GREATEST HITS

Chris Coyne

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GREATEST HITS



In pure musical terms, salsa would never have conquered the world without the extraordinary contribution of Bobby Valentín, the virtuoso bassist, composer, arranger and bandleader born in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, on June 9, 1941. A song may be good by itself, but it will not go very far without an appropriate arrangement and orchestration.

Following on the tradition of René Hernández, Ray Santos and Tito Puente, Valentín was the architect of the cultural movement developed in the streets of the Latin barrio and the Bronx by the diaspora of musicians from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic during the ´50s and ´60s. Bobby is one of the pillars supporting the Fania label, which was founded in 1964 by Italian American attorney Jerry Masucci. The creator, together with Johnny Pacheco and Larry Harlow, of some of the company´s first records, Valentín was quick in convincing Masucci of his credentials as an arranger and orchestrator.

Exposed to a rich musical diversity, Valentín developed a heavy sound overflowing with swing in a big band mode, bringing together the influences of the mambo, pachanga, son and jazz which he had assimilated playing with Tito Rodríguez, Willie Rosario, Charlie Palmieri and Joe Quijano. Bobby capitalized all those elements in his concert recordings with the Fania All Stars at the Cheetah and Yankee Stadium – and the repertoire of albums by Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana, Cheo Feliciano and more of the label´s artists.

As a bandleader, his career has been equally impressive. With the release of Evolution in 2008, El Rey Del Bajo demonstrated that he can still provide original and innovative arrangements after more than four decades as a bandleader. Just like the tracks on this collection compiling his greatest Fania hits, which have preserved a harmonic and conceptual freshness, even though they were recorded more than three decades ago. An opportunity to appreciate the excellence of his work as bandleader and arranger since the days when he played the trumpet and his transition to the electric bass, this collection would not be complete without the hit “Soy Boricua.” It was written by Roberto Angleró, one of the composers who wrote songs tailor made for him. Angleró´s creativity and intelligence go beyond the themes of reaffirming national identity transcending the verses performed brilliantly by Marvin Santiago, and touching the deepest fiber of nostalgia for the beloved homeland on other songs about Puerto Rican pride such as “Aquí No Me Quedo.” An artist as proud of his roots as Valentín could not ignore a composition like “Muero En Tu Tierra” by Antonio R. Vidal, expressing sympathy for his Puerto Rican land. In 1971, he used a more energetic tone, speaking against invaders on “Vete Pa´Llá,” a self-penned track which Marvin performed on the LP Rompecabezas. Even thought tracks such as “El Mensajero” and “Huracán” represent a well deserved posthumous tribute to the memory of vocalists Marcelino “Junior” Morales and Frankie Hernández, this disc includes mostly those cuts made famous by the voice of Marvin, the unforgettable Sonero del Pueblo, who imposes his mastery of the montuno with verses rich in rhyme and melody like “Papel de Payaso” and “Pirata de la Mar” by Tite Curet Alonso, another one of Valentín´s favorite composers. The bandleader´s social ideology is represented on “Pobre Soy.” His more romantic side shines on the boleros “Piénsalo Bien” and “Beso Borracho” a melody by Esteban Taronji which captures the glowing grandeur of yesteryear.

Liner Notes written by Jaime Torres Torres