Celia y Johnny - Celia Y Johnny (LP)


Celia y Johnny, undoubtedly the most important album in Celia Cruz’s career, opened the doors of success for the famous Cuban singer with the force of a raging bull.

The singer had been fighting to break out onto the salsa scene since her arrival to the United States in 1962. Her career had been lethargic during the era of the boogaloo. In the early 1970s, a series of commercial flights were hijacked to Cuba, becoming a weekly event. Fearing she might board a flight that was hijacked to Cuba, Cruz decided to stop flying altogether. This, combined with disagreements with the Tico label over the direction of her career, kept her isolated from the beginnings of the salsa movement that took shape under the Fania label.

After singing “Gracia Divina” in the opera Hommy, by Larry Harlow, and “Bemba colorá” with the Fania All Stars, it was time for Cruz to record a full-length album that would showcase her interpretive skills. “Celia y Johnny” proved just the trick.

Johnny Pacheco had been enjoying a long and successful music career. Since his early days as a percussionist in the Xavier Cougat Orchestra, the Dominican had learned a lot about style and rhythm. His unique sound –known as the “Pacheco Groove” – had turned him into a favorite, particularly among New York dancers, and among lovers of Afro-Caribbean music in general.

Pacheco, a founding member of the Fania label, had noticed that Cruz’s early recordings on the Tico label with the Tito Puente Orchestra tended to limit her impressive voice, which he felt was not reaching its potential against the enormous sound of Puente’s big band. Pacheco once told me, “Let me put it to you this way: Celia sounded good with a stick banging against a can. She didn’t need all those instruments.”

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Side A 

  1. Quimbara
  2. Toro Mata
  3. Vieja Luna
  4. El Paso del Mulo
  5. Tengo el Idde

Side B 

  1. Lo Tuyo es Mental
  2. Canto a la Habana
  3. No Mercedes
  4. El Tumbao y Celia
  5. El Pregón del Pescador

• Pressed on 180-gram vinyl

• All-analog mastering and cut from the original stereo tapes