El Barrio: Sounds from the Spanish Harlem StreetsOver the past three years, one of the most neglected classic labels in music -- Fania, home to most of the best Latin albums of all time -- has happily become one of the most reissued, with multiple compilations on each of their major artists (Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz, etc.), plus dozens of reissues of the best LPs from the label and at least a half-dozen excellent various-artist compilations focusing on the best in boogaloo and salsa.

Two of the best compilations on Fania have been released recently -- and together, they provide a great look at the twin axes of what made Fania great: groovy boogaloo popcorn and wildly inventive, freeform salsa. The first and best is El Barrio: Sounds from the Spanish Harlem Streets, the second being New York City Salsa, Vol. 2.

For those who still think Latin music begins and ends with Tito Puente (or Ricky Martin, or Shakira, et al.), these two discs will come as a revelation. Beats and grooves as funky as Funkadelic, singalong vocals and choruses as catchy as Archie Bell & the Drells -- all these and more were pumping out of Spanish Harlem by the bucketful during the late '60s and early '70s.

Alongside the best tracks from El Barrio and New York City Salsa, Vol. 2 below, check out three of the best single LPs released on Fania or associated labels during the '60s and '70s. And got any favorites yourself? We'd love to hear about them...


El Barrio: Sounds from the Spanish Harlem Streets

Ray Barretto - "O Elefante"

Orchestra Harlow - "Rise Up"

Eddie Palmieri - "Helado de Chocolate"


New York City Salsa, Vol. 2

Cabrerita - "El Remolon"

Menique - "Timbalero Mayor"


Ray Barretto - Acid


"Soul Drummers"


Willie Colon - Cosa Nuestra

"Che Che Colé"



Eddie Palmieri - La Perfecta


"Mi Guajira"