The 70s were the most important decade in the history of the musical genre now known as salsa. One of the most popular artists in the history of salsa reemerged at the beginning of this decade: José “Cheo” Feliciano. “Cheo,” as he is lovingly known, was isolated from the disco scene while recovering from a drug addiction. Once recovered, he begin preparing for his return to the stage in 1972.
The singer joined up with composer Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso, who was beginning to stand out as an excellent composer and gaining recognition for his brilliant writing on salsa numbers – particularly by artists of the Fania label. From the union of these two Afro-Caribbean superstars was born “Cheo,” an extended-length album marking the salsa artist’s triumphant return.
One of the songs on the album, “Pa’ que afinquen,” a delectable Guajira number penned by Curet Alonso, told the magnificent singer’s story to a public longing for his return. At the same time, it served to officially introduce Curet Alonso, launching what would be, in my opinion, one of the most subtle, most honest, and most heartfelt songs from that marvelous era. The subtlety of these lyrics communicates in particular the reason for the charismatic singer’s exile, as well as the state of the Latin music scene prior to the return of the transcendental Afro-Cuban sound that forged the music of the Fania label. This track landed Cheo Feliciano right where he belonged: among the best singers of the time, a position he has maintained ever since. With the mythic “Anacaona,” also written by Curet Alonso, Feliciano made the top play lists at radio stations in New York as well as Puerto Rico. Subsequent hits such as “Si por mi llueve,” written by Feliciano; “Franqueza cruel,” one of the most romantic songs of all time; “Eso es el Guaguancó;” and “Mano caliente,” by Curet Alonso – all magnificent manifestations of Afro-Caribbean musical sentiment – guaranteed the musical prowess of Feliciano, and catapulted Tite Curet Alonso into fame as one of the best salsa composers in the world.
With musical arrangements by Bobby Valentín and Nick Jiménez, and a band that included Johnny Pacheco on the drums and chorus; Larry Harlow on the piano; Bobby Valentín on the bass; Louie Ramírez on the vibraphone; Orestes Vilató on the timbales; Johnny Rodríguez on the bongos; Ismael Quintana on the maracas, clave, and chorus; Vinnie Bell on the electric guitar; Charlie Rodriguez on the tres; and Matanzas native Justo Betancourt and great boricua singer Santos Colón rounding out the chorus, the band’s first-rate sound was a given. Thirty years later, these hits are still going strong, and throughout time this album has formed an integral part of the record collections of Latin music lovers. Its quality is irrefutable. Included on the album are the tracks “Pienso en ti,” “Medianoche y sol,” and “Poema de otoño.”
These songs showcase Feliciano’s silky voice, which turned him into a veritable icon of Caribbean music folklore. This album is a true classic, a collector’s piece, and a historical representation of a time when the perfect combination of singer, composer, and orchestra turned “Cheo” into the musical epitome of what many call the Golden Age of Salsa. One day, when the history of salsa is recounted, Cheo Feliciano will undoubtedly be named a pioneer of this musical tradition. The match point of the sensational Ponce native is here, in “Cheo.”
This is the album that documents Feliciano and “Tite” Curet Alonso’s global fame. As “Cheo” would say, “This is love.”
Musicians Johnny Pacheco – Conga Larry Harlow – Piano Bobby Valentin – Bass Louie Ramirez – Vibes Orestes Vilato – Timbales Johnny Rodriguez – Bongos Ismael Quintana – Maracas, Clave Vinnie Bell – Electric Guitar Charlie Rodriguez – Tres Chorus: Ismael Quintana, Justo Betancourt, Santos Colon, Johnny Pacheco Produced by: C. Curet Alonso & Jerry Masucci Recording Director: Johnny Pacheco Arrangements: Bobby Valentin & Nick Jimenez Album Design: Izzy Sanabria Written by Juan Moreno Velázquez This is the album that jump started Cheo’s solo career. Tite Curet Alonso’s awesome compositions and support by an all-star cast that includes such favorites as Larry Harlow (piano), Orestes Vilato (timbales), Bobby Valentin (bass), Louie Ramirez (vibes), Ismael Quintana (maracas) and Johnny Rodriguez (bongos) among others, make this session one of Cheo’s very best. This is album is full of perennial classics such as “Anacaona”, “Pa Que Afinquen”, “Mi Triste Problema” and many more.
Not to be missed!