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

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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Academia da Berlinda – Academia da Berlinda (2007)

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The conjoined-twin-cities of Recife/Olinda in Brasil boast one of the diverse music scenes in a country full of musical diversity. The bad part is that you only have to be there about ten minutes before you have half a dozen hipsters in plaid pants and oversized sunglasses harangue you with the facts about how great and diverse their scene is. If you had to chose one commonality to highlight as a collective characteristic, it would be the ability of most of these artists to draw on various strands of regional ‘roots’ music and reinvent them, rescuing them from the staid museum-preservations of “folklore” and incorporating them as a vital component of the cultural life of Pernambuco and Brazil. However, such artistic vanguards are (as they have always been in most places) the concern of the upper middle class; In spite of the working-class background of a figure like Chico Science, you would be hard-pressed to find a pedreiro (bricklayer, mason) attending a Mundo Livre show.

A great deal of the artists in these cities have been basking in the stardust glow of the comet known as Chico Science, who died tragically in an auto accident in the late 90s at the age of 30, and at the peak of his creative success. His name was synomous with the Mangue Beat (or Bit) scene that also included the plastic arts, cinema, and literature, and whose musical component would include truly original talents like Mundo Livre S/A (some of the time), Mestre Abrosia, Comadre Fulozinha and others. Unfortunately, when movements in popular music begin to issue “manifestos” to the press and the world, you know they have begun to take themselves a bit too seriously for their own good. In the wake of that initial burst of innovation and creativity surrounding Chico Science and his coconspirators, “the scene” ends up devolving into the fate of most such ‘local’ scenes — a perpetual circle-jerk of musical inbreeding where nobody is inclined to call each other out when they’ve slipped into mediocrity, and where “Six Degrees of Chico Science” seems to be a popular parlor game. Although the contemporary scene there may still be more interesting than the majority of Brazilian cities, that in itself does not say much, and in a substantive way were are talking about “Big Fish in a Small Pond.” The spectrum runs from scenester veterans Mundo Livre, who hit the mark about 50% of the time with some brilliant songs in between bombastic turns of pseudo-post-punk (sounding more like angsty 90’s grunge) and the overbearing pretentious lyrics of their frontman Fred 04; to Nação Zumbi sans Chico Science, for whom I could cut some slack to since they have to walk in that giant’s shadow, but have yet to make any records that I find all that interesting; to the disappointing and often outright unlistenable solo albums from all the principle artists that comprised Comadre Fulozinha, albums that either leave no more permanent impression than a passing breeze, or else make you want to smash your radio into tiny bits like the recent record from indie starlet Karina Buhr. (Edit: I have to try and be nicer – the albums from Alessandra Leão and Isaar are at least listenable, they just don’t do anything for me personally and I don’t find them compelling. The album from Karina Buhr however is just terrible, leading me to wonder “Why would anybody actually listen to this?” In fact I have conducted semi-scientific tests with this record on people who live in Recife: unlike some albums that tend to ‘grow on you’ with repeated listenings, unveiling their charms slowly, Karina Buhr’s album is actually the REVERSE of this process — On first listen is seems kind of bad but possibly worth your time; as you listen to it more, it just gets worse and worse as you realize it’s true mediocrity. I personally can’t make it through the whole record — this test was conducted scientifically on willing participants who claim to enjoy the Recife music scene. I swear.)

There are groups that work better as concepts than actually listenable music, like the now-defunct Cordel de Fogo Encantado who had brilliant lyrics but godawful music; to the empty iconoclasm of DJ Dolores’ electronic globalisms; and then there are a smattering of dull, pedestrian acts like “Otto,” “Eddie” (a band, not a person, whose music is about as interesting as their name), Original Olinda Style, or Orchestra Contemporania de Olinda, and some other Olinda-centric acts, nearly all of whom share musicians and a proclivity for the redundant.

Amidst all this inbreeding of mediocrity, you would probably expect any new-born progency to be cross-eyed and genetically-challenged. This is NOT the case with Academia de Berlinda, who for my money are above and beyond all of the aforementioned acts, even though they are comprised of musicians who have participated or continue to play with a bunch of them. Perhaps because they began essentially as a sideproject from all the musician’s “main gigs”, they didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and have been creating music that is engaging, well-written, and fun as hell. The first time I heard them, I had a similar reaction to my first encounters with Stereolab — it sounds good and it’s very catchy, but mostly I felt like I was listening to a band whose biggest asset was that they owned extensive and very hip record collections. In the case of Academia de Berlinda I was confronted with cumbia, Peruvian ‘chicha’, Cuban salsa (there is even a track named ‘Bela Vista’ in honor of a proletariat neighborhood that hosts a ‘Cuban night’ of music and dance frequented by the cultural elite), African hybrids, rock and roll, Brazilian brêga, carimbó from Pará… But contrary to Stereolab, who in spite of their many albums and impecable taste in plundering sources just never really moved me much, I found something different with Academia de Berlinda — an excitement and passion they bring to their work that manages to overcome the lurking sense of irony and kitsch. There is definitely some hipster-irony going on here, which may or may not include the laconic and somewhat off-pitch vocal delivery, but also a clear sense that they believe in what they are doing. It is often said of bands that produce highly-danceable music that you have to experience them live to get the full effect. The Academia’s live performances are certainly well worth it and often transcendent in their ability to work a room, although they have a Tim Maia-like propensity to hit the stage remarkably late.. But what is more amazing is that this excitement managed to actually get translated to a recording. A great of deal of the Recife/Olinda music suffers from over-production, an over-ripeness that comes from too much fussiness and not enough spontaneaty in the recording studio (a criticism I also level at contemporary Brazilian music in general). But this album has a very ‘live,’ raw, and very analog sound to it, while still taking advantages of the studio. When I used to work occasionally as a DJ either at parties or on the radio, I would usually try and play a tune off this album (Cumbia de Lutador and Ivete being my favorites to spin) — and I invariablly receied positive feedback and questions: somebody coming up to me (or calling me up, when I was on the radio) asking, “Who the hell is this? Where can I find it?” And I really have to say that, even in the case of Chico Science and Nação Zumbi, I haven’t received that type of reaction from playing much ‘contemporary’ Brazilian music to a non-Brazilian audience. Perhaps it is the ability of Academia de Berlinda to blur genres without being pedantic about it, to push boundaries in a subtle way that never sacrificies substance to style. But something about this music resonnates with people, whether it’s in the crowds that flock to hear them play in cramped bars or in spacious open-air venues during Carnaval, or in someone listening on the low-wattage radio waves in Detroit. In general terms of cultural production, Brazil has often had a historical tendency to refuse to see itself as part of Latin America, often preferring to distance itself from the contributions of its neighbors (even when appreciating or appropriating them) in favor of turning inward and reflecting on its own endless complexities. Brazil’s own hugeness – geographically, culturally, intellectually – has in some ways hampered its ability to stand in solidarity with The Americas and earmarked it as an imperial power to its neighbors. Academia de Berlinda is certainly not the first to break out of this pattern (fellow Recifense Nana Vasconcelos standing an an important remarkable exceptions and innovator in this regard), but it is nonetheless refreshing to hear a group of young, seasoned musicians break out with such a rich, textured work as is found on this this album, a record that draws upon so much without ever being gratuitous in their eclecticism. Oh, except for the final track, which is a pointless remix of the opening eponymous song – but I will forgive them for that, since superfulous, gratuitous and usually boring remixes are a sign of the times.

Another cool thing about this band is their embracing of digital distribution. This album was available on their website for a long time. The post here is audio extracted from an actual physical CD, with art scans taken from the original packing (except, oddly enough, the cover, which seems to have been deleted from my computer before I stored the disc in my bunker in the Kayman Islands). Academia de Berlinda may just be one of the most under-achieving bands in all of this overly-busy music scene, another thing I find sort of charming about them. Founding in 2004, finally put out a record in 2007, and are releasing their second album in 2011. Apparently it is already available online, but I have yet to listen to it — In truth, I wanted to write down my thoughts about this album, before complicating it by listening to their follow-up. As has been said by others and elsewhere, a group’s second album adds a dynamic self-reflexivity that begins to play with the identity of “who” a band or an artist is. When they only have one record out, it is pretty easy to say “who they are” — that one record is generally a fair representation of that identity. With subsequent releases, that identity becomes complicated and multifaceted. I don’t particularly expect their new record to depart from this winning formula overmuch — at least, I hope that they do not. In the mean time, I hope some people who wouldn’t otherwise have encountered this album benefit from this post, and enjoy this band as much as I have.

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Ray Barretto – Indestructible (1973)

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!

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

 

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)

“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. Continue reading