Latin Transformations 29


and Other Things


The first part of the show features covers of pop and soul tunes and contributions from two bands that are from the Dominican Republic. Johnny Ventura and Felix del Rosario are best known as merengue artists and both were very popular during the 1980's. In the 1960's, each experimented with boogaloo and something like soul jazz; that is what their tracks are in this set. The sax, which is so characteristic of merengue, blows some great jazz on Congo Blues; it is surrounded by two very different approaches to Bobby Hebb’s hit, Sunny. The Combo Nacional instrumental version has a very interesting arrangement, while timbalero Joe Torres adopts an even more jazz interpretation and arrangement. Sunny was quite popular with latin groups after it hit and these are two of the strongest versions I know, though most versions feature a vocal. The latinized re-working of Up Up and Away is a delight, and it leads off the set.

Soul stays to the fore in set two with three more outstanding covers and a strong, more traditional track which closes the set. The Machito tack is from an all r&b and soul covers record that has a number of highlights, though the arrangements don’t sound like they were done by anyone from his band. Baby I Love You was recorded by Aretha Franklin (see Aretha Arrives) and later by Otis Rush. As always during the 1960s, the Johnny Colon tracks are deeply soulful! Though many, many recordings exist of Stand By Me, this one is just outstanding! It is too bad this album has not been re-issued.

The Latin Souls were a singing group, not a band, with a close connection to song writer and producer hopeful Bobby Marin. You’ve Been Talking About Me Baby was recorded in 1964 by singer Gale Garnett and then by recently deceased trumpeter Donald Byrd. It was later done by both Ray Terrace and the last gasps of Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1970. Written by guitarist, percussionist, band leader Ray Rivera, it is one of two famous songs he was involved with. The other one is Cuchi Frito Man, a classic, recorded many times and which has been featured in earlier Transformations shows.

The last set is bracketed by Orlando Marin recordings from his Brunswick record. Marin had been popular during the mid 1960s and this was a change in repertoire from material that was charanga based and then more mambo and jazz; the piano playing simmers quite well. Ruben Blades brings forth some very melodic pop—note the nod to As Tears Go By at the end of the recording-- and the under-rated Orquesta Dee Jay balance between something like soul influenced latin, with unusual and distinctive vocals and a more straightforward salsa approach. Both tracks are from their first (of three that I am aware of) record, which was on the short-lived MGM Latino series.

Set 1

  1. Alla En LoI Infinito (Up,Up, and Away)
    Pijuan Sextet
  2. Sunny
    Combo Nacional
  3. Congo Blues
    Johnny Ventura y Su Combo
  4. Sunny
    Joe Torres
  5. El Mani
    Felix del Rosario y Sus Magos del Ritmo
  6. Boogaloo Pa Gozar
    Johnny Ventura y Su Combo

Set 2

  1. Baby I Love You
  2. You've Been Talking About Me Baby
    The Latin Souls
  3. Stand By Me
  4. El Mensaje
    Johnny Colon

Set 3

  1. Out of My Mind
    Orlando Marin
  2. Amanecer
    Rueben Blades con la Orquesta de Pete Rodriguez
  3. Black Shadow
  4. Campesino
    Orquesta Dee Jay
  5. La Luenga
  6. Palo Monte
    Orlando Marin


Posted on March 7, 2013 .