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Ray Barretto's Latin/soul crossover record of 1968, Acid includes a few tracks of his ebullient, instrumental salsa, but also plays off the boogaloo craze of the past few years with a few Latin soul numbers. The crossovers "A Deeper Shade of Soul," "Soul Drummers," and "Teacher of Love" (all written by Barretto himself) are a lot of fun, but the (relatively) straight-ahead salsa of "El Nuevo Barretto" and the title track easily edge out the competition. It's nowhere near as psychedelic as the title would indicate, but Acid holds up nevertheless as a great document of the late-'60s confluence of Latin, funk, and soul.

Willie Colon & Ruben Blades

Metiendo Mano!

Any Willie Colón fan who couldn't understand why Colón and Hector Lavoe would want to go their separate ways must have been reassured by the recruitment of Rubén Blades to take his place in 1977. (Surely, no one could argue with the results of 1975's The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, which featured all three figures on one of the best LPs that any of them ever recorded, together or apart.) But Blades certainly wasn't a double for Lavoe; in fact, their styles were completely different. Lavoe was a spark plug of a sonero who could motivate the oldest abuela to get up and dance. Blades, while he may have had the ability to sound like a romantic crooner, only hit with a punch when he wanted to, instead pushing to the front his lyrical concerns with the underclass through a variety of storytelling modes (an interest he shared with Colón himself). There aren't any standout tracks like both its predecessor (The Good, the Bad, the Ugly) and successor (Siembra), but Metiendo Mano! was a worthy introduction to the two recording as twin leads.

It's certainly an adventurous record. Colón kept only three arranging assignments for himself, which makes it sound less like a Willie Colón record (and is probably why it's remembered slightly less fondly than its bookends). Luis Ortiz's two excellent charts included one that sounded a much different note than Colón (the opener "Pablo Pueblo") as well as another that sounded as though Colón were writing it himself ("La Maleta"). Colón bolstered his strong brass lineup with additional power (including a tuba solo on the opener), and the lineup is a powerhouse (including frequent collaborator Yomo Toro on two tracks). Meanwhile, Blades proved his range, moving from raging first-person narratives to pastoral boleros -- with no lack of passion on each -- and although Colón is heard less here than on his previous classics, his lieutenants proved the confidence he had in them.

Willie Colon & Ruben Blades


The high point of Willie Colón's ongoing collaboration with Rubén Blades (and close to a career peak for both artists), Siembra exploded on the salsa scene in 1978 and has never been forgotten by fans. Beginning with a minute of playfully deceptive quasi-disco arrangements, Colón and his band slip into a devastating salsa groove for the opener, "Plástico," on which Blades first criticizes America's throwaway society and then brings all of Latin America together with a call to unity. Blades wrote all but one of the songs on "Siembra", and shines on all of them; his extended high-tenor salsa scatting lifts "Buscando Guayaba," his tender side comes across on the love song "Dime," and he outlines a devastating life-in-el-Barrio exposé with "Pedro Navaja" (Peter the Knife). For the latter, Colón and Luis Ortiz's tight arrangement adds immeasurably to the song, using street noise and sirens, breaking into an ironic "I like to live in America!," and punching the statement home with a four-trombone line. Reflecting the tough times but optimistic attitude of el Barrio during the late '70s, Siembra joined Cosa Nuestra as one of Willie Colón's career landmarks.

A brilliant Latin-soul / boogaloo album from Joe Bataan, and the biggest selling Latin LP of 1968, so it obviously needs checking out. There are some real winners here, including "It's A Good Feeling (Riot)", "What Good is A Castle" and the classic "Ordinary Guy".


LP Info: US import reissue with authentic replica artwork.

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