Ray Rivera

From Puerto Rico to Soulsville

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Man-behind-the-scenes Rivera, a significant composer responsible for many hits by others, steps out into the limelight on this rare delight. The intention is to cover all bases (Latin, soul, blues, etc.). Essentially, however, From Puerto Rico to Soulsville is Latin soul featuring acoustic guitar and organ (Angelo di Pippo), all in the subtle style of Deodato and Jobim on CTI. In fact, Deodato helps out on guitar here. Rivera's friend Pucho handles the conga, which is highlighted in "Conga in 6/8 Time." Rivera's mellow, soft-spoken conception of Latin soul maintains throughout the album. It is not in the least upstaged by three exceptional tracks: "Guajira Blues" is a very hip, jazzy Rivera vocal just begging to be mixed with soul jazz or bossa nova; "From the Bottom of My Heart," the only other vocal, is an also-ran that sounds dangerously like Trini Lopez, but of course hipper; and with Deodato and Pucho on board, there has to be at least the one infectious instrumental "Mambo at the Corso." At 4½ minutes, plenty of time is allowed for piano and guitar solos over a mellow, groovy funk line. Sophisticated and elegant, From Puerto Rico to Soulsville may pander mildly to normal, commercial expectations, but veteran fans of Latin soul will surely want it.

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