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It was the early 70’s, Jerry Masucci (the former police officer turned lawyer) and his newly formed Fania Records was establishing itself as a power in the Latino music industry. Recordings by Johnny Pacheco (who became the labels vice president), Larry Harlow, Willie Colon and Ray Barretto were giving the label a visible identity of hip-ness. They were all characterized by a sound based on the best traditions of Afro-Cuban music but with an “in-your-face” contemporary NYC attitude. Although Ray’s previous recordings on Fania (ACID, HARD HANDS, TOGETHER) all had a common thread of excellence, it was still a band that was evolving.
That would change when a 17 year old bass student at NYC’s prestigious Music & Art High School would become a permanent member of Barretto’s band. Appearing on the previous release, Together, his name was Andy Gonzalez. Like Barretto, he was a fellow Bronx Nuyorican and he would anchor Ray’s group along with the now set members of Roberto Rodriguez, Joseph Papy Roman and the jazz influenced René Lopez on trumpets, pianist Louis Crúz, Tony Fuentes on bongó and cencerro (hand bell), Orestes Vilato on timbales and vocalist/sonero/guiro/maraca player, Adalberto Santiago. With Barretto on congas, the group re-defined the classic Cuban conjunto sound (small group with trumpets) based on the model Arsenio Rodriguez had developed in the 1930’s.
In reviewing Ray’s history as a composer, several themes are always pre-dominant – facing and overcoming adversity, jealousy and envy by others, relationships, and cultural pride. The opening tune on this disc, “Oye La Noticia,” is no exception. Its harmonized vocal intro by Justo Betancourt and Yayo El Indio in a guaracha/guaguancó tempo challenging those who may be envious of Barretto and his band is definitely a show of strength and bravura to all challengers. Check out the interaction between Ray, Orestes and Tony during Luis’s piano solo. The hip cierres (rhythmic breaks) they do exemplify a true working band that is tight and in the comfort zone with each other. Ray’s solo is the coup-de-gras as he explodes on the montuno (vamp).
Roberto Rodriguez’s “Perla Del Sur” is dedicated to his beloved birthplace in Cuba, Cienfuegos. It’s a great example of the Cuban son tradition and Ray’s ever present respect for tradition. Adalberto’s soneo’s (vocal improvisations) soar over the band. Another tasty Luis Crúz piano solo leads into Roberto’s beautiful high register trumpet feature. “Right On”, composed by Ray is what best can be described as a rock/funk/boogaloo tune with it’s catchy unison bass and piano figure and its lyrics addressing Ray’s pride in his multi-cultural NYC upbringing. Listen to René’s hip jazz influenced solo over the funky bass line. It exudes Nuyorican soul.
“De Que Te Quejas Tu”, is an up-tempo guaracha where Adalberto gets to stretch his soneo skills. “Y Dicen”, by bongocero Tony Fuentes, is classic son montuno that addresses the bands swing and sabor (taste) at a medium tempo. Roberto Rodriguez is featured as he slyly quotes Stormy Weather in his solo. Written by Cuban Hugo Gonzalez, the guaguancó/guaracha, “Quitate La Mascara” became a clarion call for lovers angry with their significant others lies and deceptions.
“Se Que Volveras” by pianist Louis Crúz is classic romantic bolero. Its clever arrangement has a cha-cha-cha section that leads to some nice interplay by the trumpets. The closer, “Power”, is what can best be described as a hip son-funk-tuno that opens with one of Ray’s classic bass and piano inventos (inventions). It features stellar work by René, Orestes, Louis, Andy and Ray proving this was a band with some outstanding soloists. As Ray told me, You know Bobby, I remember once at the Hunts Point Palace (in the Bronx) we played a dance and the people just stood there after we performed and just applauded as if we were at a jazz club. It was magical. That’s when I realized, we had arrived as a band. I witnessed that magic as a young man growing up in the Bronx. Just look at the cover. It’s the magic that can only be known as, “Barretto-Power”.
Roberto Rodriguez – Lead Trumpet
Joseph “Papy” Roman – Trumpet
René “Renee” Lopez – Trumpet, Lead Vocal on “Right On”
Louis Crúz – Piano, Celeste on “Se Que Volveras”
Andy Gonzalez – Ampeg “Baby” Bass
Orestes Vilato – Timbales
Tony Fuentes – Bongó, Cencerro, Guiro on “Power”
Ray Barretto – Congas, Background Vocals and Vocal Interjections (Go on René) on “Right On”, and (Power!) on “Power”
Adalberto Santiago – Lead Vocals on all tunes except “Right On”, Maracas on (“Oye La Noticia”, “Dicen”, “Quitate La Mascara”)
Chorus – Justo Betancourt, Eladio “Yayo El Indio” Peguero (“Oye” Bien La Noticia”, “De Que Te Quejas Tu” and “Perla Del Sur” ), Justo Betancourt, Hector Lavoe, Willie Torres (“Y Dicen” and “Quitate La Mascara”)
Producer – Ray Barretto
Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci
Musical Director – Ray Barretto
Arrangements – Ray Barretto and Louis Crúz
Recording Engineer- Fred Weinberg
Recorded – Universal Studios in NYC
Original LP Cover Concept and Painting – Izzy Sanabria
Written by Bobby Sanabria