Saturday, September 29, 2007

Orquesta La Terrifica - Terrifica (International, 1974)

Ready for more salsa brava in the vein of Orquesta Guarare? Get your hair did for dancing, because this album is hot.

Much like the rather confusing Ray Barretto split that gave rise to Orquesta Guarare, Orquesta La Terrifica splintered off from Sonora Poncena in 1973, one of the most famous groups to ever come out of Puerto Rico. When I say that La Terrifica sounds like Guarare, there's good reason: La Terrifica's early albums featured vocalist Tito Gomez, who sang for Orquesta Guarare and Ray Barretto and just recently passed away. The members defected with leader and Sonora Poncena trumpeter Jose Rodriguez; other members included Mikey Ortiz (timbales), Francisco Alvarado (bongos), and Tito Valentin (arrangements). Later veterans of La Terrifica would include famous arranger Jorge Millet (piano), Hector "Pichie" Perez (vocals), Yolanda Rivera (vocals), Manuel "Mannix" Martinez (vocals), and Hector Tricoche (vocals). I haven't been able to confirm this, but according to this site, Hector Lavoe himself helped out on coro during live shows in 1974, alongside vocalists Yayo and Adalberto Santiago.

Despite never being as popular as Sonora Poncena, La Terrifica put out some of the best salsa of their era and, thankfully, their devoted fans haven't forgotten them. A number of Orquesta La Terrifica albums have been reissued over the past few years (most famously, their self-titled was re-released in 2002, sporting their biggest Jorge Millet hit, Pura). To my knowledge, Terrifica, their first album, has never been re-issued.

From the first taste of Jose Rodriguez's horn lines on Acere Trumbero, you know you're in salsa heaven. The penchant for hard-edged salsa on Terrifica overshadows their former (and slightly more complex) Sonora Poncena sound. Tito Gomez and his coro do an excellent job here on cuts such as Hachero Mayor and the gorgeous bolero No Te Vayas Juventud, a poignant lament that finds Gomez begging his personified youth to "stay just a little longer." And for all of you from Ponce, PR, prepare to reminisce about la famosa Guancha with the fourth cut. Other tracks like Comedia and Vicente Camaron keep it upbeat, and Biribo is an incredible closer and my favorite on the album.

Solid from start to end! Enjoy!

Note: Divshare has been experiencing random outages, so if the link below doesn't work, try again a little later.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Monguito - Escuchame (Fania, 1971)

The Cuban-born sonero Monguito is an often overlooked treasure in the extensive Fania catalog. Sporting one of the most recognizable voices in all of Latin music, Monguito aka Ramon Quian aka "El Unico" (The Unique One/The Only One, as he is nicknamed) sounds somewhat like the musical result of pinching Ismael Rivera's nose shut with a clothespin. It's not exactly the most flattering description, but not one meant to imply that Monguito is ever annoying. On the contrary, Monguito's voice is surprisingly satisfying. Much like Rivera, he embodies an earthy, pragmatic aesthetic in the tradition of the son montuno, forged in the streets of Cuba. Monguito also shows an excellent pedigree. His voice and acclaimed improvisational skills first appeared on Arsenio Rodriguez's Primitivo in 1963; he would go on to sing in the bands of Johnny Pacheco, Larry Harlow, and the Tico All-Stars, in addition to producing a string of solid cuts on the Fania label.

If you're at all in doubt as to the power of Monguito's voice, check out Lindo Guaguanco, a hot tune that finds a brazen Monguito playfully wondering if anyone can sing a guaguanco better than him. Monguito's voice is also surprisingly flexible and is easily at home on boleros such as El Ano 2000. You'll also find slight hints of charanga on No Hay Amor Sin Caridad, in addition to Monguito's humorous pontificating on the fairer sex on Las Mujeres (Women). Escuchame is an excellent melding of the street wisdom of son montuno with tinges of the polished Fania sound.

Get it here

More info on Monguito courtesy of the fine folks over at Descarga here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Hector Lavoe, tu es eterno"

Still working on the next music update, but I wanted to hip you all to a couple of aftershocks in the world of El Cantante.

Willie Colon himself has had a few words to say about the film. Taken from his official website (and much thanks to La Onda Tropical for spreading the word):

The Creators of El Cantante missed an opportunity to do something of relevance for our community. The real story was about Hector fighting the obstacles of a non-supportive industry that took advantage of entertainers with his charisma and talent. Instead they did another movie about two Puerto Rican junkies. The impact of drugs in the entertainment industry is nothing new; look at Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Whitney Houston today.

I think Hector deserves the recognition the movie pretended to give him. However, as someone who advised the producers, it's painfully obvious that they didn't understand what made him so important. It was the music. It was his talent. They didn't understand or respect the true importance of our music to people around the world. It's difficult to comprehend how two individuals who are in the music business like Marc and Jennifer are not aware of the damage and the consequences of promoting only the negative side of our Latin music culture.

I was disappointed that there wasn't a minimal effort to correct what I felt were serious chronological and factual errors. This tells me that they expeditiously crafted the simplest cliché script in order to just make a film quickly.

After the premier of El Cantante in Puerto Rico there were several statements of protest by people who had supported and participated in the project until they saw it. Their complaints were not about sour grapes or J-lo and Marc bashing but from a sense of betrayal and disappointment.

We are all invested in the world that this movie represents. For many of us the hope of our story finally being told sank into the horizon with the final version of this film.

--Willie Colón

Ismael Miranda and Jennifer Lopez have had their say as well.

...and so have other fellow bloggers.

Though certainly authoritative, these voices are but a few of many being heard after the film's review, and I'd like to remind everyone who reads this that there have been numerous reactions to El Cantante beyond simple film criticism (including my own). Some, like Colon, consider it a scar on the history of Latin music in the United States; others consider it a worthy testament to a cultural and historical period that deserves attention. At the risk of implicating myself in what seems to be a rather heated debate (admittedly one that I really have no kind of authority to speak about), I would like to make an observation.

While I was cobbling the Lavoe discography together, I spent a lot amount of time revisiting the Lavoe I heard growing up as a child, and eagerly discovering the many corners of his discography that I'd never heard before. Even as I write this, the string ruminations and trumpet's herald of the epic El Cantante blares in my ears. Perhaps you, too, decided to throw on an old Colon/Lavoe record that you haven't spun for a while; or, if the music of salsa was new to you, you found your hips moving in ways never before attempted, your head nodding to the soul of la clave. Through all of this, our ears have heard a lot of mudslinging, but we've also heard something much more enduring and sublime that withstands the debates and cultural politics. Seriously guys, this is timeless music, and it's my opinion as the "lowest" among all critics--a fan--that there is no better way to hear the story of Hector Lavoe than how he told it himself: as un cantante, as a singer. Before long, this debate will be tidily filed away and forgotten. Will your Hector Lavoe records, CDs, mp3s, suffer the same fate? I trust that if you're here, they won't. Like Chapin over at La Onda Tropical recommends:

"Forget the movie, and go discover the music of Hector Lavoe, Willie Colón,
Ruben Bladés
and all other Fania stars."

I'll admit, there were moments where I became more caught up in the frenzy of El Cantante than in the music of the real Cantante. I've come around. I'm going to keep on with Hector Lavoe the musician, not "Hector Lavoe: The Debate." I think there's a reason why Ruben Blades made a musical clarion call for Latin solidarity on the seminal Colon/Blades album Siembra, as have countless artists before: because there is a kind of unity that you can find in art and creativity. Toward oneness with music; toward music with oneness.

What can I say, my soap comes in big boxes.

To close this, check out a hip poem by a messenger of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, courtesy of Lil' Mike's Last Known Thoughts And Random Revelations.

Willie Perdomo - The Day That Hector Lavoe Died

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Still alive, and now a Metro-Rican

Hey guys, sorry for the dearth of posts in here, I've been busy moving and adjusting to a new place and school. I now call Washington, D.C. my home, and I'm reaping the benefits of living in a (bigger) city. Case in point: this weekend, I'm seeing Willie Colon AND Eddie Palmieri, so stay tuned for pictures and reviews.

And don't think that the music has disappeared. I've spent much of the past month listening to a lot of new and excellent stuff, and I'm certainly going to pass it on to all of you. That being said, I have a much busier schedule now, which means a few changes to this blog are forthcoming. I've always tried to make this blog more than just a mere depository for mp3s by adding background information, anecdotes, and opinions, hoping to bring the music to life for novice and veteran listeners alike. However, this requires a lot of time and research (a single album post can take 2-3 hours), and I just don't have that kind of time anymore. Letting this blog bite the dust, however, is even less of an option.

This means that I can either 1) make my posts more sparse, but with the same quality of information and depth as my past posts, or I can 2) make more frequent posts but with little to no embellishment. Granted, I haven't been so hot with updating regularly as of late, but during the summer I was posting almost every day, or if not, every other day. I'm not sure whether or not I'll go with the more frequent, less quality posts or the less frequent, more quality posts, but if you guys have any preference, speak up. My decision will definitely hinge on what it is you guys appreciate (or don't appreciate) about this blog.

Regardless, stay tuned for music. The Sun of Latin Music lives!