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. I happen to have two 70’s pressings of this album (both, weirdly, second pressings with the palm tree label design), and though I wouldn’t want to make a definitive pronouncement without getting my hands on one of the ‘cloud label’ O.G. copies, I would wager at least the price of a beer in the Bronx (at 2021 prices) that this mastering actually sounds better. Of course ample kudos needs to go to the stalwart Jon Fausty for the original pristine recording and mixing (he is uncredited on the jacket but the sound seems pretty unmistakably his).
Now, finally, on to the music: this is top-tier Ray Barretto just as the “salsa boom” of the 1970’s was taking off. For reasons I do not quite understand, the great Venezuelan music critic Cesár Miguel Rondon is pretty dismissive of Ray Barretto’s albums in his classic “Big Book of Salsa”, apart from those albums he made as part of the Fania All-Stars. The one notable exception for Rondon was the 1975 self-titled album that happens to have provided an opportunity to a dude working in the mail room to make his recording debut (that “dude” was named Rubén Blades and he would become kind of a big deal…). In terms of people who have written prolifically about salsa, Rondon was probably a necessary counterbalance to authors like Juan Flores: whereas Flores seemed to gush effusively about nearly everything, Rondon was much more critical and occasionally acerbic (I will save some quotes from him about the early Willie Colón albums when I do some blog posts about them, hopefully this summer…).
I am sure he had his reasons for not being especially impressed by Barretto’s albums, but I for one can’t find them. It could be a case of there being so much great salsa from this period, an embarrassment of riches syndrome, but if so then it becomes the equivalent of criticizing rock bands because they weren’t “as good” as The Beatles, Stones, or Led Zeppelin. Perhaps it is because, as Rondon rightly notes, Barretto actually came to salsa via his work in Latin jazz and later boogaloo (he had scored a proto-boogaloo hit with ‘El Watusi’ in the early 60s); to me, these are just additional reasons to pay close attention to him.
To my ears this album has everything you could possibly want from “salsa dura” of 1970 – smoking descarga jams, a few ballads with a lovely vocal from Adalberto Santiago (including one penned by the great Tite Curet Alonso), and a couple of Latin funk numbers that are very much of their time. Maybe it is worth noting here that Rondon’s classic book was written in the 80’s, and he perhaps thought this funkier material had not “dated well”. A quantitative parse of this blog which reveal that I am a wee bit partial to this time period, and I feel this music holds up very well indeed.
One additional observation that this record features the exquisite bass playing of a 19-year-old Andy Gonzalez, one of the great upright bassists in the tradition of Cachao Lopez. Gonzalez would accrue credits on hundreds of recordings and he was also a driving force and co-leader of the killer salsa band Libre (along with Eddie Palmieri alum, Manny Oquendo). I just discovered that he passed away, in his native Bronx, in 2020….
A1 Oye La Noticia 5:25
Written-By – R. Barretto
A2 Perla Del Sur 5:40
Written-By – R. Rodriguez
A3 Right On 2:40
Written-By – L. Cruz, R. Barretto
A4 De Que Te Quejas Tu 4:05
Written-By – C. Curet Alonso
B1 Y Dicen 3:54
Written-By – T. Fuentes
B2 Quitate La Mascara 4:26
Written-By – Hugo González
B3 Se Que Volveras 3:45
Written-By – L. Cruz
B4 Power 5:59
Written-By – L. Cruz, R. Barretto
Pressed By – Memphis Record Pressing
Remastered At – Cohearent Audio
Bass – Andy Gonzales
Bongos – Tony Fuentes
Congas – Ray Barretto
Piano – Louis Cruz
Timbales – Orestes Vilato
Trumpet – Papy Roman, Rene Lopez, Roberto Rodriguez
Vocals – Adalberto Santiago
Design [Album] – Izzy Sanabria
Producer – Jerry Masucci
Remastered By – Kevin Gray
50th Anniversary Edition
It comes with a hard Tip-on jacket and a custom MoFi-style inner sleeve. The vinyl is 180 grams
Barcode and Other Identifiers
Matrix / Runout: A2 CR.00330.A KPG@CA
Matrix / Runout: B2 CR.00330.B KPG@CA