MAMBO MADNESS

Chris Coyne

The cliché statement they don’t make them like they used to anymore becomes especially poignant in the case of Tito Rodríguez. Arguably the most elegant vocalist to ever grace the spectrum of Afro-Caribbean music, Rodríguez showed an exquisite sensitivity when it came to designing the repertoire of the many LPs that he released during the 1950s. Released on the Tico …

Tiempo pa’ Matar

Chris Coyne

Tiempo Pa’ Matar Willie Colón “Tiempo Pa’ Matar” is Willie Colón’s formal farewell to Fania Records in 1983 (although released in 1984), which coincided with his RCA (now BMG) debut Criollo. As I wrote in the notes for Vigilante, by then Willie was saving his best original work for his own comeback solo projects. Indeed, this record one was no …

THE HUSTLER

Chris Coyne

This is the classic second album that Willie Colón recorded with Héctor Lavoe as his lead vocalist. The session would dictate the stylistic direction that both men took as one of the greatest salsa duos in history. Their debut album El Malo (1967) boasted a trombone heavy sound that was raw and unorthodox– perceived by the public as part of …

ONLY THEY COULD HAVE MADE THIS ALBUM

Chris Coyne

The fruitful career of the legendary queen of salsa Celia Cruz can be roughly divided into three distinct periods that, in many ways, mirror the development of Afro-Caribbean music during most of the twentieth century. First there was la reina’s artistic awakening in her native Cuba as part of La Sonora Matancera, a tropical supergroup that gave Cruz the opportunity …

LO MATO

Chris Coyne

Hector Lavoe was the most mercurial vocalist that Afro-Caribbean music has ever known. The salsa equivalent of a tragic rock’n’roll star, a heroin addict who died in 1993 at the young age of 46. A criminally underrated singer who, to this day, continues to be a virtual unknown within the American mainstream. But to his legions of fans, Hector Lavoe …

LA GRAN FUGA

Chris Coyne

Like most of the collaborations between trombonist, composer and musical director Willie Colón and mercurial Puerto Rican singer Héctor Lavoé, the album that you hold in your hands transcends the boundaries of salsa. Released in 1970, “The Big Break” is a masterpiece of Latin music, the kind of formidable artistic statement that established the Fania label as a cultural icon– …

GUISANDO

Chris Coyne

In 1967 Héctor Pérez agreed to record the album El Malo in order to please Johnny Pacheco, recording director and co-founder of Fania Records. The true story is that the president of Fania, Jerry Masucci, agreed to edit the first albums of Willie Colón’s band with the condition that among its ranks it would have a versatile, well-versed singer, who …

EL JUICIO

Chris Coyne

The year was 1972 and the Vietnam War was the top story on the news. President Richard Nixon had just been re-elected while reports of “Watergate” began to unfold. The civil rights movement was raging across the country as NBC Television launched Sanford & Son starring Redd Foxx. In New York City, the subway fare increased from 30 to 35 …

EL BAQUINE DE ANGELITOS NEGROS

Chris Coyne

“El Baquiné de Angelitos Negros” marks a very important turning point in Willie Colón’s prolific salsa career. Firmly heralded as a salsa icon by 1977, the year this album was originally released, Colón was already looking for alternate musical roads. Although by 1975 there were already sketches of his orchestral approach, the truth is that the salsa world wasn’t yet …

CRIME PAYS

Chris Coyne

Eight years after its creation, Fania Records had accumulated such a sizable catalog of artists that it began to issue compilations from its roster of hit-making stars such as Willie Colón, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, and Ray Barretto. In fact, Crime Pays was the first anthology the label put out in 1972. The ironically titled Crime Pays was a comment …