Such were the ups and downs of music in the late '60s and early '70s that Fania could later compile a darkside companion to its sunny boogaloo compilation (The Bad Boogaloo) and have the time span for both be virtually identical. This one, titled El Barrio: Gangsters Latin Soul & the Birth of Salsa, spends most of its time in the early '70s, when Latin artists like Willie Colón, Joe Bataan, and Larry Harlow were reflecting what they heard from blaxploitation and Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye with their darker, funkier, heavier version of salsa. (The film and book of The Godfather shouldn't be omitted either, from the looks of the cover of Colón's landmark Cosa Nuestra.) The artists here were well in touch with their funky side, to say nothing of the cooking rhythms and progressive social concerns about the ghetto. Check the groove on Mongo Santamaria's cover of "Lady Marmalade," Joe Cuba's simmering barrio tale called "Do You Feel It" ("Tu Lo Sientes"), or Tito Puente's adroit use of an orchestra for the Bond-like "Black Brothers." (Even the sweet soul lightweight Ralfi Pagan could record the lament "Brother, Where Are You?") Some of these songs would have fit better on The Bad Boogaloo, and the concept wears thin at times, but herein lies a plenitude of salsa riches.
AllMusic Review by John Bush