No Voy Al Festival Ismael Miranda The big apple was on fire with salsa music back in 1977. Fania Records had produced two films on the genre, Our Latin Thing and Salsa. The Fania All Stars (FAS) were breaking through global barriers performing in countries around the world from Africa to Scandinavia. Spanish-language commercial radio stations were starting to play their music while WBLS’s famed disc jockey Frankie Crocker broke several FAS hits over the urban airwaves.

Meanwhile, young singers such as Ismael Miranda were striking out on their own, experimenting with a variety of music all under the umbrella of New York’s Latin sound: salsa. A rising star, Pretty Boy Miranda, as he was also called, was familiar with the streets of the lower east side of New York where he was raised. But it was with the music of his island homeland, Puerto Rico, that he made his mark. After singing with a few local boogalu bands, Miranda got noticed after fronting Larry Harlow’s orchestra. One of the youngest members of the FAS, he was thrown into the international Latin music scene where he took like fish to water. By 1977, Fania was not only breaking new ground with the expansion of the music, they also were looking to mainstream.

Distribution deals with Columbia Records, songs that not only spoke to the street realities of poverty but of the political messages of virtue and human value were breaking through party lines, while alliances with pop, rock, romantic and big band extravaganzas were all coming to the Fania music plate. “No Voy Al Festival” is a reflection of that reality. Produced by Jorge Millet (who also had collaborated with Harlow for his distinctive style), this production has a little something for every Latin music lover’s taste. The ballad “Piensas” is in big band style with a distinct classic rock guitar flava while “A Mexico Con Amor” fuses South of the Border horn lines with Puerto Rican strains of folksy mapeye onto a swinging guaguancó dance style format. What do these two different countries have to do with each other? A lot. Puerto Ricans are not only familiar with Mexican music but also their cinema heroes, as the Mexican movie industry was the Latino version of Hollywood for most hispanos of this time. “La Puerta Esta Abierta” sounds similar to a bolero on his Este Es Ismael Miranda recording that also holds the first version of Cipriano Armenteros who returns on this CD as “Vuelve Cipriano”. What’s different on this CD is the abrupt change to a pop/rock format before going back to its smooth salsa song. “Tan Solo Cuento Con Eso” is another dance hit on this CD. Fast-paced and exciting, this tune keeps you guessing until it resolves into the call and response coro before mysteriously fading away. Although its intro mirrors that early Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz style, “Como Mi Pueblo” reflects the island’s nueva canción trend that was taking hold of its students during the 1970s. Written by Wilkins, who became popular as a singer/songwriter in his own right, the tune is tribute to the prose and poetry of Puerto Rico. In the style of a big band ballad, “Tu Me Abandonaste” features some great horn lines. With names like Ray Maldonado, Luís Perico Ortíz, Hector Bomberito Zarzuela, Barry Rogers, Leopoldo Pineda, Reinaldo Jorge and Ronnie Cuber, what more can I say? “Suavecito” and “Vuelve Cipriano” became instant dance hall hits. “Suavecito” in particular was a favorite with dancers incorporating a quirky, if not creative, spoken verse (now called rap) while “Vuelve Cipriano” was a radio hit. Having faith and patience is indeed a virtue and in “Ten Fe” Miranda gives us a great dance tune. Phenomenally arranged and produced, this song shows us that with a little faith and a lot of patience, it can be just as big a hit today as any of the current salsa smashes out now. Ignored during its time, today “No Voy Al Festival” can be heard and appreciated as the jewel is was originally created to be.

Credits: Ray Maldonado – Trumpet Luís “Perico” Ortíz – Trumpet Héctor “Bomberito” Zarzuela – Trumpet Larry Moser – Trumpet Barry Rogers – Trombone Reinaldo Jorge – Trombone Leopoldo Pineda – Trombone Rony Kuber – Baritone Sax Oscar Hernández – Piano Julio Romero – Bass Johnny Rodríguez – Bongos Nicky Marrero – Drums Frankie Rodríguez – Congas Ismael Quintana – Percussion Pablito Rosario – Percussion Jorge Millet – Keyboard Harry Viggiano – Guitar Chorus – Adalberto Santiago, Ismael Quintana, Rubén Blades Producer – Ismael Miranda Musical Director, Arranger, Conductor – Jorge Millet Recorded at La Tierra Sound Studios, New York Engineered – Jon Fausty Original Album Photography – Lee Marshall Original Album Design – Ron Levine Original Album Art Direction – Elliot Sachs

Written by Aurora Flores