Indestructible (Fania Masterworks Series, 2009)
Ray Barretto’s Indestructible originally came out in 1973 on Fania Records. This explosive salsa classic, produced by Ray Barretto, is a must have for any salsa fan. The album was a bold move in Barretto’s career. Five of his band’s musicians had left to form Tipica ’73. This was a serious setback and a challenge for Barretto, as a bandleader. "Mind you, the musicians that left were all longstanding members of the band and they were leaving the band at a time when the band was on top of its game," said longtime friend and liner notes writer George Rivera. "After a period of sulking and agonizing over what he believed was the demise of not only his band, but his musical career, he decided to make one last stand just to make a statement."
Replacing the musicians was no easy task, but Barretto was determined and he ended up building another formidable band, with musicians that were just as good as those that had left. The new rhythm section Little Ray Romero who traded his congas and bongos for the timbal. He also added three musicians with a strong jazz background: trumpeter Manny Durán, pianist Eddie Martínez and flautist Artie Webb. To complete the band he needed a top of the line vocalist. "Some suggested Tito Allen, who was starting to get some asttention on the scene," says George Rivera. "Ray auditioned Tito and was ecstatic with the results. Tito was the missing link, the final piece of the puzzle.’
Barretto wanted new arrangements, based on a more modern harmonic approach. He enlisted Eddie Martínez, Louie Ramírez and Louie Cruz as arrangers. The result was a collection of memorable songs, several of which became salsa hits: ‘El Hijo De Obatala,’ ‘El Diablo,’ the bolero love song ‘Yo Tengo Un Amor,’ ‘La Familia,’ ‘La Orquesta,’ Llanto De Cocodrilo,’ ‘Ay No,’ and ‘Indestructible.’
The 2009 Fania Masterworks Series edition contains 5 outstanding previously unreleased tracks. There is an incomplete early take on ‘Ay No,’ as well as a 1976 live version of that same song. The bolero "Yo Tengo Un Amor" reappears as an instrumental piece with a jazzier feel. More Latin jazz appears in the unreleased track, "Jazz Guajira." Lastly, there is a Christmas song titled ‘Las Pascuas.’
The CD booklet comes in English in Spanish with extensive liner notes by George Rivera. Recording engineer Jon Fausty provides juicy details about the innovative techniques he used to record the album. For example, he describes how he recorded Barretto’s congas: "I started revamping my technique for recording congas. Previously only two microphones were used over the conga and tumbadora. I felt power and richness was missing and added a third microphone placed close to the floor at the conga which would receive the bass frequencies of the masacote [combination of percussive elements]. This gave the conga sound a whole new dimension."
Indestructible is a perfect example of the extraordinary explosion of talent that was taking place in the world of salsa in the 1970s. The Ray Barretto classic belongs in any salsa collection.
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Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.