Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Hector Lavoe Discography

4/30/2008: IMPORTANT MESSAGE: I've noticed some people are still downloading these Lavoe albums, which is more than fine by me. But, there are a number of comments of people asking me to reupload the albums.
1) The problem isn't that the links are down, but that Divshare sets a monthly downloading limit of 50gb. Once, this limit is reached, no more downloads can happen until it resets at the end of the month. I don't have time to move the albums over to another host, so there's not much I can do about it. Generally, the downloads reset the 5th of every month. Just be patient, and also be considerate: if you're just downloading Lavoe albums to let them gather dust, then consider tapering your downloads to let some other people get a chance.
2) It's come to my attention that the Day 4 albums are actually down. I'll try to get these up when I get a chance.

No doubt many of you have heard about the biopic El Cantante, a film about the life of the legendary Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe, starring Marc Anthony as the man himself and Jennifer Lopez as his wife Puchi aka Nilda Rosado. Directed by Leon Ichaso (who is no stranger to biographical films about controversial Puerto Rican artists, such as Miguel Pinero), the film is, I am very proud to say, a creation of the Latino community, as much of a Latin thing as the music it will no doubt feature. Trailer below.

Admittedly, I don't expect much from a big-budget film starring Anthony or Lopez. It's simply not my taste. However, the fact that a film is being made about an icon who is virtually unknown outside of Latino communities is astounding. Ask yourself: how many people walking down the street have ever heard of Hector Lavoe? Very few. While I would like to see the life of Hector Lavoe receive a more astute perspective with more artistic integrity, I am still happy to see even the Hollywood giants turning their heads and nodding to Puerto Rican culture. I remember being in Puerto Rico right after the "Puerto Rican invasion" of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, etc., and hearing the same consensus: it may not be the best, but Puerto Rico is a rich culture and something to be proud of, so the exposure counts for something. That being said, El Cantate has garnered my support, and you can be sure I'll be in theaters on opening day, August 3.

In anticipation of the Hector Lavoe fad that will no doubt precipitate in the wake of El Cantante, I present to you all, in a series of posts, the entire accessible Hector Lavoe discography. While Lavoe did earlier work with artists such as the Kako All-Stars and Johnny Pacheco, I will begin with his tenure as the singer of Willie Colon's band in 1967, his first real break and the most appropriate departure point for contextualizing Hector Lavoe as he will be seen in El Cantante. Inevitably, this means that these posts will be, in part, a sampling of the Willie Colon discography as well. Posts will be chronological, and at least one installment will be uploaded per day as edits to this same post. Because Hector Lavoe is one of the more well known Latin artists I've featured on my blog and information about him is readily available, I'll be keeping biographical information to a minimum. By August 3, the entire discography will be posted. Be sure to check back often.

Day 1:

Willie Colon - El Malo (Fania, 1967)

Hector Lavoe was introduced to Willie Colon by the latter's Fania labelmate Johnny Pacheco. Because Pacheco already had a singer in Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, he urged Willie Colon to give Hector Lavoe a shot. The result was the humble beginning of one of the greatest salsa duos in history. On El Malo, Colon & Lavoe still hold on to the boogaloo and Latin soul sound so popular at the time, though you can hear hints of their later salsa style breaking through. A great album, and even more astounding when you consider that Colon is only 17 years old, and his band (including Lavoe) are mostly teenagers. As rebellious in its day as Charlie Parker was in his.

Willie Colon - The Hustler (Fania, 1968)

Hector steps up to become main vocalist on Colon's second album. The production is a little rough, but you can really hear Colon feeling out his trombone lines with a raw, edgy tone. Hector Lavoe recalls the style of Ismael Rivera on Eso Se Baila Asi, and gives a solid performance with Que Lio, as if anticipating his hit song El Cantante.

Get it here

Day 2:

Willie Colon - Guisando (Fania, 1969)

The addition of black pianist Mark Diamond adds a new side to Willie Colon's raucous third album. This also adds a rather sketchy dimension to the name of the fifth cut (I Wish I Had A Watermelon), but Diamond nonetheless puts forth some smokin' piano with gritty Colon trombone to match. The slowed-down and dirty No Me Den Candela is one of my favorites in all of Colon's discography, featuring some great energy from Lavoe. Colon considers this album cover to be his second favorite, and certainly continues the gangster image that made him both hugely controversial and a huge hit.

Get it here

Willie Colon - Cosa Nuestra (Fania, 1969)

Crucial Colon! Released the same year as Guisando, many consider Cosa Nuestra to be his first real masterpiece, and with good reason. Pretty much every song on here is a hit, and some of the songs have become colloquial phrases among us Puerto Ricans, such as "te conozco bacalao," as if to slyly say "I know you, I know what you're up to, I know you better than that." Ausencia was one of my first exposures to Hector Lavoe, and remains a favorite to this day, a gripping lament with a powerful breakdown and vocal performance. Essential Latin music for beginners and veterans alike!

Day 3:

Willie Colon - La Gran Fuga (Fania, 1970)

Certainly Colon's most versatile work thus far, La Gran Fuga continues to develop the salsa sound while throwing in some unpredictable (and fun) nuggets. Growing up, I clearly remember hearing family members throwing out the "I-ata, ay yo yo" chant of the first cut, based on an African children's lullaby. Pa' Colombia and Barrunto are classics in the by now clearly emerging Colon style, and Abuelita features a hot breakdown that consumes almost half of the song. As always, Hector Lavoe continues to shine. Excellent stuff, and a great follow up to the classic Cosa Nuestra.

Willie Colon - Asalto Navideno (Fania, 1971)

While most artists these days release Christmas albums that trip over their own gimmicks, in 1971 Colon released a holiday scorcher that would prove essential in his discography. It's not Christmas in a Puerto Rican household if you're not blasting this album. Just listen to the epic introduction and you know you're listening to something special. It features what may very well be Colon's biggest hit, La Murga, a catchy, furious trombone romp through the world of Panamanian dance. In keeping with the tradition of Puerto Rican Christmas music, the album is heavily tinged with jibaro (Puerto Rican folk music), thanks to Yomo Toro on the four-stringed cuatro. This is Yomo Toro's first outing with Colon, and would prove a major launching point for his career. Lavoe belts out a gorgeous ode to his native island in Canto A Borinquen, utilizing a very traditional form of lyrical verse, almost as distinct to the Puerto Rican ear as a limerick. Similarly, Esta Navidad kicks off with an equally traditional cuatro riff. I can't mention Asalto without mentioning the closer, Vive Tu Vida Contento, a song of humorously crude, but simple advice within an unforgettable chorus. Roughly translated, it states: Live your life content; that is how you'll live well; because if you rush through life you'll die but if you stay put, you'll still die. I can't emphasize enough how so many of these songs have become a part of the Puerto Rican consciousness; in our parrandas (somewhat like Christmas caroling), we sing older Christmas jibaros in the same breath as these Colon classics. Full of many great memories, I hope this album becomes as timeless for you as it has been for me. And no matter your nationality, don't be afraid to play it loud at Christmas time.

Day 4:

Willie Colon - El Juicio (Fania, 1972)

To me, El Juicio is a continuation of the previous year's La Gran Fuga--a collection of songs that explore new Colon territory anchored by solid salsa hits. The almost goofy Ah-Ah O-No, the santeria-tinged Aguanile, or the jazzy, slow tempo closer Pan y Agua find Colon and Lavoe stretching beyond their salsa repertoire. Nonetheless, they always come back to the salsa and horn lines with hits like Pirana and the extended Timbalero. You'll hear Lavoe say "Para ti (for you) motherflower" on Sonando Despierto, referencing an altercation in a nightclub where Lavoe's at times unprofessional, clown-like stage presence put him on the bad side of an audience member who requested a danza. When Hector not only refused but proceeded to make the fan a victim of some not-well-taken sarcasm, the fan assaulted Lavoe and nearly sent him to the hospital. The "para ti motherflower" line (the last word being an obvious cover up for the more vulgar version) prefaces a danza section written into the song at the last minute, and is a sarcastic dedication to the violent fan. Not as impressive as La Gran Fuga, but very much worth your attention.

Get it here

Willie Colon - Asalto Navideno Vol. 2 (Fania, 1972)

On the heels of the first Asalto Navideno, Colon and Lavoe put out another Christmas album the following year. Unfortunately, it lacked the hits of the first Asalto, and somewhat fell flat on its face. Still, the album is full of Christmas energy and once again features Yomo Toro's cuatro skills. Check out the furious La Banda (in a sense the cousin of La Murga), or the upbeat rendition of a lyrically plaintive Christmas classic, Arbolito. Sure to get any parranda going.

Day 5:

Willie Colon - Lo Mato (Fania, 1973)

Featuring Colon's most infamous cover, this album is fully titled Lo Mato....Si No Compras Este LP (I'll kill him.....if you don't buy this LP). Not that Colon was getting desperate, as the cover/title are just a humorous extension of the gangster image that had followed him since his earliest albums. In spite of Asalto 2's commercial failure, Colon was still riding a wave of new found creativity and fame and you can really hear it on this album. The arrangements and production are his sharpest yet. Calle Luna Calle Sol has the quality of his later work with Ruben Blades, particularly on Canciones Del Solar De Los Aburridos. As always, the dual-trombone assault leads a number of classic jams such as Todo Tiene Su Final and the slowed-down Senora Lola. There's always room for folk forms as well, on Guajira Ven or one of my favorites, the upbeat El Dia De Mi Suerte, which finds Lavoe at his peak. Lavoe has truly settled in as a front man by this point, and this album finds him at his most natural and energetic yet. Great stuff.

Get it here

Willie Colon - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Fania, 1975)

Much like on La Gran Fuga or El Juicio, Colon is trying out a new set of tricks on The Good, only this time the experimentation is even greater in scope. New production values, a host of new styles from rock to bossa nova, and Colon, who went on a year long hiatus (some say because he was getting tired of being artistically constrained) takes over main vocal duties and nearly removes the two-trombone sound altogether. Ruben Blades makes his first appearance with Colon on El Cazanguero, a heavy-handed and rather unimpressive debut before becoming main vocalist. The album is also Colon's most jibaro since the first Asalto, with Yomo Toro playing at his best. That being said, it can be an unsettling listen if you only swear by Cosa Nuestra or Asalto Navideno Vol. 1, but still very rewarding to the open ear. You can still find Lavoe on the classic jibaro Que Bien Te Ves, where he uses an excellent style of inflection to better portray the lament of the jibaro, thus showcasing his talent and versatility. This album, however, would be Lavoe's last with Colon until their reunion on 1983's Vigilante. For all intents and purposes, Lavoe is by this point beginning his solo career. The rest of the uploads will chronicle Lavoe as frontman.

Get it here

Day 6:

Hector Lavoe - La Voz [Fania, 1975]

Admittedly the nerdiest looking cover in all of Latin music.....

Lavoe's solo debut was named after the title of his idol Felipe Rodriguez, which Lavoe's manager had suggested he shorten to "Lavoe" for his stage name. La Voz is to Lavoe's career what Cosa Nuestra was for Colon: a solid, early work that set him apart from all of his contemporaries. That being said, Lavoe was certainly still part of the Colon camp and the two remained great friends amidst rumors of a heated dispute. In fact, Colon had pretty much given Lavoe his band, and Colon and Fania labelmate Johnny Pacheco are responsible for some of the cuts on the album. With Colon's talented orchestra backing up a reinvigorated Lavoe, La Voz is one of his best. Stellar performances abound on classics like El Todopoderoso, a starkly religious ode and lyrical anomaly in his career. It's my suspicion that Lavoe and Colon penned the song to combat Lavoe's bad boy image as a womanizer and drug addict, though this is entirely unfounded. Other hits include Rompe Saraguey and Mi Gente, a complex survey of his people that predated Ruben Blades's more well-known call for Latin unity on Siembra. A fantastic debut for Lavoe.

Get it here

Hector Lavoe - De Ti Depende [Fania, 1976]

De Ti Depende features one of Lavoe's biggest hits, Periodico de Ayer, penned by Tite Curet Alonso. This biting indictment of a former lover stayed at the number one spot on Mexican charts for a full four months, and features some of the best string arrangements ever done on a Lavoe tune. Lyrically, it's one of my favorite Lavoe songs.

Tu amor es un periódico de ayer
(Your love is like yesterday's newspaper)
que nadie más procura ya leer
(that no one bothers to read anymore)
sensacional cuando salió en la madrugada
(sensational when it hits the presses at dawn)
a mediodía ya noticia confirmada
(well-known by mid-day)
y en la tarde materia olvidada.
(and forgotten at dusk)

Hacha y Machete is another excellent tune with strong arrangements and a great chorus. Cheo Feliciano and Felipe Pirela had already done versions of the title track, with no success. It took Lavoe to breathe new life into the song and make it a hit. Overall, another fantastic solo outing from Lavoe with Colon and Blades helping him out on choro.

Get it here

Day 7:

Hector Lavoe - Comedia (Fania, 1978)

Comedia features the quintessential El Cantante, a title that would become the source of his nickname, "El Cantante de Los Cantantes" (the singer of singers; taken in the same sense as "king of kings"), and of course serves as the inspiration for the title of the Marc Anthony/J-Lo biopic. The epic, 10-minute opus ranks among his best with lush string arrangements set in a minor mood, which, for Latin music in general, is rare and rather experimental. The song was originally written by Ruben Blades, who allegedly wanted to perform the song himself. However, after it became a signature Lavoe hit, Blades acknowledged that Lavoe did a much better job with it than he ever could have. Other excellent songs include the La Verdad, with an excellent rhythm section and very subtle organ flourishes; Tiempos Pasados, a samba-based tune with lyrics sung in a quasi-bolero style; and Songoroconsongo, a Nicolas Guillen poem set to music. Bandoleras is another controversial Lavoe hit due to its explicit threats of violence towards women, and had many Puerto Rican feminists up in arms (I am both Puerto Rican and a feminist and admittedly find the lyrical content a little disturbing, though I ultimately separate art from politics and so I don't discourage listening to it). Essential Lavoe.

Get it here

Hector Lavoe - Recordando a Felipe Pirela (Fania, 1979)

Hector's tribute to his idol, Venezuelan vocalist Felipe Pirela, the "Bolerista de America" who had moved from Venezuela to Columbia to Mexico and finally to Puerto Rico, where he was murdered in 1972. Pirela is recognized as one othe great Venezuelan voices, and here Lavoe interprets some of his most famous works. Solid stuff.

Day 8:

Hector Lavoe - Feliz Navidad (Fania, 1979)

Hector gives the Fania Christmas album a shot, and brings in Yomo Toro and Santos Colon for some seriously solid jibaro. Almost as much a comedy album as a Christmas album, Feliz Navidad features Lavoe impersonating certain groups of gringos (Americans) as they try to speak, talk, and act like they are Puerto Rican/Nuyorican (at times done with arguably racist tones). The very distinct Spanish-with-a-gringo-dialect has since become a light-hearted, national joke.

Get it here

Hector Lavoe - El Sabio (Fania, 1980)

Another excellent Lavoe album! The fantastic opener and titled track pretty much says everything about what's in store. Noche de Farra even nods to charanga! The production here is very much rivaling that of the Colon/Blades duo akin to their seminal Siembra (Alejate is a perfect example).

Get it here

Hector Lavoe - Que Sentimiento (Fania, 1981)

By this point, you'll be marveling at Lavoe's ability to put out consistently quality albums, and even without Colon contributing any production, arrangements, or songwriting. The closer, No Hay Quien Te Aguante, is one of my Lavoe favorites. Que Sentimiento features Lavoe's best production values yet, a mixture of quality engineering without falling into the trap of overproduced, heavily synthesized 80s salsa, a very welcome breath of fresh air to contrast what his replacement with Colon, Ruben Blades, was doing with the 80s sound by this point.

Get it here

Willie Colon & Hector Lavoe - Vigilante (Fania, 1983)

Though Colon has contributed in some way to many of Lavoe's solo albums, it wasn't until Vigilante that the duo made their official return with Lavoe once again bestowing his talented crooning to Colon's band. You'll notice something right away: only four songs. Indeed, the songs here tend to be flowing romps than simple hits, and the title track is an incredibly experimental opus (even for Colon) that you'll either love or hate. That being said, everything else here harkens right back to the old Lavoe & Colon days, so it's quite a triumphant reunion!

Get it here

Hector Lavoe - Revento (Fania, 1985)

Revento finds Lavoe's career at its nadir. I would argue that his growing unpopularity has much more to do with the dwindling Fania sound and the state of Latin music in general than Lavoe's own work, as Revento and his preceding albums are all worthwhile outings. That being said, his chronic depression (the album closer translates as "I Can't Be Happy), battle with drugs, and the somewhat faltering quality of his voice certainly did not help. Regardless, Lavoe puts on an excellent performance here and still proves himself El Cantante de Los Cantantes. Listen to the smooth, vibe-heavy bolero Don Fulano De Tal to see what I mean.

Get it here

Hector Lavoe - Strikes Back (Fania, 1987)

Lavoe's final album of original material, the title is more a reference to his fame (or lack thereof) than to an actual hiatus from his music. While it may be difficult to imagine that an artist from the 60s and 70s could record an album called Strikes Back in the late 80s with any kind of integrity, that's exactly what's happened. Strikes Back is among his best and, moreover, may be his most intimate. Many of the lyrics deal with how the public perceives him and his struggles with fame and addiction, all put forth with an astute ear for the very pulse that put Latin music on the map nearly two decades before Strikes Back. Don't let the stereotype of a comeback album fool you. If you haven't heard Strikes Back, then you haven't heard everything that Lavoe has to offer.

That's it! This marks the entire accessible Lavoe discography as will be relevant to El Cantante. I have not posted his pre-Colon work, nor his work with the Fania All-Stars. These may come at a later date (if you want to see these uploaded, speak up in the comments). For now, you are officially ready to hit up the movie theaters (TODAY! AUGUST 3RD!) and sing and dance in aisles to the Hector Lavoe film. I certainly hope you enjoy these albums as much as I do, and thank you all for the support and kind words. If you dig the music you see here, remember that much of this music is being reissued, so go out and buy it! And for the many newcomers to this blog, feel free to check back often as I continue to delve into Latin music's greatest rarities as well as its classics!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Latin Show (July 22, 2007) playlist

Here's the playlist for those who missed my show this past Sunday:

1. Monguito - Lindo Guaguanco
2. George Guzman - Cacumen
3. Vitin Aviles - Sufre
4. Tito Rodriguez y Su Orquesta - Payaso
5. Jack Constanzo & His Afro-Cuban Band - Melado de Cana
6. La Playa Sextet - Salta Perico
7. Trio Lissbet - Black Tears
8. Los Pleneros De La 21 - Traigo un Coco
9. Orquesta Revolucion '70 - Llego La Revolucion
10. Adalberto Santiago - Fuego y Candela
11. Tony Pabon y La Protesta - Madre
12. Orquesta Guarare - Que Linda Te Ves

Much thanks to Meshes of the Afternoon, Revolucion, No?, and Pepanito for each contributing a track to my playlist through their own fantastic blogs.

Some have asked whether or not I archive my shows. Unfortunately, I can't distribute my show as it puts WCBN, as opposed to just myself, at legal risk, and I love WCBN far too much to walk that line. The good news is that most of these songs will be featured in future uploads, so you'll hear it all eventually!

And, if you missed this show, I am hosting the Latin Show again this upcoming Sunday on July 29th. Tune in, as I'll be doing a small tribute to Hector Lavoe to celebrate the release of the biographical film El Cantante. You can listen online here.

On that last note, I don't want to give the surprise away, but check back very soon, you won't be disappointed. That's all I'll say for now.....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just a reminder to all of you Latin fans that I'll be hosting the Latin Show tomorrow (Sunday, July 22) from 1-2pm, Eastern time. You can listen online at WCBN FM as I spin the best in salsa, guaganco, and boogaloo, and much more from the rarest gems to the hottest classics. Tune in!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Conjunto Canayon - Colection Series, Vol. 1 (Kanayon, 1998)

More Conjunto Canayon!! For my first Conjunto Canayon upload, A Las Millas, go here.

Not too much to say here. In 1998 the members of the defunct Conjunto Canayon got together and created their own label, simply titled Kanayon Records, and released this retrospective of their work, now out of print. You'll find cuts from A Las Millas, Criollo y Mas, and presumably Folkloriko Tropical, though I've never seen the tracklisting for the latter. Much of the stuff on here is standard Conjunto Canayon fare, which is to say that it's absolutely incredible son/salsa/cumbia with hints of jibaro (Puerto Rican folk music) mixed in. I would like to draw attention to the last cut, Tropical Jungle, another one of the Canayon jazz jams with a smooth groove and some really nice flute and horn lines, also a regular on my Latin Show.

Fans of my A Las Millas upload will love this rare glimpse into Canayon's other material. Enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Conjunto Canayon - A Las Millas (TH, 1981)

As promised, my personal favorite Latin music album. Ever.

Yea, it's a lousy cover. You wanna fight about it?

Click to see album details

Who is Conjunto Canayon? I wish that I could tell you. There's very little information about this band outside of their discography, which itself seems incomplete. What I can tell you is that Canayon (sometimes spelled as Canallon or Kanayon, making information even harder to come by) is a Puerto Rican band led by timbalero Cano Robles. They recorded in the early 80s, during a time when the wave of 70s salsa was diminishing and succumbing to the glossy, overproduced sounds of the decade. Consider a case-in-point. During this time Ruben Blades would record Escenas, featuring the song Sorpresas, the "sequel" to one of his greatest songs on one of the great Latin records of all time: Pedro Navaja, found on Blades's collaboration with Willie Colon, Siembra. While lyrically astute, the energy of the new Seis de Solar band wasn't there, perhaps muddled by the electronic drum kits and synthesizers. It was, in my humble and perhaps very biased opinion, salsa without its musical soul. The fact that such a important legacy in Latin music could not be aptly carried on, for me, perfectly summarizes the state that Latin music would find itself in by the mid-80s. (This is only my opinion....many disagree, and I encourage you to decide for yourself, as Escenas is still in print)

But if there's anything I've learned from my lifelong affair with music, it's that any generalization about a genre or time period in music always carries exceptions. I offer up one of those exceptions today.

A Las Millas, euphemistically translated as "going fast" or "at lightspeed," was recorded in 1981 and released on the Puerto Rican Top Hits label. To my knowledge, this is the band's first album. They would record Criollo y Mas in 1982, and another album, perhaps their most obscure, Folkloriko Tropical, was recorded at a date unknown to me. In 1998, a "best of" of their material, entitled Colecion Series Vol. 1, was issued on a record label created by the Conjunto Canayon members, simply entitled Kanayon Records. It has since become out of print. There may very well be more installments in the Canayon discography that I am not aware of.

It's truly astounding that Conjunto Canayon has gone virtually unheard. Their music fused salsa, cumbia, and descarga while retaining a truly original sound unlike any other artist I've heard. Furthermore, they were incredibly innovative, giving even the great Ray Barretto a run for his money by employing complex rhythms, stop-start structures, and perhaps most intriguing, a boldness in experimenting with dissonance in their melodies, an avenue of exploration that I cannot say even Barretto braved. Indeed, Conjunto Canayon, much like Ray Barretto, sounds like a band founded on Latin jazz playing Latin dance music. Though rare, a few songs such as Wild Tropical (found on A Las Millas) and Tropical Jungle (album unknown, as I've only heard it on the 1998 retrospective) find the band casting off lyrics and pop song structure for extended, flute-centered jams.

The first song on A Las Millas, No Se Puede Vencer, perfectly encapsulates my point. The sweeping piano intro recalls Eddie Palmieri in his more experimental years. Pay attention to the guitar as it comes in. It is slightly dissonant, a tactic virtually unheard of in Latin music. Immediately, you get the feeling that you are listening to something different, something truly unique. Vocalist Cheo Quinones captures this perfectly. He is in no way as refined or polished like the greats Tito Allen or Ruben Blades. Rather, there is something undeniably earthy in his timbre, much more down to earth. This is a vocalist that you would hear singing on the streets of Puerto Rico, accompanying las parrandas (small, roving, improptu bands formed to visit and sing to neighbors) through the barrios, as real as the Puerto Rican soil itself. The flutes move throughout, setting up a darker, minor mood to take the fall for an explosion into more upbeat territory as led by Quinones and his backing vocalists, Pipo Pica and Rafael Lopez.

Then, there's the next track, Chaflan, the hit song of the record. It is a perfect song, start to end, and a classic in the Puerto Rican canon (modern reggaeton artist Residente Calle 13 references the song's chorus in his self-titled album). Once again it begins with the signature Canayon build-up, a dissonant rumbling of the bass and congas, and an elegaic plea from the choro. Soon the polyrhythms come in over the groove, but this is only foreshadowing; if you thought the song was settling in at this point, you are wrong. Soon enough, the real groove comes in, an unforgettable chorus referencing the fugitive main character, Chaflan, as he runs "a las millas." Though it makes more grammatical sense in Spanish, the chorus (Nadie sabe donde viene, pero a las millas) is linguistically playful: no one knows where's he is going--but fast. It is catchy and furious, and features an excellent horn break once again showcasing a penchant for dissonance. The almost haunting, reverberating lyrics during the outro harken back to the production ideas emerging out of the Willie Colon camp in the 70s. This song is, to say the least, sublime.

If the rest of the album slows down, it's only because Chaflan can't be topped, and the songs compose an excellent album no matter what they follow. Rafael Lopez, as on Chaflan, sings Hace Tiempo; Pipo Pica takes over on the hit La Revelacion, a song about a man's epiphany concerning salvation through music. The song features an excellent vocal solo as it improvises with an accompanying guitar, ending in a heavy, bass-driven breakdown that virtually deconstructs the entire song. Cosas Del Amor is an upbeat dance number and ode to love, featuring an unforgettable chorus. Que Cosa's horn lines rank among their best; Nuestra Musica, a Johnny Ortiz cover, showcases fiery flute and percussion work as bookends to the song. The album closer, Wild Tropical, is a Latin jazz jam showcasing the band's musical foundations. Incredible flute abounds, courtesty of Coco Andujar.

I could go on and on about this album and how much I love it (and virtually already have). It is a true gem, one of those finds that is not only treasured for it's rarity, but because it's quality is unequaled. It's a great pleasure to share this with you guys, I can only hope you'll enjoy this band's music as much as I have.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an original vinyl rip, and, unfortunately, features a few skips (on Que Cosa and particularly on Cosas Del Amor). There is an another mp3 rip floating around on the internet (itself very difficult to find), though the quality is much worse and sounds like it has been heavily treated with noise removal, resulting in a tinny film over the recording. I've included my original, unedited rip, skips and all, but I've also included versions of Que Cosa and Cosas Del Amor in a separate download so that you can hear the song uninterrupted, despite the poor sound quality. I apologize folks, there's nothing I can do about the skips, and you may very well never see this album anywhere else.

The Full Album
Get it here
or here

Que Cosa & Cosas Del Amor (no skip versions, see above)
Get it here
or here

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sorry for the lull in posting guys, I've been incredibly busy. BUT, I think all of you will find it well worth the wait as I'll soon be uploading my FAVORITE LATIN RECORD EVER. It's a gem and a rare one at that, so there's a good chance it'll be new to you.

In the meantime, and in keeping with my Tipica '73 post, Pepanito has shown some great timing and posted three Tipica '73 albums! Check 'em out!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tipica '73 - Los Dos Lados De La Tipica '73 (Inca, 1977)

Tipica '73 is a loose collective of often rotating members formed during the Ray Barretto fallout in the 70s (detailed in my Orquesta Guarare post). Unlike Orquesta Guarare, Tipica '73 tended towards the more Ray Barretto side of experimentation and Latin jazz, thus making it difficult to to understand why the band members would want to split off in the first place. Orquesta Guarare, it seems, wanted to play straight dance music, making it easy to ascertain why they wanted out of Barretto's experimentalism. Tipica '73, on the other hand, continued to refine the nuances of jazz and Latin fusion with a host of new styles and rhythms. It was as if Barretto himself was split in half by a mighty Janusian blow: on one side, the friendlier but still excellent roots of dance music performed at their best; on the other, a desire for innovation, and moving forward within an already conservative style of music.

But if this schizophrenic fault line tore the Barretto legacy in two, then what is most interesting about today's album is the way in which it carries that duality. Indeed, the album title translates to The Two Sides of Tipica '73, and the LP, originally released on Fania's sister label Inca, was meant to showcase the very split that resulted in the Ray Barretto fallout in the first place; in other words, the continuum between tradition and innovation. Both tendencies exist side by side on this album, from the furious improvisations and stop-start dynamics of the orchestra on Bongo Fiesta, Salsa Suite, and It's A Gay World (my personal favorite), to the straightforward dances of La Botija de Abuelito or Tumba Tumbador. I would also like to point out the electric side of Tipica '73: the electric organ (of some sort?) on Salsa Suite, and the smokin' Yo Bailo De Todo, which features a hot Eddie-Benitez-meets-Santana guitar squaring off against violin and trading fours.

The music here is truly the best of the best, excelling in all respects, whether conservative or cutting-edge. Such quality is to be expected with a line-up boasting violinist Alfredo De La Fe, trumpetist Lionel Sanchez, conguero Jose Grijales, flutist Dick Meza, and the new additions of timbalero Nicky Marrero and ex-Cortijo vocalist Camilo Azuquita, who steps in to take the place of famous Barretto singer Tito Allen from previous Tipica '73 records. He fills in quite beautifully.

The 1977 line-up of Tipica '73, as featured on Los Dos Lados
Back row: Dave Perez, Lionel Sanchez, Joe Grajales, and Nicky Marrero.
Mid row: Camilo Azuquita, Rene Lopez, Dick Mesa, and Alfredo De La Fe.
Front row:
founding members Leopoldo Pineda, Sonny Bravo and Johnny Rodriguez.

Tipica '73 will appeal to Barretto fans and beyond. Enjoy!

Get it here
or here

And feast your eyes on Tipica '73! This first video features the 1975 line-up, as headed up by Adalberto Santiago on vocals, performing Canuto from their album Candela.

Same line-up, performing El Jamaiquino, but with better sound. Check out the organ (?) at 1:45 in, and the sweet wah'd out classical guitar!

Want to know more about Tipica '73? An excellent article by Tommy Muriel covers them in much more detail here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Chivirico Davila - Chivirico (Cotique, 1973)

I've finally gotten a system for ripping LPs, so starting with today's album, you can look forward to uploads from my personal record collection!

Click to see album details

For me, Chivirico Davila, or Rafael Davila Rosario, is part of a group of soneros representing a vital link between the mambo/bolero and salsa divide. When the old guard of mambo, cha cha cha, and the like began to go out of style, few were able to successfully cross into the new era of salsa and boogaloo and compete with the ever famous Fania sound. Offhand, there are three singers I can come up with who were not only able to cross that bridge, but do so successfully, all the while enriching the new sound of salsa with subtle throwbacks to its predecessors: Santos Colon, Vitin Aviles, and the artist whose album I am proud to present today.

A native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, Chivirico was a hit in pre-70s Latin music, respected highly as a bolero antillano. Some of his earliest work finds him heading up the orchestra of Perez Prado. Here he would begin to develop his acclaimed improvisational skills. Later, he would work with Cortijo y Su Bonche (an earlier incarnation of Cortijo's band before it became Cortijo y Su Combo), Kako, Joe Cuba, Pete Rodriguez, the famous Richie Ray/Bobby Cruz duo, Tito Puente, and Johnny Pacheco, who produced today's featured album. He would also become an esteemed member of a bevy of "all-star" groups: the Fania All-Stars, the Alegre All-Stars, and, in the 90s, the Puerto Rican All-Stars. From '71-'78, Chivirico signed with the Cotique label issuing a number of excellent, though relatively unknown, albums, including the simply titled Chivirico. With Cotique, Chivirico was not only able to ride the wave of salsa, but to contribute to it as well.

On Chivirico, however, his talents as an old bolero have far from vanished, and the arrangements of Jorge Millet skillfully allow older and newer sounds to coexist. The album generally follows the format of salsa-bolero-salsa-bolero, or salsa songs with ballads in between. While this somewhat halts the pace of the album, the salsa songs still retain an older Cortijo or Ismael Rivera feel, while the ballads sound surprisingly updated. The end result is an excellent work straddling a turbulent line of Latin music that was still in the process of being refined when this album was made. Respetala, a song advising respect for women, and the lament of Como Fue are two of the harder-hitting boleros. For great salsa, check out the opener, which I play often on my Latin Show, and Cuando Tu Quieras. Sin Dinero is a solid boogaloo tune, and you can't forget the rhumba on Se Formo El Rumbon.

In 1993, Chivirico would tour Colombia, despite by this time being 69 years old. Only a year later, he passed away in NYC. Born in Puerto Rico; died in NYC: nothing summarizes the story of Puerto-Rican Latin music better.

Get it here
or here

Chivirico pictured center