Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Fania catalogue is known all over the world as the definitive treasure trove of Afro-Caribbean music-a library of epic proportions that includes hundreds of timeless albums. What many people don't know, however, is that the vaults of Fania also contain dozens of rare recordings that have yet to see the light of day.
Beginning a long standing effort to finally make the entire contents of its catalogue available, Fania is releasing a stunning recording of Rubén Blades and Willie Colón in concert, taped in 1980 at New Jersey's Capitol Theatre.
At the time, Blades and Colón were touring to promote Siembra - considered by many as Blades' magnum opus. The sonics of the original tapes are clear and warm, making this release one of the most exciting live albums in the annals of salsa.
The majority of the Siembra album was performed during that evening - including a raucous extended version of "Buscando Guayaba," and a superb reading of the mega-hit "Pedro Navaja." Fans of the leaner, highly atmospheric Metiendo Mano will be delighted to know that Blades and Colón chose to include two tracks off that LP: "Plantación Adentro," as well as the socially aware anthem "Pablo Pueblo."
Above is a copy of the newsletter I just received via email announcing the release of the live recording of what is hands down the most influential Salsa album ever recorded. World-wide it has sold over 25 million copies since it's release date in 1978.
This is a must-have for any fan of Salsa music, and I must give the new owners of the Fania label huge credit for promoting and issuing this great music. It is rare that Latino culture gets celebrated in mainstream media aside from the usual stereotypical buffoonery of hot Latin lovers and all that other minstrel-type bullshit not even worth mentioning.
Here is a brief synopsis of what happened to the label and it's music. Jerry Masucci, who together with Bandleader Johnny Pacheco founded the label in 1964 and heralded the rise of Salsa from it's home base in New York City, found his power and influence waning as artists began to leave for more lucrative offers elsewhere. After Masucci retired and left the music business in the early 80's, the Fania catalog floundered, with the master tapes languishing in a warehouse in Upstate New York.
The Fania All-Stars in all their glory-
In 2005 a Miami-based company called EMusica purchased the rights to the back catalog and began releasing many of the old titles. Around 300 were released before EMusica sold it's interests to another company. All of the titles that were released during this time were remastered and released with new liner notes in both English and Spanish. Unfortunately those titles were available for a very short time and are currently out-of-print. The current company has stated that these titles will be replenished, but as of yet it is only selling CD's in downloadable form.
Salsa, though it was primarily dance music played in small clubs, took off and the major acts of the label, dubbed the "Fania All-Stars", soon began filling stadiums all over the world. This was due to the fact that the musicians themselves were some of the best in the world. As an avid fan of the music, I am hoping that the catalog gets released again in CD form. I only managed to collect around 70 of the 300 or so remastered CD's before EMusica went busto. Let's hope the new company holds true to their word.
Many of these legends of Latin music are no longer with us, but it's up to us to keep their legacy alive-