Que Pasa: The Best of the Fania All-Stars

Que Pasa: The Best of the Fania All-Stars

by 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,

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
Most listeners wouldn't consider this a proper best-of, despite the title, since it only includes material from the band's late-'70s stint with Columbia. Fania All-Stars' late-'70s stint with the label is usually rated as a time that saw them tone down their more ethnic and improvisational facets for a more pop-crossover reach. Generally that's true, but that doesn't mean that this record isn't generally worthwhile, though it might not be their purest brand of salsa. With three or four tracks apiece from their four 1976-1979 Columbia LPs, there are just four players who appear on all 13 songs: pianist Papo Lucca, timbalist Nicky Marrero, percussionist Robert Roena, and Pacheco on flute. There are way too many other musicians coming in and out to keep count of, some of them not from salsa backgrounds, like guitarist Steve Winwood (who played on the 1976 album Delicate and Jumpy), trumpeter Randy Brecker, and guitarist Eric Gale. Still, the main thrust is engaging salsa with some pop-friendly soul and fusion attributes that don't get too terribly slick (though at moments they get close), with major Latin singers Rubén Blades and Celia Cruz taking some vocals; "Isadora," featuring Cruz, is the highlight. At 74 minutes it's good value, too, though not the best Fania All-Stars album to start with.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/01/2008
Label:
Sbme Special Mkts.
UPC:
0886972430027
catalogNumber:
724300
Rank:
12180

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