However, what makes “Falcon” so memorable isn’t simply the instrumentation. The arrangement here is funky but in what I find to be a very distinct way. There’s songs that fall into a clear “Latin funk” category; take Ricardo Marrero’s “Babalonia” for example. However, “Falcon” isn’t that kind of funk tune; to me, it’s primarily a salsa dura cut that incorporates just enough funky polyrhythms — and that electric piano — to give it this subtle funk foundation while still staying true to its Afro-Cuban roots. The absolute gold standard for funky salsa cuts is Roberta Roena’s epic “Que Se Sepa” but while I don’t think “Falcon” is quite at the same level, it’s definitely in the mix with other top quality funky salsa dura jams like Luis Santi’s sizzling “Los Feligreses” from the ’70s or Peliroja’s 2014 jam “Ciudad de Nadie.” But who were Caffe? Where were they originally from? As Michael notes in his blog, he’s stumped everyone he’s played it for thus far and I’m no closer than he is to solving this particular riddle.
Joe Cuba is an interesting figure to me insofar as his career precedes the boogaloo era by over a decade but songs like “El Pito” and “Bang Bang” are what put him and his Sextet on the map in a way that his earlier mambo-era LPs had not. I don’t own any of his pre-Sextet LPs but I did go completionist with everything he released with that configuration.1 I hadn’t listened to El Alma Del Barrio for quite a while and by no means would I consider it the best of their pre-“El Pito” output (I think Comin’ At You would fit that bill). I was on the verge of tossing this into the Latin purge pile but then I came back to “Mañana Te Llevo Niña” which is a lovely little cha-cha-cha with vibraphone and that, alone, makes it worth holding onto.
In the 1950s, it was Cuba and His Orchestra and in the ’60s and ’70s, he released a handful of albums just as “Joe Cuba.” ↩
There’s something quite enjoyable about finding surprises within your own collection. True, maybe you should have caught them the first time but in the end, you end up with a great new song that you didn’t even need to go track down.
Case in point: I’ve had this Fania All Stars LP for ages but I never realized that Side B had Joe Bataan and La La dueting on the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell classic, “If This World Were Mine.” The cover here isn’t better than the original but it’s still fun as hell to hear Joe singing Marvin.
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.
After a strong purge of hip-hop records last year, I’ve been starting to sift through my Latin records to get rid of doubles and the like. One record – that I had all but forgotten about – is part of Freddy “El Flaco” Roland’s series of party records he put out in the 1970s. Best I can tell, Roland and his orquestra would play covers of the leading Latin hits of the day, often in medley fashion. The one above is one of my favorite: combining three killer Latin jams into one. “El Pito,” of course, comes from NYC’s Joe Cuba. “Humo,” I believe, was by Lucho Macedo originally and then Roland and his crew clean up with “Lluvia Con Nieve,” by Mon Rivera. All around, excellent work here. If you’re interested in a copy of the LP, peep what I have here.
We may be deep in a much ballyhooed vinyl revival but surprisingly, record cases haven’t seemed to have kept pace. With all these folks buying records again from their local record store Whole Foods, you would think there’d be more variety in boxes/cases available. RSD has nudged this along incrementally, especially with prestige releases that tout special packaging but compare the variety of vintage cases you might find on eBay or Etsy vs. new cases being manufactured now and you feel like there’s a missed opportunity.
The last time I saw anyone drop an interesting new case was Numero Group in 2012 for their massive Omnibus release. Even though I found the specs just a hair too tight, it didn’t feel like they were simply slapping a new skin on the same base case that everyone else uses.
I’m thinking about all this (again) because I recently got in the new Beat Bop Bundle from the folks at Get On Down. They already have some decent cases out there, including a faux reptile case that I use as my standard go-to 45 tote though I also like the canvas skin on their People Records case. Both are probably just skins-on-base-cases but the inner removable tray is a smart design feature for gigging out since it allows you to pack the case but then use the tray as a way of having twice as much room to rifle through your records.
This LP/12″ case that comes with the Beat Bop Bundle is something else though. Maybe it’s all that black but it just feels…substantial and slightly severe (in a good way). It’s certainly one of the bigger cases I have; even a couple of inches in height goes a long way. The reinforced corners, much like an anvil-style case (albeit this uses plastic corners) also makes you feel like this thing was built for abuse or the like.
This said, if I’m being candid here: it feels a bit bulky for its own good. It’s heavy just empty so I imagine that at full capacity (50 records/25 lbs), this would be a challenge to slog around, especially without a shoulder strap to even out the load. The lid is also substantial enough that if the case isn’t that full, the whole thing will tip over with the lid open; not ideal.
On the flipside, if you needed a case that could double as a blunt force weapon in a club scrum, this might come in handy. And if you were to combo this with a mid-90s Brooklyn throwback outfit – 20 below Timbos, black bubble goose – you’d be looking real proper. I know I haven’t even gotten to the music but while it’s cool to have a special edition of “Beat Bop”, complete with liner notes by Noz, it looks quite lonely inside that massive case. The disc feels like the bonus but the real package here is the box itself.
I also recently got in Cultures of Soul new Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul 7″ Box Set. Inside, you get seven 7″s, with about a third of them featuring songs that, far as I know, were never on 7″ single to begin with. That includes one of my favorite funky Brazilian cuts: “Bananeira” by Emiliano Santiago. I’m also feeling this one by Célia: “A Hora É Essa“. All in all, I didn’t know most of the songs on here so at the very least, I’m getting an education.
As for the actual box…eh. It’s ultimately a box for shelving purposes; it’s not designed for travel and odds are, you wouldn’t take the entire collection out to a gig but simply select a few 45s. I’m not a fan of the top-loading lid here, namely because it’s too shallow to allow you to flip through the 45s without first pulling them out. That’s a similar issue with “fold out” boxes (see below) but at least with those, you have cleaner lines on the front cover since you don’t have the lid breaking things up horizontally.
I also wish they had printed the track listing on the back. What they have is an insert that lines up on the back…if the box is still in the shrink. But once you take it out, the insert has no place to go (it’s slightly too big to fit into the box itself so it seems like you’re just meant to toss it).
Last but not least is the Big Box of Afrosound that Vampisoul released, with the curatorial help of DJ Bongohead. Musically, it’s the most generous: ten 7″s. And for me, it’s definitely the one that I vibe the most with sonically if only because I’m such a fan of the Afrosound, er, sound.1
I especially appreciate that more than half the songs on here were never on 45 to begin with, including “Salsa Boogaloo” by Sexteto Miramar, which I wasn’t familiar with prior. As with the Brasileiro box, even those songs that have been on 45 before aren’t exactly records you’re going to stumble across in your local U.S. store, especially standouts like Wganda Kenya’s wicked “Fiebre De Lepra” or one of my all-time favorite cumbias: “Cumbia De Sal” by Cumbias en Moog (which is as awesome as you may guess).
The Big Box had fold-up/out lid which is a decent compromise in terms of keeping the cover art intact and still allowing you to flip through the 45s from right to left once fully opened. If I had to nitpick…not a big fan of the cover art but c’est la vie.
There you go: a few boxes (literally!) for you to sample.
Full disclosure, I helped Bongohead with this project at a very early stage though I can’t remember if it was with “Mammy Blue” or a different Fruko song that didn’t make the cut. ↩
Les Baxter: Yellow Sun (GNP Crescendo, 1969, African Blue)
The term “exotica” always conjures up some swank ’60s bachelor pad, the kind with a well-designed hifi system, some mid-century modern furniture and a crystal decanter of liquor. I wasn’t alive when the genre was more popular but it’s hard to imagine that exotica wasn’t much more than a slightly sexed up variation of easy listening: something more often heard in banal suburban living rooms than a downtown corner condo. It was also one of the more prominent examples of audio tourism, promising to transport the listener away to some foreign, um, exotic land but often quite vague in actual destination.
Case in point, the only formal exotica LP I’ve ever owned has been Les Baxter’s quite decent African Blue but not only is it unclear what’s “African” about any of the songs on here but this album is basically the commercial version of a KPM library record by Baxter entitled…Bugaloo in Brazil which manages to invoke both Afro-Cuban grooves and Brazilian music even though those are completely different musical traditions. So…yeah.
But hey, the tunes are sweet, especially the vocal-laced bossa ballad “Yellow Sun” (entitled “Tropical Canvas” on the KPM LP). Now excuse me while I go sip a martini.
Peruchin: Laura (GNP, 1961, The Incendiary Piano Of Peruchín!)
Another Groove Merchant pick-up, this comes from one of Cuba’s most accomplished Latin pianists of the 1960s. Normally, I would have gone with the delightful little descaraga, “Pa Gozar,” but I find “Laura” to be mesmerizing as this mix between a straight forward romantico cha cha cha with that killer piano montuno midway through.
Los Tios Queridos were a popular band out of Argentina in the 1960s. With my poor Spanish, I’m not sure on what the name translates to…the loved uncles? The loved ones? Anyways, “Por Eso Vuelve Por Favor” had been on my want list for a while – I love that blend of both funky rhythms with a decidedly bright, pop groove.