Orquesta Guarare is one of those excellent groups from what I like to call the "precipitacion radiactiva de Ray Barretto" : the Ray Barretto fallout (for once, something sounds more eloquent in English than in Spanish). Creative differences between Barretto and his band in the late 70s led to a musical fault line. At the risk of oversimplifying, the members wanted to play straight Latin dance music, running contrary to Barretto's Latin jazz and fusion tendencies. Eventually, the Ray Barretto band fired their own leader, and in the wake of this upheaval a number of Ray Barretto bands emerged in a chain reaction the details of which I can never quite get straight. What I do know is that among those bands, two of the best were Tipica 73 (who I will post soon) and the group featured here today. [Anyone who has more detailed information on the Ray Barretto fallout, feel free to add in the comments!]
Renaissance is the second effort from Orquesta Guarare, re-released by Fania as the self-titled Ray De La Paz in 1995, though I'm not quite sure as to the details of the reissue. To my knowledge, their first album has never been released on CD. Guarare originally featured the great Tito Gomez & Ruben Blades duo on vocals, but by their first recording date the singing duties would belong to Ray De La Paz, who you hear on Renaissance. In addition to working with Barretto (most notably on Rican/Struction), De La Paz has also recorded with Louie Ramirez (the Ramirez/De La Paz duo would pioneer "Salsa Romantica" with the Noche Caliente album), and is presently a member of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Nicky Marrero protege Jimmy Delgado, who was playing bongos in Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe's band at about the same time, leads on percussion.
Though not as inventive as the man that Orquesta Guarare left, the band plays some seriously solid dance music with tinges of Barretto here and there. Pay attention to the sound of the production, as, in my opinion, this is the beginnings of modern Latin production value (listen to Spanish Harlem Orchestra today to see what I mean). My favorite on here by far is the heavy Maria, exhibiting some of the more poignant lyricism of the album. Oh, that chorus....
Maria, quiero saber, si tu me vas a querer
(Maria, I want to know, if you are ever going to love me)
Guapo is a lot of fun as well, a warning to "Guapo" 's everywhere. It's fairly difficult for me to directly translate this connotation of Guapo, but think of it as a egotistical guy who thinks he has everything. Ten' cuidado, que al guapo le llega lo suyo (Be careful: the guapo gets his). The percussive explosion on the outro of Que Linda Te Ves will have your butt movin'. Renaissance isn't groundbreaking, but an excellent album nonetheless and a great way to see the sheer talent backing up Ray Barretto in the mid-70s.