Ralfi Pagan

With Love

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A much better effort than his self-titled debut, With Love shows Ralfi Pagan with more command over his voice and with much better arrangements to back him up -- by Louie Ramirez on side one and Marty Sheller on the flip. Pagan handles a difficult song like the opener, "Make It With You," with more confidence than he would have earlier, and the strung-out blues guitar during the intro doesn't hurt either. There's hardly any Latin left to this crossover album; it turns out that concentrating purely on pop makes for a much more consistent LP. Surprisingly, only "Make It With You" is a cover, though the others (with songwriting credits to Pagan, Ramirez, Joe Bataan, and Harvey Averne) display a lot of influence from early-'70s soul, pop, and even cocktail jazz. "Latin Soul" is a nice boogaloo change of pace (a bit of a repeat from his earlier LP), and while "Ain't No Big Thing" isn't going to compete with James Brown, it's pleasant enough for a side-two song. No one was confusing him with Smokey Robinson or Curtis Mayfield either, but With Love is a notable success from one of Fania's sideline artists.

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