Fania All-Stars


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Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 1 (1971) and Vol. 2 (1973) elevated the popularity of the Fania All-Stars significantly, as did the film Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) (1972), which included live footage from the Cheetah gig. So in 1973 label head Jerry Masucci brazenly went ahead and booked Yankee Stadium at the cost of $180,000 for a one-night concert. It was a gamble that paid off in spades when the concert, featuring Típica '73, El Gran Combo, and Mongo Santamaría, in addition to the Fania All-Stars, drew a crowd of roughly 45,000. Problem was, the crowd rushed the field mid-show -- a condition that was not allowed under contract, for the fans had to stay in the stands and the performers had to stay on a platform stage because of the delicate nature of the baseball field -- and unfortunately that was the end of the show, as the police intervened and the lights were turned on. Hoping to compound the success of Live at the Cheetah, Masucci had recorded the August 24, 1973, Yankee Stadium show for future release. Portions of it showed up in the film Salsa (1976) and on the two-volume album Live at Yankee Stadium (1976), which was filled out with concurrent material from a concert at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, Latin-Soul-Rock, issued in 1974, was the first release to feature material from that historical night at Yankee Stadium: "El Ratón," sung by Cheo Feliciano and featuring a standout guitar solo by Jorge "Malo" Santana, and "Congo Bongo," featuring a congo duel between Ray Barretto and Santamaría. These two songs comprise the album's original B-side, along with a live recording of "Soul Makossa" from the date at Roberto Clemente Coliseum featuring saxophonist Manu Dibango (only readers of the liner notes will note the difference of time and place, since the material sounds remarkably similar). The original A-side of Latin-Soul-Rock is comprised of five excellent studio cuts that had been intended to be performed at Yankee Stadium, if not for the premature conclusion of the show: "Viva Tirado," "Chanchullo," "Smoke," "There You Go," and "Mama Güela." These songs, which feature Dibango and Santana as guests, along with Billy Cobham and Jan Hammer, are more fitting of the album title, Latin-Soul-Rock, as they're an impressive showcase of the band's ability to fuse rock, soul, and jazz with the style of New York salsa that was the stock-in-trade of Fania.

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