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Preview: Sun of Latin Music

Sun of Latin Music

A comer pasteles, a comer lechon, arroz con gandules y a beber ron

Updated: 2017-11-04T06:48:49.553-04:00


Los Dementes - El Tiempo Pasa, Pero Mi Salsa Llego (Palacio)


This post has been a long time coming. It's time, at last, to dip into the forgotten origins of salsa outside of the United States.Some of you may remember my comments about the origins of salsa in my El Cantante review, what one commenter called a "non-centrist" view of salsa. It is indeed a fact that salsa was not just a Nu-York creation. In the late 60s, many Latin American communities were collaborating in a world-wide vision of salsa that, despite being just as fresh and innovative as Nuyorican salsa, would be hidden behind the Fania logo. This is not to say that Nuyorican salsa was inadequate, or subpar (after all, I did a massive upload of the Hector Lavoe & Willie Colon discography); I'm simply pointing out that the American account of salsa is a biased one. In the process, we, the fans of Latin music, have missed out on some incredible music. Today's post is a small attempt to change that.Enter Venezuela, circa 1966. For years, radio waves from as far away as Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico have been criss-crossing the streets of Caracas, planting rebellious seeds of Latin music into the minds of its youth. Among them: Federico Betancourt, Olinto Medina, Oscar Simoza, and Ramon Rivas. You might know them better by the names of their bands: Federico y su Combo Latino, Sexteto Juventud, Oscar D'Leon, and today's featured artist, pianist Ray Perez.These are just some of the creative minds who would establish a flourishing salsa scene that was just as hard-hitting and unprecedented as anything that the streets of New York were putting out. Influenced by the aguinaldos of Venezuela, the seis of Puerto Rico, and the music of Mon Rivera, Ray Perez would begin his salsa career (though it was not called salsa then) in 1965 with Ray Perez y su Charanga, an early incarnation of the band featured today, Los Dementes (the crazy men). Ray, nicknamed "El Loco" (the crazy man), originally wanted to title the band Los Dementes, but such a name would have sparked a riot in those days. Rather than let his band name set people off, he did it with his music. With a peerless melding of folk traditions and new experimentation, Perez began writing some of Venezuela's most furious music, an incendiary brand of salsa with heavy trombones as its centerpiece. The first Los Dementes album was released in 1966 (Ray Perez claims the year as 1966; other accounts claim the year as 1967).By now, you might be noticing the glaring similarities between Ray Perez and Willie Colon's respective forgings of salsa. Both were influenced by Mon Rivera; both were raised on the folk forms of their culture; both would incorporate this into their music while attempting a new, groundbreaking sound; both were recognized in rebellious ways (Colon had a reputation for being a tough kid, presumably informing his gangster marketing image for Fania; Ray Perez was dubbed El Loco for coming up with new things); both created a music that was culled from their streets (as Ray Perez put it, the barrios of Caracas are "like Brooklyn, or the Bronx."); and both released their first albums at about the same time. This is not to say that Perez and Colon are similar people, or that Nuyorican salsa and Venezuelan salsa are the same--the two movements are distinct and have their own legacy, and I cannot even pretend to know the nuances of each. But they share a trope that is central to much of the music that history remembers best: they dared to try something truly new.And yet, history hasn't recognized Ray's accomplishments as well as they have Colon's. Los Dementes would become a tour de force in Venezuela and abroad, earning Ray fame in Mexico and even Italy. A driven artist, he would also form myriad bands such as Los Calvos and Los Kenya. At clubs around Venezuela, he would share the honor of alternating the stage with greats such as Eddie Palmieri, Joe Cuba, Pete Rodriguez, and Ray Barretto. Barretto once joked to Perez, then called Ramon, that the era of the kings was coming to an end (the Spanish word for king is rey, which is pronounced the same [...]

Orquesta La Terrifica - Terrifica (International, 1974)


(image) Ready for more salsa brava in the vein of Orquesta Guarare? Get your hair did for dancing, because this album is hot.

Much like the rather confusing Ray Barretto split that gave rise to Orquesta Guarare, Orquesta La Terrifica splintered off from Sonora Poncena in 1973, one of the most famous groups to ever come out of Puerto Rico. When I say that La Terrifica sounds like Guarare, there's good reason: La Terrifica's early albums featured vocalist Tito Gomez, who sang for Orquesta Guarare and Ray Barretto and just recently passed away. The members defected with leader and Sonora Poncena trumpeter Jose Rodriguez; other members included Mikey Ortiz (timbales), Francisco Alvarado (bongos), and Tito Valentin (arrangements). Later veterans of La Terrifica would include famous arranger Jorge Millet (piano), Hector "Pichie" Perez (vocals), Yolanda Rivera (vocals), Manuel "Mannix" Martinez (vocals), and Hector Tricoche (vocals). I haven't been able to confirm this, but according to this site, Hector Lavoe himself helped out on coro during live shows in 1974, alongside vocalists Yayo and Adalberto Santiago.

Despite never being as popular as Sonora Poncena, La Terrifica put out some of the best salsa of their era and, thankfully, their devoted fans haven't forgotten them. A number of Orquesta La Terrifica albums have been reissued over the past few years (most famously, their self-titled was re-released in 2002, sporting their biggest Jorge Millet hit, Pura). To my knowledge, Terrifica, their first album, has never been re-issued.

From the first taste of Jose Rodriguez's horn lines on Acere Trumbero, you know you're in salsa heaven. The penchant for hard-edged salsa on Terrifica overshadows their former (and slightly more complex) Sonora Poncena sound. Tito Gomez and his coro do an excellent job here on cuts such as Hachero Mayor and the gorgeous bolero No Te Vayas Juventud, a poignant lament that finds Gomez begging his personified youth to "stay just a little longer." And for all of you from Ponce, PR, prepare to reminisce about la famosa Guancha with the fourth cut. Other tracks like Comedia and Vicente Camaron keep it upbeat, and Biribo is an incredible closer and my favorite on the album.

Solid from start to end! Enjoy!

Note: Divshare has been experiencing random outages, so if the link below doesn't work, try again a little later.

Monguito - Escuchame (Fania, 1971)


The Cuban-born sonero Monguito is an often overlooked treasure in the extensive Fania catalog. Sporting one of the most recognizable voices in all of Latin music, Monguito aka Ramon Quian aka "El Unico" (The Unique One/The Only One, as he is nicknamed) sounds somewhat like the musical result of pinching Ismael Rivera's nose shut with a clothespin. It's not exactly the most flattering description, but not one meant to imply that Monguito is ever annoying. On the contrary, Monguito's voice is surprisingly satisfying. Much like Rivera, he embodies an earthy, pragmatic aesthetic in the tradition of the son montuno, forged in the streets of Cuba. Monguito also shows an excellent pedigree. His voice and acclaimed improvisational skills first appeared on Arsenio Rodriguez's Primitivo in 1963; he would go on to sing in the bands of Johnny Pacheco, Larry Harlow, and the Tico All-Stars, in addition to producing a string of solid cuts on the Fania label.

If you're at all in doubt as to the power of Monguito's voice, check out Lindo Guaguanco, a hot tune that finds a brazen Monguito playfully wondering if anyone can sing a guaguanco better than him. Monguito's voice is also surprisingly flexible and is easily at home on boleros such as El Ano 2000. You'll also find slight hints of charanga on No Hay Amor Sin Caridad, in addition to Monguito's humorous pontificating on the fairer sex on Las Mujeres (Women). Escuchame is an excellent melding of the street wisdom of son montuno with tinges of the polished Fania sound.

Get it here

More info on Monguito courtesy of the fine folks over at Descarga here.

"Hector Lavoe, tu es eterno"


Still working on the next music update, but I wanted to hip you all to a couple of aftershocks in the world of El Cantante.Willie Colon himself has had a few words to say about the film. Taken from his official website (and much thanks to La Onda Tropical for spreading the word):The Creators of El Cantante missed an opportunity to do something of relevance for our community. The real story was about Hector fighting the obstacles of a non-supportive industry that took advantage of entertainers with his charisma and talent. Instead they did another movie about two Puerto Rican junkies. The impact of drugs in the entertainment industry is nothing new; look at Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Whitney Houston today. I think Hector deserves the recognition the movie pretended to give him. However, as someone who advised the producers, it's painfully obvious that they didn't understand what made him so important. It was the music. It was his talent. They didn't understand or respect the true importance of our music to people around the world. It's difficult to comprehend how two individuals who are in the music business like Marc and Jennifer are not aware of the damage and the consequences of promoting only the negative side of our Latin music culture. I was disappointed that there wasn't a minimal effort to correct what I felt were serious chronological and factual errors. This tells me that they expeditiously crafted the simplest cliché script in order to just make a film quickly. After the premier of El Cantante in Puerto Rico there were several statements of protest by people who had supported and participated in the project until they saw it. Their complaints were not about sour grapes or J-lo and Marc bashing but from a sense of betrayal and disappointment. We are all invested in the world that this movie represents. For many of us the hope of our story finally being told sank into the horizon with the final version of this film. --Willie ColónIsmael Miranda and Jennifer Lopez have had their say as well....and so have other fellow bloggers.Though certainly authoritative, these voices are but a few of many being heard after the film's review, and I'd like to remind everyone who reads this that there have been numerous reactions to El Cantante beyond simple film criticism (including my own). Some, like Colon, consider it a scar on the history of Latin music in the United States; others consider it a worthy testament to a cultural and historical period that deserves attention. At the risk of implicating myself in what seems to be a rather heated debate (admittedly one that I really have no kind of authority to speak about), I would like to make an observation. While I was cobbling the Lavoe discography together, I spent a lot amount of time revisiting the Lavoe I heard growing up as a child, and eagerly discovering the many corners of his discography that I'd never heard before. Even as I write this, the string ruminations and trumpet's herald of the epic El Cantante blares in my ears. Perhaps you, too, decided to throw on an old Colon/Lavoe record that you haven't spun for a while; or, if the music of salsa was new to you, you found your hips moving in ways never before attempted, your head nodding to the soul of la clave. Through all of this, our ears have heard a lot of mudslinging, but we've also heard something much more enduring and sublime that withstands the debates and cultural politics. Seriously guys, this is timeless music, and it's my opinion as the "lowest" among all critics--a fan--that there is no better way to hear the story of Hector Lavoe than how [...]

Still alive, and now a Metro-Rican


Hey guys, sorry for the dearth of posts in here, I've been busy moving and adjusting to a new place and school. I now call Washington, D.C. my home, and I'm reaping the benefits of living in a (bigger) city. Case in point: this weekend, I'm seeing Willie Colon AND Eddie Palmieri, so stay tuned for pictures and reviews.

And don't think that the music has disappeared. I've spent much of the past month listening to a lot of new and excellent stuff, and I'm certainly going to pass it on to all of you. That being said, I have a much busier schedule now, which means a few changes to this blog are forthcoming. I've always tried to make this blog more than just a mere depository for mp3s by adding background information, anecdotes, and opinions, hoping to bring the music to life for novice and veteran listeners alike. However, this requires a lot of time and research (a single album post can take 2-3 hours), and I just don't have that kind of time anymore. Letting this blog bite the dust, however, is even less of an option.

This means that I can either 1) make my posts more sparse, but with the same quality of information and depth as my past posts, or I can 2) make more frequent posts but with little to no embellishment. Granted, I haven't been so hot with updating regularly as of late, but during the summer I was posting almost every day, or if not, every other day. I'm not sure whether or not I'll go with the more frequent, less quality posts or the less frequent, more quality posts, but if you guys have any preference, speak up. My decision will definitely hinge on what it is you guys appreciate (or don't appreciate) about this blog.

Regardless, stay tuned for music. The Sun of Latin Music lives!

Tempo 70 - El Primer LP (Mericana, 1972)


After all of the Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, and Fania, I feel it's time to head out of mainstream Latin into the used record bins for another rare treat, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.Tempo 70 is the brainchild of Argentinean pianist Bebu Silvetti, who in the early 70s relocated to Puerto Rico and put together the band featured today. Over the course of his life, he played everything from son montuno and guaguanco to Latin jazz to disco. In fact, he is most well known for his 1976 disco hit Spring Rain. Four years prior, however, Silvetti's Tempo 70 would experiment with Latin soul ballads, guaguanco, and a notoriously funky, though relatively unknown, hit on El Primer LP.IMPORTANT: (Edited August 19) The information above has been disputed. A while ago a person claiming to be Silvia Silvetti, daughter of Bebu Silvetti, commented on this post saying that Bebu never lived in Puerto Rico and was never involved with Tempo 70. I attempted to contact this person via their email,, and received an automated message saying that the email does not exist. About a week later, I received an email and more comments from that email address, with the message containing the following: "I'm not disputing that those songs are my father's, I was disputing the information that he NEVER lived in Puerto Rico and was not aware of that album. I know many albums were published without his knowledge." Previously, I claimed that this person was a fake internet identity. After being contacted again, I will admit that I am still skeptical as to the whether or not this person is legitimate after they emailed me, as a hotmail address can easily be created, and none of the things being said by this person are verifiable. That being said, it is certainly possible that Bebu wrote El Galleton and it was published/covered/stolen by another band without his permission. It is equally possible that it was otherwise. The person claiming to be Ms. Silvetti has their story; what follows is the evidence that supports another story. I cannot claim that either is right, I can only post it to keep everyone informed of the differing accounts. As always, I attempt to post as accurate information as possible, and in the event that the commenter actually is Sylvia Silvetti, then I would like to thank her for reading my blog and contributing to the information posted here.What follows is the evidence supporting the Bebu Silvetti and Tempo 70 link: the picture below of the El Galleton single clearly displays Bebu's name, and I have a number of web sources claiming the involvement of Bebu Silvetti with Tempo 70:, furthermore, El Galleton was recently featured on a compilation entitled Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City, and that compilation credits Silvetti as the man behind the song. A number of websites document this:,,227993,00.html|SILVETTI&sql=11:dpfpxqrgldke~T4 If anyone has more information about this, feel free to contact me. Continue reading for the rest of the review.To be fair: I am not a huge fan of El Primer LP as a whole album (read on before you write it off, though). The first time I threw it on I was greeted with an absolutely horrible bolero (ballad), and there is a somewhat unspoken code in Latin music that if an album kicks off with a bolero, you'd either better be on your guard or 70 years old. To some extent, the sagely advice proves correct: about half of the album is p[...]

El Cantante (2007) Review


With all the fuss I've raised over El Cantante (including uploading the entire Hector Lavoe discography), you can bet I was there opening day to revel in the glory of seeing Hector Lavoe's life adapted to the big screen. So what did I think? A very haphazardly put together review follows. If you don't want spoilers, or just can't stomach strong opinion, then don't read it!In short: what a terrible disappointment.It's almost difficult to know where I should begin, but I would like to get one thing straight. I want everyone who reads this blog to know that, contrary to what the film implies and a number of people are saying, Hector Lavoe did NOT create salsa music. The line in the film where Johnny Pacheco (played by Nelson Vazquez) painfully delivers lines claiming that Lavoe & Colon mixed "mambo, merengue, jazz" into a "sauce like gumbo" and dubbed it salsa is outright false, and a gross mistake on the part of everyone involved in the making of the film. Though certainly instrumental in popularizing it, Lavoe was one of numerous poster children for the music at the height of its popularity, not its creator. The origins of salsa as a music are heavily disputed. Its earliest use dates as far back as the 1920s with the Cuban son of Ignacio Pineiro, and artists such as the Venezuelan Federico y Su Combo, the Puerto Ricans Charlie Palmieri, Pupi Legarreta, and Joe Cuba all released album utilizing the word salsa long before Colon and Lavoe began their career with 1967's El Malo. In truth, salsa is a Latin hybrid drawing from the musical traditions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and a host of other Latin countries. Cuba, Panama, Colombia and many more all had thriving salsa scenes that rivaled that of Fania, but simply did not have a place in American consciousness to lay claim to salsa music. So, for us over here in the states, whether gringo or even Nuyorican, salsa may seem to have been born in this country, but it was not. To say that Hector Lavoe or even Willie Colon and the Fania label were the architects behind this music would be as erroneous as claiming that Miles Davis invented jazz, or that Led Zeppelin invented rock n' roll. It's simply not true. A useful distinction that I make is in referring to the Fania scene as Nuyorican salsa, rather than simply salsa. This acknowledges that, in its tenure in New York City, salsa took on a new sound with refined instrumentation and production values that made it distinct from other forms of salsa. But the only and original form of salsa it is not.A few other inaccuracies plagued the movie as well. Some question whether or not Puchi (Hector's wife played by Jennifer Lopez) was as important in Hector's life as El Cantante claims it to be. Furthermore, not only was the reference to the origins of the hit song El Cantante unconvincing, but the story is, by many accounts, false. The movie portrays Ruben Blades taking the stage with an acoustic guitar, and giving Hector, who is in the audience, as a gift, a new song that he had written. Considering that Blades ranks as one of the best singers in all of Latin music, it's rather unfortunate that the actor playing him could barely carry a true note. Moreover, the actual story of the song was one of enormous tension. Blades originally wanted to record the song himself, and some accounts say that Colon convinced him to reluctantly give it to Lavoe. Though afterwards Blades acknowledged that Lavoe did a better job with the song than he ever could have, the real-life account is still one of dispute, rather than that of the film in which a wide-eyed, naive Blades dedicates a song to a man whom he claims a childhood hero (which, in some ways, does not make chronological sense).Having seen director Leon Ichaso's previous biopic Pinero, and being sorely disappointed at the hectic and overwrought cinematography and schizophrenic pacing in that movie, I should have anti[...]

The Hector Lavoe Discography


4/30/2008: IMPORTANT MESSAGE: I've noticed some people are still downloading these Lavoe albums, which is more than fine by me. But, there are a number of comments of people asking me to reupload the albums. 1) The problem isn't that the links are down, but that Divshare sets a monthly downloading limit of 50gb. Once, this limit is reached, no more downloads can happen until it resets at the end of the month. I don't have time to move the albums over to another host, so there's not much I can do about it. Generally, the downloads reset the 5th of every month. Just be patient, and also be considerate: if you're just downloading Lavoe albums to let them gather dust, then consider tapering your downloads to let some other people get a chance.2) It's come to my attention that the Day 4 albums are actually down. I'll try to get these up when I get a chance.Enjoy!No doubt many of you have heard about the biopic El Cantante, a film about the life of the legendary Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe, starring Marc Anthony as the man himself and Jennifer Lopez as his wife Puchi aka Nilda Rosado. Directed by Leon Ichaso (who is no stranger to biographical films about controversial Puerto Rican artists, such as Miguel Pinero), the film is, I am very proud to say, a creation of the Latino community, as much of a Latin thing as the music it will no doubt feature. Trailer below.Admittedly, I don't expect much from a big-budget film starring Anthony or Lopez. It's simply not my taste. However, the fact that a film is being made about an icon who is virtually unknown outside of Latino communities is astounding. Ask yourself: how many people walking down the street have ever heard of Hector Lavoe? Very few. While I would like to see the life of Hector Lavoe receive a more astute perspective with more artistic integrity, I am still happy to see even the Hollywood giants turning their heads and nodding to Puerto Rican culture. I remember being in Puerto Rico right after the "Puerto Rican invasion" of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, etc., and hearing the same consensus: it may not be the best, but Puerto Rico is a rich culture and something to be proud of, so the exposure counts for something. That being said, El Cantate has garnered my support, and you can be sure I'll be in theaters on opening day, August 3.In anticipation of the Hector Lavoe fad that will no doubt precipitate in the wake of El Cantante, I present to you all, in a series of posts, the entire accessible Hector Lavoe discography. While Lavoe did earlier work with artists such as the Kako All-Stars and Johnny Pacheco, I will begin with his tenure as the singer of Willie Colon's band in 1967, his first real break and the most appropriate departure point for contextualizing Hector Lavoe as he will be seen in El Cantante. Inevitably, this means that these posts will be, in part, a sampling of the Willie Colon discography as well. Posts will be chronological, and at least one installment will be uploaded per day as edits to this same post. Because Hector Lavoe is one of the more well known Latin artists I've featured on my blog and information about him is readily available, I'll be keeping biographical information to a minimum. By August 3, the entire discography will be posted. Be sure to check back often.Day 1:Willie Colon - El Malo (Fania, 1967)Hector Lavoe was introduced to Willie Colon by the latter's Fania labelmate Johnny Pacheco. Because Pacheco already had a singer in Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, he urged Willie Colon to give Hector Lavoe a shot. The result was the humble beginning of one of the greatest salsa duos in history. On El Malo, Colon & Lavoe still hold on to the boogaloo and Latin soul sound so popular at the time, though you can hear hints of their later salsa style breaking through. A great album, and even more astounding when you consid[...]

The Latin Show (July 22, 2007) playlist


Here's the playlist for those who missed my show this past Sunday:

1. Monguito - Lindo Guaguanco
2. George Guzman - Cacumen
3. Vitin Aviles - Sufre
4. Tito Rodriguez y Su Orquesta - Payaso
5. Jack Constanzo & His Afro-Cuban Band - Melado de Cana
6. La Playa Sextet - Salta Perico
7. Trio Lissbet - Black Tears
8. Los Pleneros De La 21 - Traigo un Coco
9. Orquesta Revolucion '70 - Llego La Revolucion
10. Adalberto Santiago - Fuego y Candela
11. Tony Pabon y La Protesta - Madre
12. Orquesta Guarare - Que Linda Te Ves

Much thanks to Meshes of the Afternoon, Revolucion, No?, and Pepanito for each contributing a track to my playlist through their own fantastic blogs.

Some have asked whether or not I archive my shows. Unfortunately, I can't distribute my show as it puts WCBN, as opposed to just myself, at legal risk, and I love WCBN far too much to walk that line. The good news is that most of these songs will be featured in future uploads, so you'll hear it all eventually!

And, if you missed this show, I am hosting the Latin Show again this upcoming Sunday on July 29th. Tune in, as I'll be doing a small tribute to Hector Lavoe to celebrate the release of the biographical film El Cantante. You can listen online here.

On that last note, I don't want to give the surprise away, but check back very soon, you won't be disappointed. That's all I'll say for now.....



Just a reminder to all of you Latin fans that I'll be hosting the Latin Show tomorrow (Sunday, July 22) from 1-2pm, Eastern time. You can listen online at WCBN FM as I spin the best in salsa, guaganco, and boogaloo, and much more from the rarest gems to the hottest classics. Tune in!

Conjunto Canayon - Colection Series, Vol. 1 (Kanayon, 1998)


More Conjunto Canayon!! For my first Conjunto Canayon upload, A Las Millas, go here.

Not too much to say here. In 1998 the members of the defunct Conjunto Canayon got together and created their own label, simply titled Kanayon Records, and released this retrospective of their work, now out of print. You'll find cuts from A Las Millas, Criollo y Mas, and presumably Folkloriko Tropical, though I've never seen the tracklisting for the latter. Much of the stuff on here is standard Conjunto Canayon fare, which is to say that it's absolutely incredible son/salsa/cumbia with hints of jibaro (Puerto Rican folk music) mixed in. I would like to draw attention to the last cut, Tropical Jungle, another one of the Canayon jazz jams with a smooth groove and some really nice flute and horn lines, also a regular on my Latin Show.

Fans of my A Las Millas upload will love this rare glimpse into Canayon's other material. Enjoy!

Conjunto Canayon - A Las Millas (TH, 1981)


As promised, my personal favorite Latin music album. Ever.Yea, it's a lousy cover. You wanna fight about it? Click to see album detailsWho is Conjunto Canayon? I wish that I could tell you. There's very little information about this band outside of their discography, which itself seems incomplete. What I can tell you is that Canayon (sometimes spelled as Canallon or Kanayon, making information even harder to come by) is a Puerto Rican band led by timbalero Cano Robles. They recorded in the early 80s, during a time when the wave of 70s salsa was diminishing and succumbing to the glossy, overproduced sounds of the decade. Consider a case-in-point. During this time Ruben Blades would record Escenas, featuring the song Sorpresas, the "sequel" to one of his greatest songs on one of the great Latin records of all time: Pedro Navaja, found on Blades's collaboration with Willie Colon, Siembra. While lyrically astute, the energy of the new Seis de Solar band wasn't there, perhaps muddled by the electronic drum kits and synthesizers. It was, in my humble and perhaps very biased opinion, salsa without its musical soul. The fact that such a important legacy in Latin music could not be aptly carried on, for me, perfectly summarizes the state that Latin music would find itself in by the mid-80s. (This is only my opinion....many disagree, and I encourage you to decide for yourself, as Escenas is still in print)But if there's anything I've learned from my lifelong affair with music, it's that any generalization about a genre or time period in music always carries exceptions. I offer up one of those exceptions today.A Las Millas, euphemistically translated as "going fast" or "at lightspeed," was recorded in 1981 and released on the Puerto Rican Top Hits label. To my knowledge, this is the band's first album. They would record Criollo y Mas in 1982, and another album, perhaps their most obscure, Folkloriko Tropical, was recorded at a date unknown to me. In 1998, a "best of" of their material, entitled Colecion Series Vol. 1, was issued on a record label created by the Conjunto Canayon members, simply entitled Kanayon Records. It has since become out of print. There may very well be more installments in the Canayon discography that I am not aware of.It's truly astounding that Conjunto Canayon has gone virtually unheard. Their music fused salsa, cumbia, and descarga while retaining a truly original sound unlike any other artist I've heard. Furthermore, they were incredibly innovative, giving even the great Ray Barretto a run for his money by employing complex rhythms, stop-start structures, and perhaps most intriguing, a boldness in experimenting with dissonance in their melodies, an avenue of exploration that I cannot say even Barretto braved. Indeed, Conjunto Canayon, much like Ray Barretto, sounds like a band founded on Latin jazz playing Latin dance music. Though rare, a few songs such as Wild Tropical (found on A Las Millas) and Tropical Jungle (album unknown, as I've only heard it on the 1998 retrospective) find the band casting off lyrics and pop song structure for extended, flute-centered jams.The first song on A Las Millas, No Se Puede Vencer, perfectly encapsulates my point. The sweeping piano intro recalls Eddie Palmieri in his more experimental years. Pay attention to the guitar as it comes in. It is slightly dissonant, a tactic virtually unheard of in Latin music. Immediately, you get the feeling that you are listening to something different, something truly unique. Vocalist Cheo Quinones captures this perfectly. He is in no way as refined or polished like the greats Tito Allen or Ruben Blades. Rather, there is something undeniably earthy in his timbre, much more down to earth. This is a vocalist that y[...]



Sorry for the lull in posting guys, I've been incredibly busy. BUT, I think all of you will find it well worth the wait as I'll soon be uploading my FAVORITE LATIN RECORD EVER. It's a gem and a rare one at that, so there's a good chance it'll be new to you.

In the meantime, and in keeping with my Tipica '73 post, Pepanito has shown some great timing and posted three Tipica '73 albums! Check 'em out!

Tipica '73 - Los Dos Lados De La Tipica '73 (Inca, 1977)


Tipica '73 is a loose collective of often rotating members formed during the Ray Barretto fallout in the 70s (detailed in my Orquesta Guarare post). Unlike Orquesta Guarare, Tipica '73 tended towards the more Ray Barretto side of experimentation and Latin jazz, thus making it difficult to to understand why the band members would want to split off in the first place. Orquesta Guarare, it seems, wanted to play straight dance music, making it easy to ascertain why they wanted out of Barretto's experimentalism. Tipica '73, on the other hand, continued to refine the nuances of jazz and Latin fusion with a host of new styles and rhythms. It was as if Barretto himself was split in half by a mighty Janusian blow: on one side, the friendlier but still excellent roots of dance music performed at their best; on the other, a desire for innovation, and moving forward within an already conservative style of music.But if this schizophrenic fault line tore the Barretto legacy in two, then what is most interesting about today's album is the way in which it carries that duality. Indeed, the album title translates to The Two Sides of Tipica '73, and the LP, originally released on Fania's sister label Inca, was meant to showcase the very split that resulted in the Ray Barretto fallout in the first place; in other words, the continuum between tradition and innovation. Both tendencies exist side by side on this album, from the furious improvisations and stop-start dynamics of the orchestra on Bongo Fiesta, Salsa Suite, and It's A Gay World (my personal favorite), to the straightforward dances of La Botija de Abuelito or Tumba Tumbador. I would also like to point out the electric side of Tipica '73: the electric organ (of some sort?) on Salsa Suite, and the smokin' Yo Bailo De Todo, which features a hot Eddie-Benitez-meets-Santana guitar squaring off against violin and trading fours.The music here is truly the best of the best, excelling in all respects, whether conservative or cutting-edge. Such quality is to be expected with a line-up boasting violinist Alfredo De La Fe, trumpetist Lionel Sanchez, conguero Jose Grijales, flutist Dick Meza, and the new additions of timbalero Nicky Marrero and ex-Cortijo vocalist Camilo Azuquita, who steps in to take the place of famous Barretto singer Tito Allen from previous Tipica '73 records. He fills in quite beautifully.The 1977 line-up of Tipica '73, as featured on Los Dos LadosBack row: Dave Perez, Lionel Sanchez, Joe Grajales, and Nicky Marrero.Mid row: Camilo Azuquita, Rene Lopez, Dick Mesa, and Alfredo De La Fe. Front row: founding members Leopoldo Pineda, Sonny Bravo and Johnny Rodriguez.Tipica '73 will appeal to Barretto fans and beyond. Enjoy!Get it hereor hereAnd feast your eyes on Tipica '73! This first video features the 1975 line-up, as headed up by Adalberto Santiago on vocals, performing Canuto from their album Candela.Same line-up, performing El Jamaiquino, but with better sound. Check out the organ (?) at 1:45 in, and the sweet wah'd out classical guitar!Want to know more about Tipica '73? An excellent article by Tommy Muriel covers them in much more detail here.[...]

Chivirico Davila - Chivirico (Cotique, 1973)


I've finally gotten a system for ripping LPs, so starting with today's album, you can look forward to uploads from my personal record collection!Click to see album detailsFor me, Chivirico Davila, or Rafael Davila Rosario, is part of a group of soneros representing a vital link between the mambo/bolero and salsa divide. When the old guard of mambo, cha cha cha, and the like began to go out of style, few were able to successfully cross into the new era of salsa and boogaloo and compete with the ever famous Fania sound. Offhand, there are three singers I can come up with who were not only able to cross that bridge, but do so successfully, all the while enriching the new sound of salsa with subtle throwbacks to its predecessors: Santos Colon, Vitin Aviles, and the artist whose album I am proud to present today.A native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, Chivirico was a hit in pre-70s Latin music, respected highly as a bolero antillano. Some of his earliest work finds him heading up the orchestra of Perez Prado. Here he would begin to develop his acclaimed improvisational skills. Later, he would work with Cortijo y Su Bonche (an earlier incarnation of Cortijo's band before it became Cortijo y Su Combo), Kako, Joe Cuba, Pete Rodriguez, the famous Richie Ray/Bobby Cruz duo, Tito Puente, and Johnny Pacheco, who produced today's featured album. He would also become an esteemed member of a bevy of "all-star" groups: the Fania All-Stars, the Alegre All-Stars, and, in the 90s, the Puerto Rican All-Stars. From '71-'78, Chivirico signed with the Cotique label issuing a number of excellent, though relatively unknown, albums, including the simply titled Chivirico. With Cotique, Chivirico was not only able to ride the wave of salsa, but to contribute to it as well.On Chivirico, however, his talents as an old bolero have far from vanished, and the arrangements of Jorge Millet skillfully allow older and newer sounds to coexist. The album generally follows the format of salsa-bolero-salsa-bolero, or salsa songs with ballads in between. While this somewhat halts the pace of the album, the salsa songs still retain an older Cortijo or Ismael Rivera feel, while the ballads sound surprisingly updated. The end result is an excellent work straddling a turbulent line of Latin music that was still in the process of being refined when this album was made. Respetala, a song advising respect for women, and the lament of Como Fue are two of the harder-hitting boleros. For great salsa, check out the opener, which I play often on my Latin Show, and Cuando Tu Quieras. Sin Dinero is a solid boogaloo tune, and you can't forget the rhumba on Se Formo El Rumbon.In 1993, Chivirico would tour Colombia, despite by this time being 69 years old. Only a year later, he passed away in NYC. Born in Puerto Rico; died in NYC: nothing summarizes the story of Puerto-Rican Latin music better.Get it hereor hereChivirico pictured center[...]

Ismael Rivera con Kako y Su Orquesta - Lo Ultimo En La Avenida (Fania, 1971)


A very special post today guys. One of the most unique and recognizable voices in all of Latin music, Ismael Rivera is my personal favorite cantante, and this is one of my favorite albums featuring him. Curious as to why I consider Rivera the best? See for yourself.What's odd, though, is that Lo Ultimo En La Avenida is Rivera out of his element. Almost all of Rivera's career is anchored by the support of good friend and percussionist Rafael Cortijo in a duo famously known as Ismael Rivera y Sus Cachimbos. This album, however, finds Rivera backed by another excellent conguero-led band: Kako y Su Orquesta. Though Rivera and Cortijo grew up in the barrios together and formed a timeless bond--both personally and musically--that would rock the world of Latin music, Rivera doesn't seem to skip a beat with Kako behind him, and neither does Kako himself. In fact, it's as if these two had just as much of a history together as the Cortijo and Rivera duo. The arrangements are tight here, as Rivera, in classic form, weaves his singing in and out and over the band's energy, teasing la clave as if he were born with it. This isn't to say that Rivera wasn't at home with Cortijo's band, but the incredible performance on this record really makes me wonder what we would have seen had Rivera and Kako worked more closely together.Released in 1971 on the Fania label (and recently reissued along with a host of other Fania jams, so do them a favor and buy it if you like it! I've got mine!), Lo Ultimo En La Avenida hosts some of my favorite songs in Rivera's catalog, which itself reads like an extended greatest hits album. I already posted El Cumbanchero in an earlier post (link), and it's my favorite song on here. There are some other classic tunes as well, including the playful poetics of Mi Negrita Me Espera, making humorous comparisons between the color of the night and the skin color of his demanding wife. The ostentatious El Truquito showcases Rivera's sportive ego as well as penchant for skillful inflection, and for some excellent rhumba, check out Cantar Maravilloso. In truth, pretty much every song on here is a hit. From me to you, one of my favorite albums ever!Get it here or hereOne final note. Before I say goodbye for the weekend, I'd like to hip you to another excellent Latin music blog run by Pepanito. Check it out here for a lot of quality Latin music. Pepanito has great taste and has been nothing but supportive of my entrance into the world of Latin music blogs, and I'd like all of you who aren't already privy to his blog to show him the same![...]

Vitin Aviles - Con Mucha Salsa (Alegre, 1978)


An underrated vocalist who passed away on January 1, 2004, Víctor Manuel Avilés Rojas led much of his life in relative obscurity despite his tenure with some of the greats of mambo, cha-cha-cha, and the like: Tito Puente, Xavier Cugat, Pupi Campo, Noro Morales, the Lecuona Cuban Boys, and many more. This may be due in part to the constant accusations that Vitin Aviles is merely a Tito Rodriguez clone, copying his technique of shortening notes and "reading" the lyrics as if they were prose. This accusation continues in spite of the fact that Max Salazar, senior writer of Latin Beat magazine, has unearthed recordings clearly demonstrating Vitin Aviles in full vocal form long before Tito Rodriguez's singing debut. It doesn't help that, when Aviles and Rodriguez later became good friends, Aviles would consider Rodriguez his teacher, despite the former being the latter's predecessor. Amidst all of this controversy, however, Aviles is more than conciliatory: "I learned diction with Tito Rodríguez. My voice is a little deeper, but the way I pronounce the words, I sound just like him. I feel very proud of the comparison because Tito Rodríguez was a superstar."This dedication to fame would wear heavy on Aviles. When his parents bought their first radio in 1932, an eight-year-old Vitin exclaimed, “Caja extranjera con cable pegado a la pared. ¿Hay gente ahí adentro? Si la hay, yo voy a estar con ellos algún día." (A foreign box with a cable going to the wall. Are there people in there? If there are, I'm going to be with them one day.) By the 50s and 60s, he certainly was, but never as recognized as many (including myself) believe he should have been. What is particularly troubling is the waning of his popularity after 1975, despite scoring one of his biggest records that same year on the Alegre label, Canta al Amor.This may have been due to his perception as a vocalist of the old guard, but then 1978's Con Mucha Salsa, featured here today, seems even more of a mystery. The album, produced by Louie Ramirez, sports a jaw-dropping line-up: Luiz Ortiz and Ray Maldonado on trumpet; Charlie Palmieri on piano; Nicky Marrero on bongos and Johnny Rodriguez on congas; and Adalberto Santiago sharing choro with Miguel Barcasnegras. Clearly, Vitin Aviles can pull off salsa just as well as he can mambo. Why this album was overlooked and did little to curb Aviles's declining popularity is beyond my understanding.Charlie Palmieri's piano lines kick off the album with Sufre, featuring an unforgettable hook and a performance by the deep-voiced Aviles that makes you wonder why he wasn't a staple on the Fania catalog. Pay attention to the hot breakdown at about 2:40, perfectly summarizing the Nuyorican sound. The commanding Levanta y Anda features some raucous horn lines and a dynamic rhythm that writhes and squirms beneath Aviles's crooning. Dale Cara a Tu Dolor sounds like it was arranged by Willie Colon himself, and it's not a huge leap to picture Ruben Blades sharing the vocal duties. The trumpets on Compay Salsa throw back to Vitin Aviles's earlier tenure with Puente, Cugat, etc., and is sure to get any dance floor moving.Here's to recognizing him where many others could not. Enjoy.Get it hereor here[...]

Orquesta Guarare - Renaissance (Inca, 1979) aka Ray De La Paz - S/T (Fania, 1995)


Orquesta Guarare is one of those excellent groups from what I like to call the "precipitacion radiactiva de Ray Barretto" : the Ray Barretto fallout (for once, something sounds more eloquent in English than in Spanish). Creative differences between Barretto and his band in the late 70s led to a musical fault line. At the risk of oversimplifying, the members wanted to play straight Latin dance music, running contrary to Barretto's Latin jazz and fusion tendencies. Eventually, the Ray Barretto band fired their own leader, and in the wake of this upheaval a number of Ray Barretto bands emerged in a chain reaction the details of which I can never quite get straight. What I do know is that among those bands, two of the best were Tipica 73 (who I will post soon) and the group featured here today. [Anyone who has more detailed information on the Ray Barretto fallout, feel free to add in the comments!]Renaissance is the second effort from Orquesta Guarare, re-released by Fania as the self-titled Ray De La Paz in 1995, though I'm not quite sure as to the details of the reissue. To my knowledge, their first album has never been released on CD. Guarare originally featured the great Tito Gomez & Ruben Blades duo on vocals, but by their first recording date the singing duties would belong to Ray De La Paz, who you hear on Renaissance. In addition to working with Barretto (most notably on Rican/Struction), De La Paz has also recorded with Louie Ramirez (the Ramirez/De La Paz duo would pioneer "Salsa Romantica" with the Noche Caliente album), and is presently a member of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. Nicky Marrero protege Jimmy Delgado, who was playing bongos in Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe's band at about the same time, leads on percussion.Though not as inventive as the man that Orquesta Guarare left, the band plays some seriously solid dance music with tinges of Barretto here and there. Pay attention to the sound of the production, as, in my opinion, this is the beginnings of modern Latin production value (listen to Spanish Harlem Orchestra today to see what I mean). My favorite on here by far is the heavy Maria, exhibiting some of the more poignant lyricism of the album. Oh, that chorus....Maria, quiero saber, si tu me vas a querer(Maria, I want to know, if you are ever going to love me)Guapo is a lot of fun as well, a warning to "Guapo" 's everywhere. It's fairly difficult for me to directly translate this connotation of Guapo, but think of it as a egotistical guy who thinks he has everything. Ten' cuidado, que al guapo le llega lo suyo (Be careful: the guapo gets his). The percussive explosion on the outro of Que Linda Te Ves will have your butt movin'. Renaissance isn't groundbreaking, but an excellent album nonetheless and a great way to see the sheer talent backing up Ray Barretto in the mid-70s.Get it hereor here[...]

Henri Guedon - Early Latin & Boogaloo Recordings by The Drum Master (Comet, 2004)


I had never heard of Henri Guedon until the fine folks over at Comet put together this excellent retrospective of his work from the 60s. A French bongo player, Guedon was instrumental in exporting the new sound of 60s and 70s Latin--guaguanco, boogaloo, salsa, descarga--to France and the rest of Europe. When Guedon began placing his percussion instruments at the front of the stage in the style of his great influence Ray Barretto, French audience members found themselves shocked and intrigued. Soon enough, greats like El Conde and Pacheco were touring France, and Guedon was dubbed The French Salsa King. Were it not for Henri Guedon, Europe could have conceivably taken years to move forward from mambo and cha-cha-cha.Aside from his novelty status as an exporter of Latin music across the Atlantic, Guedon is an innovator in his own right. He referred to himself as "The Rootless Negro," a metaphor for his willingness to embrace black diversity in his music. Indeed, listening to Early Latin and Boogaloo invokes African-based influences encompassing a number of different contexts, from the drum work (and at times even the Afrobeat) of the African mainland, to the jazz and salsa of Americas, to the culturally-rich creole influences born in a Spanish-French hybrid. The fact that he was born in the Caribbean in the city of Martinique and would spend much of his career in Paris and New York does not simply coincide with the character of his music: it determines it.Guedon was also a talented painter, his inspiration coming from the same source that fueled his music.That's not, however, to muddle an incredible collection of Latin dance music with cultural analysis. Make no mistake: Early Latin and Boogaloo is a fantastic look into a fantastic artist's music. The album begins with some of Henri's more conventional songs, solid boogaloos, and his more mainstream hits (Faut Pas Pousser was a hit in France). For me, the real meat of this compilation and Guedon's style begins with Los Antillanos de Paris, beginning a focus on Guedon's descargas and extended jams. Vulcano is a funky, stop-on-a-dime scorcher that is in some ways more Afrobeat than Afro-Cuban; the bass-driven Machapia is perhaps the most overt example of Guedon's African influences, showcasing African drumming; Sainte-Marie, one of my favorites, bring out the funky bass for an extended jam with a hot sax solo. A few other "notables among notables" include Concierto de Mi Bongo, Marcel Song (bring on the flute), Negro Lucumi, and the slowed-down but still solid closer, Descaguajira. Pointing out favorites on a compilation like this, though, is ultimately pointless. Every song on here demands your full attention, and perhaps most importantly, your hip shakin'. Enjoy.Get it hereor here[...]

Larry Harlow - Salsa (Fania, 1974)


Seth Watter, who runs an incredible freeform music blog over at Meshes of the Afternoon, recently asked if I had any plans to post some Larry Harlow, and well....who am I to disappoint?

Released not long after his famous tribute to idol Arsenio Rodriguez, pianist Harlow's Salsa was released at a time that proved critical in establishing the Fania Records reputation. Some of my favorite Harlow tunes are on here: from the jovial lament over losing one's wallet on La Cartera, to the more serious lament of No Hay Amigo, tackling the betrayal of friendship. In fact, Harlow's nickname, El Judio Maravilloso (The Marvelous Jew), originated on La Cartera as a bandmember introduces a smokin' Harlow solo, shouting "Ya viene, Larry Harlow: El Judio Maravilloso!" On Wampo, smooth horn-lines recall a ballad in the early morning bar, only to send you home with a descarga hangover on the album closer, Silencio. On top of adding to the Fania sound, Salsa took part in a brief charanga revival before the music would virtually die in the United States. Adalberto Santiago and Junior Gonzalez (who I'll be posting in the future) share vocal duties, and Johnny Pacheco contributes some excellent flute work.


R.I.P. Tito Gomez (1948-2007)


I'm quite late on getting this news, but it's tragic nonetheless. Sonero Tito Gomez (not to be confused with the Cuban singer of the same name), perhaps best known for his work with the early Sonora Poncena, unexpectedly died of a heart attack on June 12 at the far too young age of 59. A great friend of the legendary Ruben Blades (to the right of Tito in the adjacent picture), Gomez also worked with Charlie Palmieri and Ray Barretto, and would later go on to do more contemporary work with acts such as the Colombian Grupo Niche.

Here's Tito Gomez singing choro in Ray Barretto's Ban Ban Quere, next to long time friend Blades.
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El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernandez)


El Cumbanchero is a Latin standard penned by the man I think of as the Cole Porter of Puerto Rican music: Rafael Hernandez. Among his many hits (Lamento Borincano, Preciosa, Mi Provisa, Mi Patria Tiembla, Siciliana), El Cumbanchero was one of his least favorites. Its popularity, however, could not be denied. When Hernandez was invited to a White House ceremony in the early 60s to honor the then governor of Puerto Rico Luis Munoz Marin, President Kennedy amiably greeted him as "Mr. Cumbanchero."Of all the versions of El Cumbanchero I've come across, the award for the best belongs to my favorite Latin singer of all time: Ismael Rivera (whom I'll be doing a post of in the future). Rivera had the energy, the presence, and, of course, the voice to successfully bring El Cumbanchero from the older (though no less incredible) musings of Tito Puente and Bebo Valdes into the modern sound of 60s and 70s Latin music. Pay attention to the tongue work-out about 0:29 into the song. Rivera is backed up by Alegre timbalero Kako and his Orquesta, an incredible band that certainly deserves much of the credit for this furious arrangement.Ismael Rivera con Kako y su Orquesta - El CumbancheroOf course, if it's a Latin standard, you can bet that Tito Puente has done an incredible version of it. Check out this excellent video of El Cumbanchero as done by The Mambo King and his orquesta. About 2 minutes in, you're reminded of what makes this man one of the greatest.Tito Puente backs up Celia Cruz in a medley covering Babalu, Siboney, and, finally, El Cumbanchero. You can catch El Cumbanchero at about 3 minutes in. It's not the best version, and I actually think the babalu treatment is a lot better, but it's still great to hear Celia's part in the tradition.Celia Cruz - Medley: Babalu, Siboney, El CumbancheroXavier Cugat rocks the upbeat big band uproach.Xavier Cugat & His Orchestra - El CumbancheroAnd Bebo Valdes does it even better!Bebo Valdes - El CumbancheroFor a more modern take, check out a version by pianist Ruben Gonzalez of Buena Vista Social Club fame. A little more subdued in energy, but talent abounds. Having recently started playing the trumpet, I can only marvel at the grit of Manuel Mirabal's trumpet playing (check him out at 25 seconds in).Ruben Gonzalez - El CumbancheroAnd there's always the kitschy good life/lounge version, on Hammond organ no less!Klaus Wunderlich - El CumbancheroAnd finally, for your entertainment: ....what?"I wanna do it faster than this."[...]

Javier Vazquez - Javier (1976)



One of the lesser known Cubans swallowed up in the primarily Puerto Rican 70s New York salsa scene, I first discovered pianist Javier Vazquez through his appearance on Ismael Rivera's Maelo, where he rocks the piano and takes arrangement on a few key cuts. He's also worked with Johnny Pacheco, Frankie Vazquez, Daniel Santos, Rudy Calzado, and Cali Aleman, in addition to brief stints on the mighty Fania and Alegre labels.

Not as well known as some of his other albums (La Verdad), Javier is a smoking set with some unforgettable songs. Si Acaso starts off with a reverb guitar playing a lullaby, only to launch into a dance floor jam all about, paradoxically, getting to bed early to go to work. Tu No Me Has Visto Miguel is a regular on my Latin Show, and features some interesting electric guitar work, paving the way for Javier's brief work on electric piano later through the album, particularly on the ballad Companeros del Sabor. And Mi Ritmo Esta Bueno has an unmistakable Ismael Rivera vibe to it.

My first official upload. I hope you enjoy!

Willie Colon - La Murga


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This may very well be one of the most famous horn lines to ever come out of Puerto Rico. I'm not sure who the other cantante is. I want to say Pete Rodriguez, but this guy's voice is too high and he doesn't have the whole Barry White facial structure going on. Yomo Toro from Chile tears it up on cuatro. Believe it or not, this is technically Christmas music.

El primer


I created this to share my love for Latin music, and as an adjunct resource to the Latin Show on WCBN FM (, which I host every three weeks in addition to my normal freeform show, The Sourdough Rag. You can expect periodical updates of songs or albums, ranging from 70s Nuyorican salsa to Latin soul to plena to guajira and beyond, all with an admittedly Puerto Rican bias. Without further ado, the playlist to my show from earlier today:

The Latin Show (June 17, 2007)

1. Larry Harlow - No Hay Amigo
2. Cuco Valoy y Los Virtuosos - El Amigo y La Mujer
3. Orquesta Novel - Papas Fritas con Hamburger
4. Ismael Rivera con Kako y Su Orquesta - El Cumbanchero
5. Los Dementes - La Llorona
6. Ray Barretto - Indestructible (Live)
7. Orquesta Sociedad '74 - Ahora Tengo Una Vieja
8. Chivirico - Cuando Tu Quieras
9. Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez - Soy La Ley
10. Javier Vazquez - Tu No Me Has Visto Miguel
11. Tempo 70 - El Galleton
12. Cortijo y Su Maquina del Tiempo - De Coco y Anis