“Our Latin Thing”
40th Anniversary Limited Edition CD & DVD
OK, I had it all wrong at first on this one. I started by listening to the CD, and while it was good, it didn’t move me, I thought maybe it might be better if I’d actually been at the club that night, August 26, 1971. What club? The Cheetah Club, a discoteca where Salsa was born on that night, about 3 blocks away from where the Gershwin Theatre is now and a block away from where Roseland Ballroom was then and still is, at the same intersection as Mad Magazine. I think maybe Ray Barretto has read some Mad Magazine, he’s the conga player and steals the show, but I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit here. So there I was, kinda nonplussed by the CD, digging the music, but not totally into it the way I was with Tito Puente’s FANIA Box set. Kinda kicking myself for getting involved in reviewing a genre I’m still learning the ropes in, but loving the tuneage so determined to make something of it.
So I finally get around to watching the movie, and that’s what it took, like seeing Breathless or Star Wars or King Kong or something all rolled into one. The quality of the filmstock (I have to do this sometime so I might as well get it out of the way) isn’t great, it looks like one of the films they usta show in the library when I was a kid or the old 60s films they’d show in class in grade school. A lil’ cruddy, some artifacts, the sound once in awhile is from the print rather than the higher quality sound that most of it has. That aside (and believe me, you’ll forget that as soon as the music gets rolling), this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Sat there and applauded in my room as it projected on my wall after watching it. Maybe I’ve done that for one other movie before in a home environment, but hell if I can remember what, something with John Wayne mebbe.
Great film, footage shot in what looks like a couple of days in NYC Nuyorican territory, Loisaida or mebbe Spanish Harlem, some street parties, an arrest, what looks like a Santeria ritual, but central to all these is a performance by The Fania All-Stars at the Cheetah Club, and what a performance! Hector Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Johnny Pacheco, Pete Rodriguez, Cheo Feliciano (others too, but I’m trying to stick with FANIA artists with their own albums) all banging out a blistering hot session with horns and drumlines that feels like you’re right there at the club with folks swivelin’ their hips like they were Chubby Checker and Elvis put together in some horrible genetic experiment to triple their genetic hip-swivelin’. You’re gunna be wowed. I was. Wasn’t expecting it either, figured it’d be decent though, FANIA doesn’t mess around with bad recordings from what I’ve seen, and like I said, the CD was good, but not awe-inspiring. That’s OK though, it’s a souvenir, from Loisaida, where at night, they get all dressed up, scoot on over to Broadway, and raise the roof like it hadn’t been raised since Duke Ellington worked a supper club. Loisaida, where the snow cone vendor might turn out to be a huge recording star, and even the drunk guy who’s hanging out by the alley has a great sense of rhythm. And yes, the CD set IS that good, but watch the movie first, it’ll give you a sense of place.