Boogaloo was born out of the creativity of the 1960s generation of USA-born Latinos, who musically grafted American culture on to their Latin roots, leading many established Latin bandleaders to adopt the dance to irresistible results.The Rough Guide To Boogaloo is packed full of classic boogaloo firecrackers from Tito Puente, Charlie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba and others. With the magnificent, brass-led Cuban orchestra La Sonora Matancera behind
her, Celia Cruz, the late ‘Queen of Salsa’ and possibly the greatest Cuban singer ever, rose and invigorated boogaloo. On the two-minute tongue twister ‘Tumbaloflesicodelicomicoso’, the catchy charms of boogaloo allowed her to exercise her faultless timing and playfulness with rhythms.
The ‘Grand Master of Latin Music, Tito Puente, dishes up a feast of slickly interwoven brass and percussion on ‘Fat Mama’, and Timbalito’ showcases his timbales virtuosity and his thunderous brassy big-band boogaloo.
Led by Johnny Pacheco, Fania All Stars – one of the greatest salsa supergroups ever – perform two tracks on this album. ‘Viva Tirado’ is a hypnotic mellow groove and Ray Barretto’s ‘Son, Cuero y Boogaloo’, is an eight-minute live performance transposing boogaloo onto a sumptuous big band. In amongst the voices you can hear Ismael Rivera, the Puerto Rican icon who epitomizes soul. Rivera’s luscious, husky voice is perfectly demonstrated on ‘Maggo’s Boogaloo’, which is performed by Rivera’s sensational Cachimbos band.
A legendary bandleader and conga player, Joe Cuba was more responsible for the spread of boogaloo across America than anyone else. ‘Oh, Yeah’ uses raucous hand-claps, false starts, shouted banter between the musicians and a
bang-on-the-beat, loping pace.
Pete Rodriguez also helped launch the boogaloo craze with his 1966 hit and insistent plea to ‘Do The Boogaloo’, an infectious crowd-pleaser that was backed by trumpet fanfare.
Charlie Palmieri recorded several Latin soul and boogaloo tracks, including ‘Boogaloo Mania’, a classy Afro-Cuban, percussion-heavy boogaloo, anchored with typically rock-steady piano riffs. Despite being more soul-jazz than straight boogaloo.
Ray Barretto’s parody of Procol Harum’s international hit – ‘A Deeper Shade Of Soul’, taken from his phenomenally successful 1972 album Acid – illustrates how far the basic boogaloo could be stretched.
The (five) Lebron Brothers reinvented boogaloo to suit their fondness for
jazz and the 1970 hit ‘Boogaloo Lebron’ features the trademark rollicking mix of brass, percussion and piano.
Willie Colon and his band fell heavily for boogaloo’s charms and his raging trombone (the instrument that characterized the boogaloo era) became a selling point, and the band’s raw, evocative sound became synonymous with 1960s NuYorican soul. ‘Willie Whopper’ is a shing-a-ling – a rocking, two-trombone-led variation of boogaloo.
On ‘Soul Nitty Gritty’, Cuban percussion (congas, bongos and timbales) occupy the front of the stage, as Ralph Robles’ darting arrangements (two trumpets and two trombones) weave between suitably corny lyrics about ‘chicks’ and ‘dancing’. Robles’ ‘Getting Happy’ includes the customary hand-claps, drums rolls and also some wonderful, snorting baritone saxophone.
Trumpeter and veteran Fania All Stars member, Bobby Valentin, uses wailing saxophones and a rock and roll beat in ‘Batman’s Boogaloo’, which illustrates perfectly how boogaloo combined Latin and popular American culture of the time.
On ‘Use It Before You Lose It’, Valentin uses a güiro (scraped percussion gourd) to scratch out and emphasize the leading dancers’ rhythm, and works against the piano’s beats.
The last track on this album is dominated by fast, racing, lemon-sharp vibes from Andy Vega on the 1968 hit ‘Good Lovin” by The Gilberto Sextet.
Compiled by Latin music author and specialist. Sue Steward.