2019 was a good balance between new music I discovered/enjoyed vs. old tunes I’m continually finding via records. I find that raising a teenager helps with the former and while I would never try to pass myself off – these days – as having a finger of the musical zeitgeist, I think it’s valuable to stay engaged with new music coming out. Anyways…I’m going to flip this from the round-ups of the last few years and start with the old tracks I gave heavy run to last year. (Not in ranked order)

1. The Rascals: My World (1968)

So…yeah, I slept. I think the only reason I even came across it last year was because of the 3 Ft. High and Rising anniversary mixtape. Anyways, this is an example of a perfect ’60s pop song in terms of all its core elements: the vocal interplay is key, the instrument and arrangement decisions are lush without being overbaked, and the hook is a legit ear worm.

2. Karen Dalton: Are You Leaving For the Country? (1971)

Credit for this goes to Jason Woodbury who brought in the Dalton LP for our Heat Rocks episode. I find the song haunting and melancholy and even this city boy isn’t immune to its sentiment.

3. Basabasa Experience: Homowo (1979)

Earlier this summer, I was crashing for a couple of nights with my friend Hua and in his office, he has a small stack of records and this was near the top. I was intrigued by the title and asked about it and he just put it on and I was instantly smitten. It’s easily the best African disco LP I’ve ever heard and “Homowo” is a standout thanks to those opening synths and the lyrics.

4. Italian Asphalt and Pavement Company: Check Yourself (1970)

No shade on The Intruders, who originally recorded this Gamble/Huff tune, but this cover by the IAP Co. is straight crossover fire.

5. Ohio Penitentiary 511 Jazz Ensemble: Psych City (1971)

The best prison spiritual jazz LP ever recorded. Ok, maybe the only but seriously, this whole album is a gem. Read more here.

6. Kalle & L’African Team De Paris : Africa Boogaloo (1971)

I’ve long been a fan of New York boogaloo influences returning to its African roots and this single, written/produced by Manu Dibango, is a stellar example of the genre.

7. Nina Simone: Cosi Ti Amo (1970)

The High Priestess taking it higher for an Italian jukebox-only cover of her “To Love Somebody,” sung in Italian. I have Y La Bamba’s Luz Mendoza to thank for this since I came across it when she chose Simone’s LP for her Heat Rocks episode.

8. R.D. Burman: Dance Music (1976)

Listening to Freddie Gibbs/Madlib’s “Education” (see below) compelled me to track its sample source back to this R.D. Burman-produced Bollywood marvel that packs in four movements in so many minutes. I find the whole song to be magical but the portion that kicks off a little after two minutes in is the best.

9. Herman Davis: Gotta Be Loved (1971)

A white whale that took me a few years to hunt down, I think of this as a repentant playboy’s anthem. Love the whole groove of this one-off single from St. Louis MO’s Davis, especially the plinkling piano after “I hear the raindrops” opening line.

10. The Delfonics: He Don’t Really Love You (1968)

Talk about coming out the gate: this is the Delfonics’ first single and it’s a masterful deep/sweet soul tune. The hook is massive and shout out to whoever is working the kettle drum on this.

11. Sweet Daddy Reed: I Believe To My Soul (1969)

Came across this via my dude Pablo: Sweet Daddy Reed takes Ray Charles’s original and strips it down to its bluesy bones. So deep, so good.

12. Breakers Two: I’m Gonna Get Down (1965)

When I came upon this in Amsterdam’s awesome Wax Well Records, I assumed it was an early electro single given the artist name and song title but nope: it’s a gorgeous island soul single from Guyana.

13. Joby Valente: Tu N’es Pas Riche, Tu N’es Pas Beau (1970)

Same trip to Amsterdam also brought me to Paris and I scooped this (plus the “Africa Boogaloo” single from earlier) at the ace Superfly Records. Originally from Martinique, Valente recorded several sides for the French/Guadalupe label Aux Ondes and this B-side is a killer blend of her voice with some soul boulder goodness on the track.

14. Members of the Staff: Stop the Bells (1972)

Bought this one off of the aforementioned Hua: a Leon Haywood-produced, Gene Page-arranged, local L.A. tear-jerker that’s definitely NOT what you want to play at a wedding.

15. Fully Guaranteed: We Can’t Make It Together (1972)

One of the last things I picked up in 2019, I love how this is an answer/rebuke track to the 1970 soft rock hit, “Make It Together.” Take that, Bread!

Ok, onto the new joints….

1. Jamila Woods: Betty

I mean…Jamila made a song about Betty Davis. That’s already frickin’ awesome but it’s also my favorite tune off her Legacy! Legacy!” Those opening piano chords lure you in and I was hooked all the way through the stinger. I just wish it was longer but hey, I don’t want to be greedy.

2. Valerie June: Cosmic Dancer

Would I have guessed that Valerie would absolutely smash a T-Rex cover? Actually, yes, yes I would. The melancholic beauty of her rendition is just sublime.

3. Bazzi: I.F.L.Y.

This might be the most “Spotify sound” track on my list but if I’m a victim of the algorithm, I’m ok with that. Give me all the mellifluous guitar R&B beats.

4. Normani: Motivation

This feels like retro-Destiny’s Child and I mean that in all the best ways.

5. Los Retros: Someone to Spend Time With

I’m fine with Tapia’s general sound but it’s the pairing of his voice with Firelordmelisa’s that makes this work as well as it does.

My only knock: why is there no 45 for this yet?!?!?!

6. UMI: Sukidakara

UMI is one of my favorite new artist discoveries and I love that she gets to bust out her Japanese skills on this one. My 14 y.o. was already into her sound but discovering that UMI is half-Japanese (like her) endeared her even more.

7. Samm Henshaw: Church

London’s Henshaw is also one of my favorite new artist discoveries. I thought his 2018 single, “Broke” was stellar and this new gospel-infused single is similarly awesome. Glory glory hallelujah.

8. Kota the Friend: Chicago Diner

The lyrics here are…just ok but the vibe? Cookies in the oven on a Sunday, indeed.

9. Lady Wray: Come On In

As the late Matthew Africa would have called this: it’s a soul boulder.

So. Damn. Heavy.

10. Brainstory: Beautyful Beauti

Straight outta the Inland Empire, Brainstory’s Buck was one of my favorite albums of 2019 and this single, in particular, embodies everything great about their sound/style.

11. G Yamazawa: Good Writtens Vol. 5

I’m digging G’s entire “Good Written” series so this really was a toss up between equals. Regardless, I’m hyped for whenever he puts out some new studio material in 2020.

12. Amber Mark: Love is Stronger Than Pride

Technically from 2018 but no song got more early 2019 play than Mark’s luscious riff on Sade’s classic.

13. Solange: Stay Flo

I’m not sure how a song can sound sparse and lush at the same time but here we are.

14. Freddie Gibbs, Madlib, Yasiin Bey, Black Thought: Education

I suppose this is lab-engineered to appeal to ’90s heads like myself but I don’t care. Having these three cats flow over that R.D. Burman loop (see above) is lo-fi gold.

15. Lizzo: Truth Hurts

Artist of the year and it’s not particularly close. We’re all in Lizzo’s world now.


We Like It Like That – Official Trailer from Mathew Ramirez Warren on Vimeo.

I promised (threatened?) that I’d drop some Latin on you all for a future podcast and what better than to bring in We Like It Like That filmmaker Mathew Ramirez Warren to come in and talk boogaloo with me. We chatted about the inspiration behind the film, tracking down Latin music old-timers, and the importance of public-funded arts (save the NEA!) Then Mathew joined me in running down a playlist of some of our favorite boogaloo jams.


Subscribe to this and future podcasts.

(If the built-in player doesn’t appear above, you can also listen here)

Included songs:

  • Ray Barretto: New York Soul (Fania, 1968)
  • Willie Rosario: Watusi Boogaloo (ATCO, 1968)
  • Louie Ramirez: New Breed (Mercury, 1967)
  • Joe Bataan: Subway Joe (Fania, 1968)
  • Ray Barretto: Together (Fania, 1969)
  • Tony Pabon/La Protesta: Free (Rico, 1970)
  • Jimmy Sabater: Times Are Changing (Tico, 1969)
  • Willie Colon: Skinny Papa (Fania, 1968)
  • Pedrito Ramirez: Micaela (Popo, 196?)
  • El Gran Combo: Kiss My Nose (Gema, 1967)
  • Kanté Manfla: Mosso Gnouma (Djima, 1969)
  • Bobby Matos: El Casa De Alfredo (Philips, 1967)Outro: Sunlightsquare Combo: I Believe In Miracles (Sunlightsquare, 2010)

Subway joe



First things first: Mathew Warren’s We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo is finally available for home download. I’m biased – since I’m in it – but as the first documentary to really plumb the history of the music, I think it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Second, I had been meaning to post this for a while anyway, so what better timing than now?

Les Play-Boys: Play-Boys Boogaloo (Aux Ondes, 196?, S/T)

The group hails from the French Antilles, having recorded on Aux Ondex/Disque Cellini which had offices in both Martinique and Guadeloupe. Boogaloo, as I’ve written about in the past on the site, spread in popularity all throughout North and South America as well the Caribbean, so it’s not at all surprising to see a West Indian band tackling the genre.

What I love about this is how it captures the classic essence of the boogaloo but filters it through a smoky, Afro-tinged surf rock vibe (I’m sure there’s some Peruvian boogaloo that likely sounds very similar). The use of organ on here, especially, is killer and not something that many groups in East Harlem would have done. Viva la boogaloo!


R 5911990 1410472907 9370 jpeg

Kanté Manfla: Mosso Gnouma (Boogaloo) (Djima, 196?, 7″)

I was writing the other day about Afro-Latin music…out of Africa and this track by the Ivory Coast’s Kanté Manfla highlights that tradition with a deliberate spin on New York’s boogaloo style. I love examples of how music criss-crosses regions to create spin-offs like this, especially with how soulful this version becomes thanks to those guitars.

365 Days of Soul, #143



Episode 1.2 of my new Shades of Soul program on Radio Sombra included guest DJ sets by Billy Goods & Bobby Soul of the Boogaloo Assassins. Their new album, Old Love Dies Hard is just out (liner notes by moi) and the three of us spun a slew of Latin soul/boogaloo jams for over an hour.

On a sadder note, I dedicated the show to the late Richard Marin, who I just learned passed away a couple of months back. Marin (the older brother of Bobby Marin) was a key producer at Mercury and Decca and is an undersung, pivotal player in the story of how boogaloo blew up. My first set was a selection of Latin soul songs that Marin played a hand in shaping.

Before we get to a music, a quick programming note…Radio Sombra is DJ-supported, which means that all of us who have a show pay a monthly fee to the station to help cover operating expenses. As such, I’m asking you all – my loyal listeners – to help support both the station and my show through your financial assistance. The Boogaloo Assassins were good enough to help me with a set of materials for the offering:

1) The Vinyl Package: You’ll get the new Boogaloo Assassins album on vinyl plus a copy of their new 7″ (“No No No” b/w “Evil Ways (Instr.)”). You’ll also get higher quality versions of the show taping from 1.2 onward.

2) The CD Package: You’ll get the new Boogaloo Assassins album on CD plus the 7″ (if desired…if you don’t have a turntable, it may not matter!) You’ll also get higher quality versions of the show taping from 1.2 onward.

Each set is $20 and if I find a taker for each, that means the show will be supported through the end of October. If interested, email me and let me know which package you’d like.

Pledge drive over.

Here’s Episode 1.2 and if you need the playlist, check back on the Radio Sombra site.

Shades of Soul, EP 1.2, feat. Billy Goods and Bobby Soul of the Boogaloo Assassins by Oliver Wang on Mixcloud


Zoom 6106771 large
(93 ‘Til line from Hiero + Adapt)

Question from Morgan: What would you rank as the top three albums you enjoyed in the last ten years that would have surprised the guy you were back in 2003? Follow up: Same question, but for the guy you were in 1993.

Answer: The 2003-2013 question is hard to answer in the way you’re asking if only because 2003 marked an important shift in my thinking about/relationship to music. It was the year I re-embraced pop music in a profound way, leaving behind the “strictly underground/keep the crossover” attitude that defined my 20s. I could get into all the reasons why but the short story is that I, as a music writer, no longer felt like I needed to be an advocate/cheerleader. I was more interested in simply trying to find something interesting/insightful to say about music but whether that was the biggest pop act or an artist no one had ever heard of wasn’t a distinction that held much meaning for me anymore.

As a result, I became far more open-minded by the end of 2003 and therefore, I’m not sure if there’s much that would have surprised 2013 Me vs. 2003 Me given that 2013 Me is still living out the shift that 2003 Me began. Does that make sense?

That all said, in the spirit of actually addressing your query vs. over qualifying a non-answer, here’s three artists/albums/songs that reflect the shifts I’m talking about:

Rufus Wainwright: O What a Wonderful World
From Want One (Dreamworks, 2003)

I can’t say I’ve loved Rufus’s entire catalog…in fact, there was about ten years (after this album and before last year’s album) where I stopped listening to him for reasons I’m still not completely sure why. But I’ve gotten more pleasure out of his first three albums than most other artists I can think of (for example, for sheer listenability, I’d take his first 3 over Gang Starr’s first 3).1 The only thing is that I started listening to Rufus around 2001, not 2003, but Want One was the first of his albums that I reviewed and at the time, was really one of the few examples of a “non-hip-hop or soul” album I had ever tried to tackle.2

Alton Ellis: I’m Still In Love With You
Available on I’m Still In Love With You

Alton Ellis. I can’t peg this to a specific album if only because I love his singles more than any single album but the general point is that, ten years ago, I simply wasn’t that into any kind of Jamaican music. I never got that far aboard with reggae or dancehall; I doubt I ever will in a substantial way. These are genres that I admire and respect but I can’t see myself jumping deep into them. That said, I definitely have listened to way more rocksteady over the last ten years and I think that would have been a surprise to 2003 Me. Ellis had much to do with it, especially when I discovered songs like “I’m Still In Love With You” and “Rock Steady.”

Lykke Li: I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix)
From 12″ (LL, 2012)

I was asked to play this at a wedding I DJed last fall and I hadn’t heard it before. I knew, vaguely, about Lykke Li dating back to her first album circa ’08 or so but I never followed her. And if someone had told 2003 Me that “one of your favorite songs of 2012 would be a disco-laced house remix to a moody, electronic-y Swedish singer/songwriter” I might very well have said “f— outta here.” If I had to unpack what I like here, it starts with the piano…just two chords from what I can tell, but totally catchy. And the difference between this and the original song are night/day. Li sounds so much brighter and dreamy than the darker album mix, which reminds me of something I might have heard on KROQ in 1986, back when I listened to a lot of new wave.

As with what I was just saying about reggae a moment ago, I very much doubt I’ll ever get deep into EDM but the important thing is that I’m open to getting into any given song. That, more than anything, is the biggest shift that’s happened over the last ten years.

As for the second half of your question, that’s much easier to answer since, back in 1993, I was totally locked into “hip-hop, fuck everything else” mode (I mean, I was 21 then). My listening tastes were uber-narrow. How narrow? So narrow that here’s the first album I thought of when I read your question:

Dr. Dre: Lyrical Gangbang
From The Chronic (Death Row, 1992)

When The Chronic originally dropped, I simply wasn’t feeling Dr. Dre. The reasons are numerous (and all kind of silly in hindsight but they mattered to me at the time): Ice Cube > NWA, I didn’t like all that “synth shit,” I was far more of a NY-rap fan than LA-rap fan even though I grew up in LA and was still living on the West Coast then. Basically, I judged The Chronic mostly on merits that had nothing to do with it as an album and everything to do with what I thought it symbolized.

Of course, back then, that shit was real. Silly as it may seem in hindsight, at that moment, The Chronic and its success felt felt threatening to a particular world view of hip-hop that I had adopted. The fact that I now admire its achievement – and more importantly – think it’s a pretty damn good album of music actually took me those ten years, from 1993-2003, to come around to.3

Pete Rodriguez: Pete’s Boogaloo
From Latin Boogaloo (Alegre, 1966)

The biggest shift from 1993 to 2003 was my discovery, via my old DJ partner Vinnie Esparza, of Latin music and boogaloo in particular. Unlike The Chronic, it wasn’t like I was purposefully, stubbornly “opposed” to Latin music, but it simply wasn’t a genre/tradition I was remotely checking for in 1993. I was too busy trying to cop A Tribe Called Quest promo 12″s. But since then, Latin has become one of my favorite bodies of music, as any reader can tell.

Bobby Reed: The Time Is Right For Love
From 7″ (Bell, 1970)

In 1993, I bought what I think was probably my first box set, volume one of The Complete Stax/Volt. Much as I had very narrow opinions about what “real hip-hop” was, I also held a fairly myopic view on what “real soul” was. At the time, real soul = Southern vs. Northern/Motown-style R&B which I associated with such bad words as “popular” and “crossover,” both of which were codewords for “sellout.” This was, of course, asinine thinking and represented blind allegiances to rigid ideologies. But again: back then, that’s the kind of music fan I was. The idea that, 15 or so years later, one of my all-time soul songs would be a very Northern-esque 7″ on Bell would have mightily surprised 1993 Me.

What’s funny is that this very morning, as I was sitting down to right this, a friend was talking about discovering Grimes and said, “I love it when there’s new/new to me stuff that excites me.” I couldn’t possibly agree more.

Question from Karl: “A while back, I picked up Jean-Marc Cerrone’s “Supernature” on a whim, which is a dope record. How familiar with him are you, and what can you say about his other records?”

Answer: Easy…I know next to nothing about Cerrone except that he recorded this Ultimate Beats and Breaks classic:

Disco is one of those genres that I enjoy but that I know woefully little about besides a few, obvious acts and whatever random assortment of disco records I have.

Have a question? Ask us.

  1. Keep in mind though that 1) Gang Starr’s first album was rather inconsistent and more of a hastily thrown together Wild Pitch effort than the kind of focused efforts Guru and Primo would put together later. And 2) I never really liked Daily Operation much. I was always more of a Hard To Earn guy for that era. Gang Starr’s second album, however, is perfection.
  2. fun’s Some Nights album, one of my favorite of 2012, could have fit into this space as well though that album has more of a hip-hop pedigree than Rufus ever did.
  3. What explains that is I ended up writing the entry for The Chronic in my album guide, Classic Material. I wasn’t supposed to write it but the original writer had dropped out and with a looming deadline, I decided to just take it on myself but that meant really listening to the album in a way I never had previously (which is to say: actually listen to the album from beginning to end).


linares pito.jpglat-teens.jpeg

Alfredo Linares: El Pito
From El Pito (Adria, 1960s). (First two songs also on ¡Gózalo! Vol. 1. “Descarga” on ¡Gózalo! Vol. 4.

Lat-Teens: Lat-Teens
African Twist
Now You Know
From S/T (Cotique, 1968)

In the last couple of months, I’ve finally been able to knock down two key Latin white whales. As proper white whales should be, both have proved extremely elusive for a few years and to make matters worse, I’m constantly teased by other, similar titles by each artist which happen to show up far more often than the albums I actually want. For examples, Linares’s other major boogaloo LP turns up for sale at least once every 4-6 weeks but El Pito may only pop up on the record radar a few times a year. I finally gave in and “settled” for the U.S. issue vs. the original MAG release (yeah, I know, hair-splitting). But glad to finally have this in the bag – I’m such a fan of Linares’s explosive piano style and to hear him going in on his cover of “El Pito” is awesome, as is the aptly-named Latin jazz tune, “Cool.” Too bad “Descarga” couldn’t get a better name but hey, still a great, lively example of the style.

The Lat-Teens was especially sweet to finally land; it’s not quite as obscure as the Linares but you see other Lat-Teens titles go up all the time and this one – their first – shows up much less frequently. I’d have to think more about this but this may very well be the best boogaloo title on Cotique – it’s at least as good as anything I’ve heard by the Lebron Brothers, including Psychedelic Goes Latin, which is very similar in style. The Lat-Teens’ self-titled title cut is especially delicious, a slow-building burner with a beauty of an opening piano montuno. It’s probably my favorite song off the album, even more than “African Twist” which was their main boogaloo hit. I also included “Now You Know” because I’m really fascinated by all the weed anthems that these Latin soul bands turned out (the Lat-Teens have another song on the album called “Mary Wanna.” Not exactly subtle).


Pete Rodriguez: Pete’s Boogaloo
Herbie Oliveri and the Latin Blues Band: We Belong Together
Bobby Quesada and His Band: Ritmo Moderno
All from Long Live Boogaloo (Secret Stash, 2012)

It’s been a while since there’s been new boogaloo anthology/comp to hit the market and the folks at Secret Stash didn’t half-step in assembling their new Long Live Boogaloo. They got legendary Latin promoter/designer Izzy Sanabria to draw the cover and write the liner notes, adding a personal touch from a boogaloo insider. Moreover, while previous anthologies tended to serve as primers, this one digs deeper into the Latin soul catalog to offer up prime selections that still drift off the beaten path.

For example, Pete Rodriguez, one of the key architects of the boogaloo sound, is represented here but it’s via his slept-on, early effort, “Pete’s Boogaloo” rather than the more obvious “I Like It Like That” or “Oh That’s Nice.”1 Likewise, Ray Barretto gets one song here, but instead of anything off of Acid, they go with “Right On” (strangely mis-titled here as “Pretty Mama”), arguably his funkiest Latin soul cut ever, from 1972’s Power.

I enjoyed seeing Decca represented heavy here. No other non-Latin label did as much to be a part of the boogaloo scene as Decca and that’s largely owed to the presence of Richard Marin, brother of famed Latin soul singer/songwriter/producer Bobby Marin. Richard was absolutely key behind some of the great Decca Latin releases era, represented here by songs like Manny Corchado’s killer instrumental “Chicken and Booze” and Ozzie Torrens’s jazzy “Mia’s Boogaloo.” 2

One of my favorite labels, Speed, gets two tracks on here, including one of their uber-rare, 7″ only releases: Herbie Oliveri and the Latin Blues Band’s “We Belong Together,” and likewise, I was happy to see Bobby Quesada’s oft-overlooked Fania album get a pair of cuts. However, if there’s one unofficial center of the album, it’s undoubtedly Louie Ramirez, the gifted arranger/producer who, along with Bobby Marin, made up the most vital two-man team in Latin soul history. While Ramirez is overtly credited on two of his own songs here, you can find his imprint on far more of the album.

Overall you get 22 tracks, almost all of them of exemplary quality. Great to see that people are still going hard at giving boogaloo shine. To hear other tracks off the comp, visit the Secret Stash website. And don’t forget about Mathew Warren’s upcoming documentary on the boogaloo: We LIke It Like That.

Peep: Secret Stash was generous enough to sponsor a giveaway of Long Live Boogaloo. To enter, answer these following questions:

1) Which Alegre album claims to introduce the “bugalu” as a new dance style?
2) Name the two main co-founders of Speed Records.
3) What important proto-boogaloo song was built around a whistle?

Send your answers here, attn: “long live boogaloo contest”. A winner will be selected at random from those with all three questions answered correctly.

  1. For my money, “Pete’s Boogaloo” is as good as anything Rodriguez ever did; surprises me it hasn’t gotten more shine. I’m guessing it’s partially because, unlike his later boogaloos, this one is still in Spanish rather than English.
  2. If I could nitpick, while they also include two songs from Jimmy Zamot’s Decca release, The Latin Soul of Johnny Zamot, that’s probably the most common of Decca’s boogaloo LPs and I wish they had used something off of Zamot’s Boogaloo Frog or Tell It Like It Is, both of which receive less shine.



Alfredo Linares y su Salsa Star: Baila Montuno
From 7″ (Caliente, 1973)

This appears on Linares’s 1973 Sensacionales! album but I didn’t catch wind of it until I picked it up on 7″ first. I’m a huge fan of Linares’s work and so I was pleased and a bit stunned to realize that, unless I’m totally off-base, this is a cover of Bobby Matos’s “Nadie Baila Como Yo” (from his seminal My Latin Soul album of the mid/late ’60s). Matos isn’t credited (not an unusual happenstance) but certainly, there’s more than enough musical and lyrical evidence to suggest that Linares basically gives Matos’s original a salsa update. It’s still not nearly as deliriously fun as Matos’s song but I do like that Linares keeps elements of the boogaloo-influenced original, especially on rhythm piano.

(crossposted to Super Sonido)