PAGAN RITUAL

Ralfi Pagan

    Make It With You

    Stray Woman

    I Never Thought You’d Leave Me

From With Love (Fania, 1972)

This is an album I’ve spent about two years looking for and had I really remembered how good Ralfi Pagan’s songs were, I probably would have just broken down and bought this LP at whatever price. Pagan doesn’t have the best damn voice ever handed down by the Almighty, but there’s just something about the combination of his vocals with Harvey Averne’s production that is sublime.

Take, “Make It With You,” a cover of Bread’s smash ballad. It begins with this tremendous wall of sound, very reminiscent of the opening of Buddy Miles’ version of “Down By the River.” Even when Averne and co-producer Jerry Masucci pull back, easing into a more mellow tone, it has just the right touch for Pagan’s soft, dulcet vocals. He reminds me of what one of the Gibbs brothers (i.e. the Bee-Gees) would have sounded like – a clean falsetto that isn’t as rich as say, Marvin Gaye, but his voice goes down real easy regardless.

“Stray Woman,” features more excellent production by Masucci and Averne, more reminiscent of a mid-60s soul tune. And since Pagan was a Latin artist (there’s a song on here called “Latin Soul”) and Fania was a huge label in that genre, I wanted to include one of the more Latin-fied cuts off the album: “I Never Thought You’d Leave Me.” It sounds like a mega-slow mambo, especially with those vibes – something sultry for a dim parquet.

Ah, this is such awesome album, one of my favorite recent arrivals.

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