Known sarcastically as “the King of Punctuality,” for his innate inability to arrive to his shows on time, the Puerto Rican’s affable nature earned him the adoration of music lovers, who crammed into performance halls throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
I heard LaVoe tell his public many times, after arriving late to one of his own shows, “I’m not late – you’re all early.” Never once was I surprised to see the demanding salsa public continue to laugh at his antics, time and time again, and go on as though nothing had happened. Although the young LaVoe sang with many orchestras after arriving in New York, his career truly took off when he began singing with Willie Colón, known back then as “El Malo.” The youngsters took on the role of musical gangsters, and with their clothing and charismatic performances, were able to gain enormous popularity throughout the Spanish-speaking world. They were the “bad boys” of salsa, and undoubtedly unique, accompanied by an orchestra of the highest quality, including musicians such as Milton Cordona and “Professor” Joe Torres.
After huge successes like “Che Che Colé,” “Barrunto,” “Todo tiene su final,” “Abuelita,” “Ausencia,” “Calle Luna, Calle Sol,” “Lola,” and many others, Willie Colón knew that musically, he and Héctor LaVoe had nothing left to prove. The young stars’ immediate success and the challenges that a life of stardom presented led Colón to contemplate new musical avenues. These did not include Héctor LaVoe. Suddenly, and for the very first time, Héctor was faced with the task of proving himself as an artist in his own right and with his own orchestra. LaVoe wasn’t too sure about this new stage of his career.
These new responsibilities – being in charge of personnel and leading his own musical group– were unfamiliar to him. For a fun-loving, inveterate party-goer like Héctor, this new role made him anxious. However, his friend Willie Colón had not abandoned him. Colón remained at LaVoe’s side throughout the production of his new album, facilitating the difficult transition for the singer. The resulting album became an undisputed salsa classic. On the album, Héctor LaVoe demonstrates his talent not only for Afro-Caribbean rhythms, but for bolero themes, with his rendition of “De ti depende,” penned by the well-loved boricua composer Miguel Angel Amadeo, based in the Bronx, New York. It is also the title track of the extended album. Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso’s number, “Periódico de ayer,” a well known classic that is still famous today, became a widespread success, making radio play lists across the world and becoming a favorite of the salsa genre. “Vamos a reír un poco,” by Perucho Torcat, gave LaVoe the opportunity to showcase his talents as a first-rate sonero.
This number has been celebrated by salsa musicians past and present, and will certainly continue to be a favorite among future salsa generations. In “Hacha y machete,” LaVoe addresses his relationship with Willie Colón, singing, “lo nuestro no fue un golpe de suerte, somos hacha y machete, y esa es la verdad.” LaVoe acknowledges in the song that the stage of his career alongside his good friend had reached its end, but recognizes that their partnership was unique in the musical world. “Hacha y machete” was, without a doubt, Héctor and Willie. The guaracha number “Mentira” rounds out the index of hits from this album. The rights to this Cuban song were held exclusively by the Fania label, as was the custom of those times, and brings a fabulous sound to the performance by “The Singer of All Singers.” “Consejo de oro,” by Arquimedes Arcidiacono, and “Tanto como ayer,” “Derechos reservados,” and “Felices horas” by Luis A. Pérez, finish up this extended album.
In “De ti depende,” the Singer of All Singers, Héctor LaVoe, demonstrates for the first time his ability to step out as the leader of his own orchestra, seizing the moment in order to establish his position as the favorite among all Fania soneros. The album you now hold in your hands caused a sensation in 1976. All these years later, it will still bring you back to the thrill of that historical moment, proving that the classic can survive the musical whims of any era. Fabulous then, fabulous now. Enjoy.
Personnel: Hector Lavoe – Lead Vocals & Maracas Jose Mangual Jr. – Bongos, Percussion & Chorus Milton Cardona – Conga, Percussion & Chorus Joe “Professor” Torres – Piano Angel “Papo” Vazquez – Trombone Ray Feliciano – Trumpet Santi “Choflomo” Gonzalez – Bass Yomo Toro – Tres Guitar Willie Colon – Chorus Ruben Blades – Chorus Arrangements by: Willie Colon – Vamos A Reir Un Poco, Periodico De Ayer & Mentira Louie Ramirez – Consejo de Oro Louis “Perico” Ortiz – Tanto Como Ayer & Felices Horas Jose Febles – De Ti Depende Edwin Rodriguez – Hacha Y Machete Recorded at Bell Sound Studios Engineered by: Jon Fausty Original Cover & Liner Photos by: Lee Marshall Original Album Design by: Ron Levine Produced by: Willie Colon Executive Producer: Jerry Masucci
Written by Juan Moreno Velázquez