Que Pasa: The Best of the Fania All-Starsby Fania All-Stars
Twenty-five years after their inception, this long-overdue best-of demands a reevaluation of the Latin music phenomenon known as the Fania All-Stars. Not to be confused with the legendary conglomeration of salsa stars that packed Yankee Stadium in 1973, '75, and '76, the Fania All-Stars on record were much more than a celebration of Latin music's traditions. Instead, the All-Stars were its future, the sound of a New York City on fire -- literally, at times -- with racial and class turmoil, a city crushed under economic crises, a city that, like Latin music, would have to reinvent itself to survive. But the soundtrack to New York in the late '70s, of which these records were a ubiquitous ingredient, was pure muscle. Even if the experimental bent of the All-Stars, led by Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Papo Lucca, Roberto Roena, and a raft of others, produced its share of tepid jazz fusion, it's hard to ignore the might of these players. Take "Ella Fue," a crossover-minded Spanglish groover with glistening guitar courtesy of Eric Gale. Even this late-'70s coke-den contender stands up straight when the montuno hits, and the mighty horn section -- including Barry Rogers, Luis "Perico" Ortiz, and Randy Brecker -- takes over. Other tracks show the All-Stars -- always conceived of as a Latin version of the Beatles, even dubbing their 1979 effort Cross Over -- hitting hard on more traditional material. "Juan Pachanga," delivered by Ruben Blades and featuring Steve Winwood, is a dance classic; "Los Bravos" is a descarga that delivers the live energy of this masters' session. But oh, the experiments. Jazz guitarist Gale is everywhere here, delivering Santana-like solos and stone-funk riffs that color these tracks a deeper shade of brown. Vibraphones splashed by Louie Ramirez counter 1,001 strings, heavily deployed -- this was the era of the SalSoul Orchestra, as well. Traps drumming pushes the clave all over the place, echoing the Cuban innovations of Changuito a decade before, largely unheard. "Que Pasa?" rides a reggae groove on the plunging, popping bass of Bobby Valentin, with a Spanglish chorus. Purists will balk at this music, as they did a quarter century ago. But the audacity of Pacheco and his cohorts is nothing less than the blueprint of a Latin pop more than a few 21st-century artists thought they were making up. Que Pasa? is worth more than a double-take.
- Release Date:
- Sbme Special Mkts.
Performance CreditsFania All-Stars Primary Artist
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