The prolific compiler and taste-maker Gilles Peterson delivers his first Latin compilation after digging through a few hundred Fania albums
Fania Records was to Latin music what Tamla Motown was to soul music: a tough machine for making hit records. Musician Johnny Pacheco, who led the creative work, and Jerry Masucci (a lawyer with a shady reputation) set the label up in 1964 and by the early seventies everyone who was anyone in the world of salsa was on their label. Some of those big names have made it to this album, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Johnny Colon and the Fania Allstars are present but Gilles is of course more interested in the rarely heard names or the offbeat tracks from the better-known stars like Tito Puente’s upbeat disco number ‘Wata Wasuri’.
“I personally needed the heavy stuff and the dancers were crucial — not the ‘I do salsa on a Monday’ variety… the proper Latin descarga stuff was gold.”
So on this double album you are going to get plenty of floor-filling gems. Tracks like Ray Baretto’s ‘Acid’ could be looped and provide hours of perma-groove all on its own as could other bass monsters like Louie Ramirez’ ‘Rush Hour in Hong Kong’.
In fact most of the tracks chosen are designed to appeal to the spatted jazz dancer looking for something energetic to really show off his or her moves to best effect. It’s all about the breaks, and these records contain some amazing breaks. For those of us less gifted on the dance-floor there is a rewarding mixture of classic Latin grooves and the occasional oddity.
Gilles makes a rare slip in good taste with the vaguely embarassing ‘Chinito Boogaloo’ courtesy of Rafael Cortijo y su Bonche. Think bog-standard boogaloo with some guys doing impersonations of Chinese people on it. Hilarious, not.
The 25 other selections more than make up for it though, especially the tunes from the Palmieri brothers and the dark but compelling ‘Lluvia con nieve’ (Sleet) from Mon Riviera. I just can’t shake it off somehow.