Louie Ramirez: The New Breed
From In the Heart of Spanish Harlem (Mercury, 1967)
The Latin Blues Band: Oye Mi Guaguanco
From Take a Trip Pussycat (Speed, 1968)
Dianne & Carole: The Fuzz
From Feeling the Pain (Speed, 1968)
Kako and His Orchestra: Shingaling Shingaling
From Live It Up (Musicor, 1968)
Jose “Cheo” Feliciano: Esto Es El Guaguanco
From Cheo (Vaya, 1971)
La Crema: Cisco Kid
From El Party Con La Crema (WS Latino, 1973)
Bonus: Beatfanatic: Cookin’
From Adventures in the World of No-Fi Beats (Raw Fusion, 2006)
My most recent Side Dishes was on Latin arranger/composer/musician Louie Ramirez and the recommended Louie’s Grooves anthology. I’ve been wanting to write something on Ramirez for a while and though the Side Dishes post allowed me to riff on some of his work, as the comp’s liner notes acknowledge, it just brushes the surface of how deep his catalog can run. I’d suggest folks read that post first and then come back here.
My pick six for Ramirez focuses mostly on albums not already covered by Louie’s Grooves, beginning with arguably the easiest of his solo albums to acquire: In the Heart of Spanish Harlem. This was recorded for Mercury; I find that interesting since Mercury didn’t have a ton of Latin recordings (that I know of) on the label but I suspect it may have had something to do with producer Richard Marin who was doing some A&R work for labels like Mercury and Verve at the time. Marin’s brother Bobby – another Latin soul giant and fellow composer – is on this album as well; he was a frequent collaborator with Ramirez and it’s not at all unusual to see them on the same projects together. In fact, for this album, Bobby appears on the cover photo alongside Richard and Louie
I was always struck at how Ramirez was able to work on so many different labels at the same time; not long after that Mercury album, he must have been working with Fania on the Ali Baba LP (several of the songs from that rare title are on Louie’s Grooves and then he was also working for Morty Craft’s Speed imprint. I wrote about The Latin Blues Band for the Happy Soul Suite piece and I enjoy revisiting it – any Latin album that has Bernard Purdie as your studio drummer is bound to be rather interesting though instead of the funkier fare I could have nodded to, I went with “Oye Mi Guaguanco,” a solid piece of classic Cuban style by Ramirez, feat. (I think) Luis Aviles on vocals.
Like the Latin Blues Band, the Dianne and Carole album was also on Speed. Speed packed, in my opinion, the biggest bang for the buck – their catalog wasn’t more than a dozen titles or so but what was there was almost all exceptional. This Dianne and Carole album is especially notably since it had one of the few examples of female singers heading a Latin soul album (La Lupe excepted of course). There’s very little known about the two singers – their surnames aren’t even credited on the album! In any case, “The Fuzz” leads side 2, where 4/5 of the songs are arranged by Ramirez and I suspect that most of the same players from the Latin Blues Band played on here as well.
Not long thereafter, Ramirez was also helping compose, play on (and possible arrange?) for the great Puerto Rican bandleader Kako and his Live It Up album on Musicor. Personally, I’ve never figured out what separates a shingaling from a boogaloo and “Shingaling Shingaling” certainly displays many of the stylistic characteristics of both. I’m feeling this – and the whole LP is exceptional.
Ramirez was multi-talented as a musician – known to rock both the timbales and vibes – and I wanted to include an example of the latter by including one of his salsa era performances, playing vibes on Cheo Feliciano’s classic “Esto Es El Guaguanco.” He’s a big reason the opening is so memorable and Ramirez comes back to solo towards the second half of the song.
Last in the pick six is this cool lil cover of “Cisco Kid” that Ramirez arranged for the La Crema album, a one-off project that involved him, Bobby Marin and some other familiar folks but in the Latin funk era of the 1970s.
Bonus: As for “Cookin'”, that might have been the first time I “heard” any Louie Ramirez song since it liberally borrows from “The New Breed.” Slammin’ Latin club cut – trust me on this one.