point of flooding the market with boogaloo, his releases in the 1970s were spaced pretty far apart. This one catches the Sextet somewhere between their 60s sound and a new sensibility taking cues from Eddie Palmieri and the Harlem River Drive band. The single from the album was Pud-Da-Din b/w Ooh! Ya, and the track “Do You Feel It” with its almost-social-commentary-rap has made it to a few Latin soul compilations. While the shorter cuts are certainly groovy and all, my favorite on this is Joe Cuba’s Madness Parts 1 & 2 (actually separated by silence, presumably for another 7-inch release). Instrumental jamming co-authored with Charlie Palmieri, Cuba’s long-time musical director.

01 – What a Baby
02 – Pud-Da-Din
03 – Ain’t it Funny What Love Can Do
04 – Ooh! Ya
05 – Do You Feel It
06 – A Thousand Ways
07 – Joe Cuba’s Madness Part 1
08 – Joe Cuba’s Madness Part2

Produced by Joe Cain. Original release on Tico Records.

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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