Though many artists in the late '60s earnestly searched for the place where Latin rhythms and soul melodies could intersect, few found it. Harvey Averne may have been one of the very few that could both swing salsa fans and get the soul crowd "shaking their money maker." The vibraphonist and bandleader wisely incorporated the most essential elements of R&B while adding Latino influence with salsa-inflected horn vamps and percussion voices otherwise unheard in the soul genre. It is albums like Viva Soul that would define the role of Latino concepts in American pop music for generations to come. That noted, this is a soul record with rice and beans on the side. Congas and compana are spice here, not the main course. Though Averne's vibraphone has a place on the album, it seems to be on the corner of the stage. Having co-written half the tunes in the repertoire along with the record's arranger Marty Sheller, and with a nominal musical role, with maybe eight bars of solo on the whole album, one might wonder whose record this is. Irrespective of the leadership, Viva Soul features some of the highest production quality and most pleasing arrangements of the Latin/soul crossover genre.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez