“Giant Force” is the follow-up release to the critically acclaimed comeback album, Rican/Struction. While the former recording’s personnel was wide-ranging, by this recording Ray Barretto was fronting a steady working band. As per timbalero, Ralph Irizarry, by the time the band got around to recording this album it was a tight unit. More than a year had passed since the release of Rican/Struction, and due to its success the band was kept busy at home, and on the road. More importantly, it had become a steady working unit with just one lead vocalist, Ray de la Paz. Gone were the traces of the past, of individuals like Adalberto Santiago, Tito Allen and Ray Romero. Prior to the release of “Giant Force” Ray was referring to the band as the Rican/Struction band. All that changed after its release, it was then La Fuerza Gigante.

The band heard throughout this release was the actual working band during this period. The newcomers Eddie Resto, Ray Gonzalez, Dominick Aloi, Angel Fernandez, Joe de Jesus and Dale Turk quickly synchronized with Oscar Hernandez, Ralph Irizarry, Luis Gonzalez, Jose Jerez and Ray de la Paz. Barretto was back on top forging ahead, and breaking new ground with a cast of young warriors that were willing and eager to evolve and take the music in a different direction. This ensemble would come to be one of Ray’s favorite bands, second only to his band that featured Orestes Vilato, John Dandy Rodriguez, Roberto Rodriguez, Luis Cruz, Andy Gonzalez and Adalberto Santiago.

The arrangements here are penned by Gil Lopez, Luis Cruz, Oscar Hernandez, Joe Manozzi and Carlos Franzetti. While most listeners are familiar with the work of Lopez (“Arallue”), Cruz (“Guarapo Y Melcocha”) and Hernandez (“Tu Propio Dolor”), an arrangement that stands out on this recording is that of Carlos Franzetti’s on the Susana Rinaldi classic tango, “Los Mareados”. His orchestration on this tune manages to bring a fuller sound to the ensemble. He quotes from Edgar and Jerome Froese’s Pictures at an Exhibition, as well from John Lewis’ Django. In one piece he accomplishes the Herculean task of fusing Classical, Jazz and Argentinean Tango on just one tune.

Two musicians whose work on this recording stands out are Ray de la Paz and Ralph Irizarry. Ray de la Paz’s tour de force performance throughout the production would herald the arrival of a voice to be reckoned with. De la Paz got his start as a vocalist with El Conjunto de Don Juan, a local New York City band. In 1972 he recorded for the first time with Chino y su Conjunto Melao. It was during his tenure with Conjunto Melao that Barretto first spotted de la Paz and offered him an opportunity to record on Barretto Live. By the time ”Giant Force” was released de la Paz had already recorded twice with Barretto (Barretto Live and Rican/Struction), but by this release he was the only featured vocalists. After “Giant Force” de la Paz would record Rhythm of Life with Barretto, and then, along with Louie Ramirez, Jose Alberto El Canario and Piro Allen, (brother of Barretto alumni, Tito Allen) de la Paz would record the groundbreaking K-Tel production, Noche Caliente, which would usher in the ‘salsa romantica’ era.

Ralph Irizarry, who was recruited by Barretto while playing a gig with Orquesta Novedades at the New York City nightclub, El Corso, would turn out to be one of Barretto’s all-time favorite timbaleros. At Barretto’s request, Irizarry reluctantly began to add a bass drum, tom-toms, snares and extra cymbals to his timbal setup. This afforded the band’s percussion section to expand its sound. Irizarry, along with Oscar Hernandez, would eventually leave the band much to Barretto’s dismay to establish Seis del Solar, Ruben Blades critically acclaimed group.

“Giant Force” is truly a Barretto classic in every sense of the word, and one that will stand the test of time. I’m sure that once you revisit this re-mastered edition you’ll agree.

Ray González – Trumpet
Dominik Aloi – Trumpet
José Jerez – Trumpet
Angel Fernández – Trumpet
Joe De Jesús – Trombone
Dale Turk – Trombone
Oscar Hernández – Piano
Eddie Resto – Bass
Ralph Irrizary – Timbal
Luis González – Bongo
Ray Barretto – Conga
Eddie Temporal – Maracas

Vocals – Ray de la Paz, Eddie Temporal
Coro – Rafael de Jesus, Eddie Temporal, Luis Gonzalez, Ray de la Paz

Producer – Ray Barretto
Executive Producer – Jerry Masucci
Arrangements – Oscar Hernández (“Tu Propio Dolor”, “Tus Mentiras”), Gil Lopez (“Arallue”, “Pura Novela”, “Fuerza Gigante”), Joe Mennozy (“Aguardiente de Caña”), Carlos Franzetti (“Los Mareados”), Luis Cruz (“Guarapo y Melcocha”)
Art Director – Tony Greene
Original Album Photography – Lee Marshall
Original Album Cover Design – Ron Levine

Written by George Rivera