Fania All-Stars

Tribute to Tito Rodriguez

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The first studio date for the already-legendary Fania All-Stars, Tribute to Tito Rodriguez had originally been intended to feature the group in a supporting role for the legendary vocalist, but turned into a tribute after Tito Rodriguez died from leukemia in early 1973. Unlike their many live dates, descarga jamming is not necessarily the keynote feature here; instead, the staid balladry that Rodriguez featured comprises the first three songs, then uptempo numbers (which Rodriguez also excelled at) fill the rest of the program. No less than ten stellar singers trade off on vocals during the LP, including Rodriguez acolyte Cheo Feliciano in a starring role, as well as Héctor Lavoe, Rubén Blades, and Ismael Miranda. The band is no slouch either. It's one of the best that Fania ever put together for a studio date -- Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Larry Harlow, Ray Maldonado, Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, and more to light up the show. The album gains energy as it proceeds, with Miranda shining on "El Agua de Belén," and Ismael Quintana doing the same for "Fue en Santiago," until the record culminates in the closer, "Vuela la Paloma" -- nearly six minutes of salsa bliss that utilizes eight of the vocalists plus a sweet solo from Pacheco's flute (especially sweet, since Pacheco had worked with and knew Rodriguez well, and feuded with him often). With its balance of slow and fast, its lineup of vocal and instrumental virtuosos, Tribute to Tito Rodriguez is the best studio date for the Fania All-Stars.

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