After Monterey Pop, Woodstock, the Atlanta Pop Festival, and Isle of Wight, the Mar Y Sol: First International Puerto Rico Pop Festival was more than anti-climactic, and the resulting double-record set runs almost like a supplement to the similar Medicine Ball Caravan film soundtrack. The Allman Brothers Band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and B.B.King may have been legitimate headliners, but Osibisa were hardly a household name, and "Bedroom Mazurka" by Cactus on this LP makes one wonder why half that band would ever want to leave Vanilla Fudge to create a watered down Black Oak Arkansas. A five-minute-plus version of "Looking for a Love" by J. Geils Band rips the album wide open; it's a terrific performance by a terrific up and coming band that had barely dented the Top 40 with the tune three months before this concert, held on April 1, 2, and 3, 1972. Atlantic executive and album producer Tunc Erim should've known better than to follow Geils' up-tempo raver with 13 minutes and 20 seconds of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Despite the heavy use of violin, this was not the Velvet Underground, and the manic early fusion is just a little too progressive to balance out the program. It's great to hear Jonathan Edwards perform two songs for almost eight minutes; his originals are highlights here, and like J.Geils Band, he was making his music in Boston and had recently charted on the Top 40, but this festival wasn't going to do for these artists what Woodstock and its triple-vinyl set would do for the acts on that enterprise. While Dr. John and John Baldry bring legendary status to the affair, Nitzinger and even Herbie Mann are a bit of a stretch for what is called a "pop" festival. Jean-Charles Costa's liner notes are lengthy, but don't tell us much about the event. The double LP is a freeze frame of something that happened in the early '70s, but the styles are so diverse that it stands better as a documentary than a listening experience. Dr. John sure is fun performing Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle," however it was his stage performance at that point in time that was truly memorable. If Mar Y Sol was filmed, the DVD would translate better than this well-recorded but rather eclectic set of performances. The Allman Brothers and Emerson Lake & Palmer are also highlights, but the album comes off as an Atlantic sampler with half of the artists coming from its roster. Add to this mix the fact that Columbia Records strangely combined Isle of Wight and Atlanta Pop Festival performances for a triple vinyl set released around this same time (the Allman Brothers appear on that as well), and you get an idea of the festival mania that was going on. Still, both these albums are important as historical documents, despite the fact they did not have the impact of the Woodstock albums on Cotillion/@Atlantic, two sets which amounted to ten sides of vinyl -- the same amount between the Mar Y Sol and The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies albums. That's 20 sides of vinyl between four album sets...quite a bit to take all at once in the early '70s. As stated, an expanded DVD release of Mar Y Sol would be far more fulfilling, though this album does have its moments.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione