Joe Bataan Gypsy Woman
Fania Records SLP 340
Original release, 1967
1990’s CD reissue
Emerging out of the hybrid crossroads of boogaloo, R&B, Latin Soul, and the nascent salsa scene, Joe Bataan was defying categorization and bending genres long before it was hip. The first album I heard by him was “Subway Joe”, but it was years before I realized he didn’t actually sing any of the Spanish-language numbers in his repertoire – those, in the early days at least, were handled by Joe Pagan. For a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of being an Afro-Filipino in the barrio, you can watch this interview with him done by Red Bull Academy. Although I personally like that there is an entire 2 hours of it, somebody could probably edit that down a bit, for the non-fanatical. Continue reading
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.
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.
Ray Barretto “The Message” Released 1972, Fania Records Release Date Jul 17, 2007 Studio/Live Studio Mono/Stereo Stereo Producer Ray Barretto Engineer Irv Greenbaum Recording Time 35 minutes Personnel Ray Barretto – congas Orestes Vilato – timbales Andy Gonzalez – bass Roberto Rodriguez – trumpet Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez – bongos Rene Lopez Joseph “Papy” Roman Louis Cruz – piano
From Dusty Groove One of Ray Barretto’s hardest-hitting salsa albums of the 70s — a raw set of grooves that’s got Ray moving away from the playfulness of the Latin Soul years, into a more righteous mode that’s easily guessed at from the title of the set! The vibe here is very straightforward — with Ray coming down hard on conga, and working with a group that features Adalberto Santiago on lead vocals, plus Orestes Vilato on timbales, Andy Gonzalez on bass, and Luis Cruz on piano. The sound is spare and raw — and titles include the wonderfully echoey tune “O Elefante”, with some great elephant-like work on trumpet — plus “Con El Cimarron”, “Se Traba”, “Arrepientete”, and “Te Traigo Mi Son”.
Review by José A. Estévez, Jr.
Bandleader/conga player Ray Barretto continued to assert himself as one of the premier mainstream salsa catalysts of the early ’70s with one of his most celebrated albums. Barretto, bass player Andy Gonzalez, pianist/arranger Louis Cruz, timbales master Orestes Vilató, and bongo player Johnny Rodríguez contribute to the band’s tough rhythm section; of course, vocalist Adalberto Santiago is a knockout on tunes like the hilarious “Se Traba” and the memorable “Alma Con Alma.” One of Barretto’s top albums of the 1970s and another example of what made New York salsa so special.
Psychedelic salsa? Not quite, except for the occasional Austin Powers-isms like “yeah, baby” and “sock it to me”. But this is a landmark record and needs to be in the collection of any fan of salsa or Latin soul. The closing track is the most ‘out’ of any of them and for me is worth the price of admission all on its own.
Tracks (of the original LP) 1. El Nuevo Barretto (Barretto) – 5:50 2. Mercy, Mercy, Baby (Barretto) – 2:44 3. Acid (Barretto) – 5:05 4. Deeper Shade of Soul (Barretto) – 2:46 5. Soul Drummers (Barretto) – 3:48 6. Sola Te Dejare (Barretto/Lopez) – 3:49 7. Teacher of Love (Barretto/Cruz) – 2:27 8. Espiritu Libre (Barretto) – 8:27
Players Ray Barretto – Percussion, Congas, Vocals Big Daddy – Bass Rene Lopez – Trumpet Roberto Rodriguez – Trumpet Adalberto Santiago – Vocals, Bells Orestes Vilato – Timbales Pete Bonet – Vocals, Guiro
BONUS TRACKS ( I do not know where Sony got these tracks from.. No information in the booklet. Production sounds like early 70s. Anyone with session/line-up data feel free to comment and enlighten me!)
9. Guarare 10. Vina Pa’Echar Candela 11. Vale Mas Un Guaguanco 12. Canto Abuaco 13. Eras
REVIEW from John Ballon at ‘allaboutjazz dot com’ By the time 1968 rolled around, Ray Barretto was a celebrated studio session player whose hard-driving conga rhythms could be heard all over the records of Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley, and countless others. Once he dropped Acid onto the music world, Barretto firmly established a reputation for himself as an innovator in his own right.
Like the drug itself, Acid had a mind-expanding influence on everyone, allowing for a far more adventurous and eclectic edge to slip into New York’s Latin music scene. A lot less psychedelic than its title and cover might lead you to believe, Acid remains one of the most far-out fusions of Latin and soul music ever conceived.
Catchy as hell, the records four original Latin/soul numbers (”Mercy, Mercy Baby”, “The Soul Drummers”, “A Deeper Shade of Soul” and “Teacher of Love”) are obscure classics loaded with plenty of vintage ’60s soul references—punchy James Brown and Stax Records sounding horns, thickly grooving bass lines, fat-back drums, and cliché soul catch-phrases such as “What I say,” “Lord have mercy,” “Come on, come on baby” and “Sock it to me!”
El Nuevo Barretto (The New Barretto)” opens the album on familiar ground, with its high-energy boogaloo-styled salsa sung passionately in Spanish. With the second track, “Mercy, Mercy Baby,” the sound shifts dramatically as soul gets a serious drenching in hot sauce. The band chants “Mercy, Mercy Baby” behind Memphis-styled horns, catchy lyrics, timbales, and Barretto’s kicking congas. The title track, “Acid,” opens up sparsely with a lazy hypnotic bass and percussion groove over which stretches the muted trumpet sounds of Rene Lopez (who was soon to be drafted and shipped off to Vietnam). After a rock-steady timbales solo by Orestes Vilato, the band begins calling out “Barretto, Barretto,” and master Ray steps forward, obliging them with one of his most fiery and intense conga solos ever. The lyrics on “The Soul Drummers” totally sums up the record: “Have you heard them cooking / The Soul Drummers / well they play so cool / Soul Drummers / so hard to resist / Soul Drummers / with the African twist.”
The album’s most psychedelic soul sounds can be heard on its closing track, the appropriately titled “Espiritu Libre (Free Spirit).” This instrumental opens with some pretty far out-there trumpet statements that sound as if they could’ve come straight off of Bitches Brew—pretty advanced stuff for a 1968 Latin record! The track builds into a full blown drum-heated jam flavored with odd rhythmic time-signatures, passionate brass, and feverish bass lines, bringing the album to a satisfying peak that leaves you in bad need of a smoke.
Acid turned on a lot of important players with its irresistible blending of Latin and soul music, significantly helping to bring about the rise of the Afro-Latin funk revolution.