In 1978, Mr. Quique Lucca and his son Papo faced the challenge of celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his Sonora Ponceña without its lead singer Luigi Texidor. Luigi, the niche santaisabelino who popularized such hits as Fuego En El 23, Acere ko, La Pobreza Y Yo, El Pío Pío and others, said goodbye to the orchestra with the LP El Gigante Del Sur, the album that marked the debut of the son singer Yolanda Rivera, ex singer of La Terrífica, in which Luigi made the hits Noche Como Boca E Lobo and Boranda stand out. Quique and Papo’s best option was to substitue Luigi, who had signed on with Bobby Valentín, with the versatile juanadino (from Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico) vocalist Humberto Tito Gómez.

Tito, another singer who collaborated with La Terrífica and together with Luigi constituted the most successful lineup in the history of la Sonora Ponceña, returned after a beneficial visit to New York, where he made his fame with Ray Barreto with the hit Guararé and the track Veneno from his first record as a soloist Para Gozar Borinquen, edited by Inca Records in 1977. Tito returned to the orchestra, which is also known as El Látigo del Sur, with a lot more fame and prestige. It is because of this that in the album “Explorando” he is the most distinguished singer, so much so that the participation of Miguelito Ortiz, another outstanding voice from the band, was limited to just a few son hits “Canto Al Amor”, with Tito and Yolanda, and to the main voice of the bolero “Te Quiero Tanto” With the launch of “Explorando” in 1978, the animosities between la Sonora and the other orchestras from La Isla Del Encanto (Puerto Rico) were evident.

Bobby Valentín became very popular with the interpretation by Luigi of the hit “Moreno Soy” by Francisco Chalina Alvarado. Mr. Quique and Papo for their part, refueled with a much hotter version of the guaguancó, the one where Tito Gómez becomes famous without having to look for help in the soneos performed in Luigi’s black humor. Furthermore, the electric organ solos by Papo Lucca and the trumpet solos by Humberto Santos Godineaux facilitate a delivery with more swing and harmony. Nevertheless, la Sonora, which in the 1970s also competed with Tommy Olivencia’s La Primerísima, could not compare with the version that Lalo Rodríguez recorded with Tommy of the bolero “No Has De Verme Llorar”, sung here by Yolandita Rivera, whose best performance on “Explorando” we find in the guanguancó “Se Formó”. This is a rumbón with touches of batá (Cuban drums) dedicated to the saints who challenged the dancers of the time through its rhythmic turns, the dynamism and the management of silence in Papo’s arrangement, who contributes a good rhythmic solo that culminates in an explosion by Little Johnny Rivero on the congas and a gripping mambo by the four fine-tuned, brilliant and powerful trumpets of Humberto, Delfín, Tony and Cuchy.

The orocoveño (from Orocovis, Puerto Rico) Ramón Rodríguez, living soul of el Conjunto Clásico, contributed to the production with the expressive composition “Sentimiento Jíbaro”, a stylish bomba and son in which Tito Gómez proclaims his pride in his Puerto Rican heritage and national identity. “Suena El Piano” is the other four star interpretation that Tito contributes to the album “Explorando”, especially due to its symbiosis with the pianist, whose solo and scats, with tones of jazz, impart more variety to the production. In 1978 la Sonora Ponceña played with excellence for the music and dance lovers of the salsa world. El Látigo del Sur continued beating with its flavor, but soon Mr. Quique and Papo would have to recruit Toñito Ledee as the definitive substitute for Tito Goméz, who a little after recording the choruses of the following LP La Orquesta De Mi Tierra, embarked on an experimental adventure with Tito Valentín that years later would lead him to Colombia, where he became one of the most applauded voices of el Grupo Niche.

Credits: Enrique “Quique” Lucca – Leader Enrique “Papo” Lucca Jr.– Piano Ramón A. Rodríguez (Tony) – Trumpet Luis R. Castro (Cuchy) – Trumpet Delfín Pérez – Trumpet Humberto Godineaux – Trumpet Ángel L . Hernández – Bongo Vicente “Johnny” Rivero – Congas Jessie Colón – Timbales Antonio Santaella – Bass Lead Singers – Yolanda Rivera, Miguel Ortiz, Tito Gómez Producer – Papo Lucca Recording Director – Enrique “Quique” Lucca Co-Producer – Quique Lucca Recorded at – La Tierra Sound Studios, Nueva York Engineer – Jon Fausty Arrangements – Papo Lucca Coordinator –Esmerelda Dering Original Album Art and Design – Ron Levine

Written by Jaime Torres Torres