On paper this is all wrong. A government funded programme in response to social unrest in Harlem, a group of mostly non-Latins making a Latin record, a huge cast of non-professional musicians. And what did they produce? Only one of the top 5 Latin records of all time
The group was led by conguero ‘Montego Joe’, who decided after a few years of playing that the lads were ready to record and so they did just that in 1967. Sadly, this is their one and only recording but what a recording.
I first heard one of their tracks, and a huge track at that, on a tape I bought from a guy I met at Glastonbury in 1988. I’d heard Latin music of course but this absolutely blew me away. The bass lines were so big, the percussion so fresh and the music so rich. I was hooked and would spend many years tracking down the records that he’d drawn on to create his mix tape. That track is one of the highlights of the album: ‘Welcome to the Party’ and as good as it is, I am delighted to report that it is only one of a clutch of outstanding tracks and not a solitary gem as so often happens when you go back to the source.
You want the same mix of funky bass and spot-on percussion but instead of piano you want to hear some sax taking the lead melodic role? Man that’s no problem, ‘Oua-Train’ will sort you out good and proper. A bit of flute, that’ll be ‘Santa Cruz’ you are after.
Put simply, this is the definition of groove, in any idiom. A god damn monster record.