BAD BREATH

Chris Coyne

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BAD BREATH



During the heyday of the boogaloo and shing-a-ling era, Fania released an album titled Bad Breath by Bobby Valentín, who at the time was a trumpet player. It was Valentín’s third album, following his debut with El Mensajero, which he recorded for Fonseca Records, and the 1966 release of his first Fania LP, Young Man With A… Valentín, who formed his own orchestra after playing and recording with Joe Quijano, Tito Rodríguez, Willie Rosario and Charlie Palmieri, was the third artist recruited by Fania Records, following the releases of Johnny Pacheco’s debut and the LP Heavy Smokin by Orchestra Harlow.

In 1967, Valentín was still living in New York. Even though he tried to adapt his orchestra to the boogaloo style that reigned supreme at the time with tracks like “Bad Breath” and “Love Me So,” the experiment was a commercial failure. Dancers preferred the hit singles by pianist Pete Rodríguez, the genius responsible for gems such as “I Like It Like That” and “Micaela.” And yet, Valentín showcased his talent as an arranger from the very beginning of his career. In 1967, his band was made up of Cookie Mattero on sax, trombonist Glen John Miller, John Rivera on bass, Joe Torres on piano, Fred Pagani on timbales, Jimmy Maeylen on congas and George Del on bongos. All of them remained in New York when Bobby moved to Puerto Rico in 1969. The combination of tenor sax, trumpet and trombone created harmonies that echoed the aesthetic of the big orchestras led by masters like Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodríguez – in fact, Valentín has covered songs from their repertoire throughout his career.

His knack for fusing a variety of rhythms and styles within a few bars of music is evident on the arrangement of “Tú Eres Mi Coco,” which combines a guaguancó beat with cha cha cha and mambo. His weakness for jazz is shown on the self-penned “Zip Zap,” a fusion of descarga and instrumental salsa, with solos by timbalero Poppy Pagani, saxophonist Cookie Mattero and pianist Joe Torres. The lead singer on Valentín’s first four albums (El Mensajero, Young Man With A…, Bad Breath and Arrebatarnos) was Marcelino “Junior” Morales, a competent sonero, guarachero and bolero crooner who unfortunately was underrated by the music industry. To this day, he has yet to receive the recognition that he deserves. If you pay attention to the quality of Morales’ voice, his phrasing and the flavor with which he sings the montunos, you can tell that he had a big influence on Marvin Santiago. His guaguancó delivery on “Consuélate,” “Changó Ta Bení” and “Barengue Manengue” are a good example of his artistic range. An expressive interpreter of boleros, Morales will be remembered for his gorgeous version of Bobby Collazo’s classic “Tenía Que Ser Así.” Junior had no problem tackling a number of Caribbean fusions like Joseíto Mateo’s “Ritmo Merembe” and the son montuno “Que Mate.” The interpretations are stunning in their swing and sense of technique, even though the lyrics are far from substantial. In 1967, salsa narratives were, for the most part, irrelevant affairs. That said, Junior Morales was an extraordinary singer, able to dominate the spotlight on Valentín’s first four albums.

Even though Bad Breath is not one of Valentín’s most successful recordings, its reissue confirms Morales’ talent, paying tribute to an artistic legacy that should not be ignored. Credits: Bobby Valentín – Leader, Trumpet Cookie Mattero – Tenor Sax Glen John Miller – Trombone John “Flaco” Rivera – Bass Joe Torres – Piano Fred “Poppy” Pagani – Timbales Jimmy Maeylen – Conga George “Chu” Del – Bongos Lead Singer – Marcelino “Junior” Morales Written by Jaime Torres Torres