After all of the Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, and Fania, I feel it's time to head out of mainstream Latin into the used record bins for another rare treat, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Tempo 70 is the brainchild of Argentinean pianist Bebu Silvetti, who in the early 70s relocated to Puerto Rico and put together the band featured today. Over the course of his life, he played everything from son montuno and guaguanco to Latin jazz to disco. In fact, he is most well known for his 1976 disco hit Spring Rain. Four years prior, however, Silvetti's Tempo 70 would experiment with Latin soul ballads, guaguanco, and a notoriously funky, though relatively unknown, hit on El Primer LP.
IMPORTANT: (Edited August 19) The information above has been disputed. A while ago a person claiming to be Silvia Silvetti, daughter of Bebu Silvetti, commented on this post saying that Bebu never lived in Puerto Rico and was never involved with Tempo 70. I attempted to contact this person via their email, email@example.com, and received an automated message saying that the email does not exist. About a week later, I received an email and more comments from that email address, with the message containing the following: "I'm not disputing that those songs are my father's, I was disputing the information that he NEVER lived in Puerto Rico and was not aware of that album. I know many albums were published without his knowledge." Previously, I claimed that this person was a fake internet identity. After being contacted again, I will admit that I am still skeptical as to the whether or not this person is legitimate after they emailed me, as a hotmail address can easily be created, and none of the things being said by this person are verifiable. That being said, it is certainly possible that Bebu wrote El Galleton and it was published/covered/stolen by another band without his permission. It is equally possible that it was otherwise. The person claiming to be Ms. Silvetti has their story; what follows is the evidence that supports another story. I cannot claim that either is right, I can only post it to keep everyone informed of the differing accounts. As always, I attempt to post as accurate information as possible, and in the event that the commenter actually is Sylvia Silvetti, then I would like to thank her for reading my blog and contributing to the information posted here.
What follows is the evidence supporting the Bebu Silvetti and Tempo 70 link: the picture below of the El Galleton single clearly displays Bebu's name, and I have a number of web sources claiming the involvement of Bebu Silvetti with Tempo 70:
And, furthermore, El Galleton was recently featured on a compilation entitled Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City, and that compilation credits Silvetti as the man behind the song. A number of websites document this:
http://www.all-tv.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&searchlink=BEBU|SILVETTI&sql=11:dpfpxqrgldke~T4 If anyone has more information about this, feel free to contact me. Continue reading for the rest of the review.
To be fair: I am not a huge fan of El Primer LP as a whole album (read on before you write it off, though). The first time I threw it on I was greeted with an absolutely horrible bolero (ballad), and there is a somewhat unspoken code in Latin music that if an album kicks off with a bolero, you'd either better be on your guard or 70 years old. To some extent, the sagely advice proves correct: about half of the album is plagued with very poorly done boleros with a cantante whose awful, gaudy high notes betray his safer swimming in shallower registers.
On the other hand, the rest of the album is filled with upbeat, roots-based tunes. El Charlatan has the dynamics of Ismael Rivera's Cachimbos (aka Cortijo's band during a particular period in their stint with Rivera), and the singer performs much better here. La Pequita de Paquita features some excellent Eddie Palmieri-esque piano work.
The real gem of the album--and what makes buying the whole LP worthwhile....that is, if you can find it--is El Galleton, a much drooled-over 45 that turns both Latin and soul-heads alike. El Galleton plays more like a night at the Apollo than son montuno. The song begins with some excellent descarga on the bongos, and then a rather silly call-and-response verse comes in where the band orders you to Juntale la manteca a'l galleton (Slap the butter on the cracker). The e song breaks down as they switch to pondering the philosophical difference between una galleta (a cracker) and un galleton (a &!*%&# huge cracker--the use of -on at the end of a Spanish word is somewhat, though not exactly, akin to the English superlative, much like changing "funky" to "funkiest," where the -est means "most or very funky"). Before you know it, a surge of organ feedback has washed over you and you're suddenly being chased by the fuzz across Spanish Harlem's 110th in a Latin-ised blaxploitation film. Even the church organs cut through the addictive horn lines to make you get up and dance.
In the interest of flexibility, I've given you two options. You can listen to and download El Galleton as if it were a 7" single, or y0u can download the entire album. Both are available. I'm only presenting the option because I personally listen to El Galleton much more than I do the entire album, and I wouldn't force an album on anyone just for only one song. That being said, I still think that El Primer LP is worth checking out, and it's so rare that you'll be one of the few ears to have ever heard it. As long as you just skip past the boleros (or slow-dance to them with your old lady, if that's your thing), you'll find some good cuts worth your time.
Picture taken from Office Naps
Listen to El Galleton