Although by the end of the '70s the Fania All-Stars weren't the freewheeling collective they'd been ten years earlier, they were still packed with talent, including Johnny Pacheco, Bobby Valentín, Papo Lucca, Roberto Roena, and a bespectacled fellow named Ray Barretto showing mastery over the conga. California Jam may have been released in 1980, but it was actually recorded four years earlier -- in California, natch -- on what had been planned as a date for Columbia (with attendant strings and mainstream arrangements). When producer Gene Page backed out at the last minute, Pacheco and company had the studio to themselves to record whatever they wanted, and the result was a straight-ahead salsa date, closer to Pacheco's roots in charanga (and heavier on his flute playing than most other dates of the late '70s). A torrid salsa jam ensues on the opener, "Vente Conmigo," but Pacheco and Barretto get major solo features on the ensuing two tracks ("Guajira Para los Pollos" and "Taxi to Aguadilla," respectively).
AllMusic Review by John Bush