Some time in 2009, I was contacted by Wax Poetics, who are helping to manage the Fania catalog, about writing liner notes for a few releases and whether there were any titles I thought would be worthy of reissuing. High on my list was this LP:
I’ve briefly touched on this album in previous posts but never in a dedicated way and that’s an oversight on my part. This is, hands down, probably one of the best and most special albums that Joe ever released, not the least of which is because it’s the only album to his name that has no Latin songs on it whatsoever.
I write far more about this in my liner notes (which were a real joy to work on) for this new, vinyl-only reissue but the short story is this: Fania’s Jerry Masucci got it in his head that he could make a run into the R&B market and picked his ace soul slinger, Joe, to spearhead the way. He replaced the Latin Swingers’ (Joe’s normal band) with an A-list of studio sessioners (including the legendary Bernard Purdie on drums) and spent a fortune on production, all to bring Joe’s sound up to the level of a release you might hear on Atlantic or Motown. Joe himself says this was his greatest album in terms of the production resources put behind it and fulfilled his dreams of cutting a genuine soul album in the tradition of the doo wop-era kings he grew up idolizing.
Song-for-song, it’s hard to argue that Joe or Jerry were wrong in terms of the album’s quality. Alas, Jerry wasn’t so on point regarding Fania’s ability to market the album to R&B retail and radio and it ended up becoming Joe’s least successful LP on the label and as a result, his rarest and arguably most expensive release (rivaling his first-run “gold label” Fania releases). It also was the only Bataan album that, until now, was never re-released on vinyl at some point. Fania only pressed 1000 of these and it’s more than worth picking up, especially if you don’t feel like paying $100-200 for an original. (We have a copy to give away, see below).
I also wanted to throw down a cheerful challenge to producers out there: I always thought the opening horns on “Unwed Mother” were just begging to get worked into a beat somewhere and I u/l-ed a higher rate quality than I normally post, just to encourage folks to play around with the possibilities. I also thought the opening to “Under the Street Lamp” was similarly rich with potential too. If anyone out there ends up reworking either, please email me or post in the comments to let us know.
This was the last album Pete Rodriguez (of boogaloo fame, not to be confused with the Pete “Conde” Rodriguez of the salsa era) ever released and by this time, his band has radically changed, having lost long-time players Benny Bonilla and Tony Pabon (and apparently, not under the best of circumstances, especially in regards to Pabon). This isn’t a Latin soul album in the conventional sense but it certainly is soulful by any other meaning of the term.
The crazy thing (and I write about this in the liners) is that after this album faded away, so did Pete. He’s one of the legends of the Latin soul era who no one has been able to track down and it’s not even clear if he’s still living or not. That’s astounding given that few artists were as big as him in the mid 1960s and his string of hits continue to be among the best boogaloos ever recorded. But if he’s out there, no one in the Latin music community has heard from him in apparently 20-30 years.
Ok, I did mention a giveaway…
Fania has a new vinyl reissue series (you can see their full list here and purchase direct). They’ve been generous enough to sponsor a giveaway of their three favorite titles, all of them absolute rarities:
Jack Costanzo and Gerrie Woo: Latin Percussion With Soul
Joe Bataan: Singin’ Some Soul
Tito Ramos: Where My Head Is At
I briefly wrote about Latin Percussion WIth Soul before but the recap: it’s the rarest of Costanzo’s albums, appearing on Tico originally, and was at least one of two collaborations he had with San Diego’s Gerri Woo (the being his excellent GNP album). The standout track off this LP was his cover of “Jive Samba” but there’s all kinds of cool Latin soul tracks on here.
Tito Ramos is one of the “Ts” in the TNT Band (along with Tony Rojas) and not only was this solo album one of the rarer Cotique titles (I didn’t even realize they were still actively recording by ’72), but it’s part of an important wave of socially-inspired albums to roll out of the NY Latin community in that era. It’s also a rather loopy album too as you can tell by the sound clips available on Fania’s site (sorry, I haven’t had a chance to digitize anything off of this yet).
All three of these LPs were only pressed up 1000 count (each individually numbered as a result). Each comes with a 8.5 x 11, heavy stock press photo w/ new liners on the flipside. Pretty slick package all around and for the hardcore Latin fanatics. (Note, these are all available for digital download but not on CD).
If you want the packet of all three of these albums on vinyl, please email us, subject line “Fania LP giveway”. We’ll pick a winner by next week.
Congrats to B. McCool for winning!