Elements of Life
Eclipse (Fania Records, 2013)
Eclipse is an unexpected double album from Fania Records. Most of Fania’s activities recently have been centered on reissues of classic salsa and Latin jazz albums. However, Elements of Life is a new signing. It is a Latin jazz orchestral project by Louie Vega.
One of the first surprises is that English is the primary language in the lyrics and poetry. This is in contrast with most of Fania’s albums which featured Spanish as the main form of communication. Elements of Life celebrates some of the different cultures and ethnic groups found in the United States, including African-American, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Cape Verdean and Nigerian. Although the orchestra has a Latin jazz base, most of the vocals take it into an R&B direction. Other times, it is Afro-Latin voices, blues and even grooving Nigerian Afrobeat.
Disc 1 is very R&B focused and seems more oriented towards the urban R&B market than the Latin market. Disc 2 starts to sound more Fania-like with the tasty ‘EOL Soulfrito’ medley. Some of the pieces on disc 1 reappear in roots music form which makes them more appealing.
Highlights are all on Disc 2 and include the above mentioned ‘EOL Soulfrito’, the irresistible dance oriented song ‘You Came Into My Life (Louie Vega Roots NYC Mix)’ that features excellent vocal, guitar and vibraphone sections; and the afrobeat piece Overtake Don Overtake Overtake (Roots Vocal Version).’
Guests include singers Lisa Fischer and Cindy Mizelle; poets Ursula Rucker and Oveous Maximus; percussionist Luisito Quintero; and singer-songwriter and DJ Anané.
Buy Eclipse on CD or vinyl.