Al's ruminates on CD reissues, Rafael Muñoz y su Orquesta, the Fox brothers and other "memorable memories."
Column: The Other Side Of The CD
by Al Santiago
Puerto Rico is an island of mucho musical heritage. Past masters have been: Rafael Muñoz (pop music), Cesar Concepcion (the modern big band Plena and more), Carmelo Diaz Soler (Danza), Canario (la Plena), Mon Rivera (Trabalengua and the trombone sound), Mario Ortiz (the big band sound), El Gran Combo (hip pop for 30 years), Roy Brown (le lo lai protest) and forgive me for any names not mentioned. The music has extended folklore to contemporary sounds.
The 78 RPM was hard to eliminate after the appearance of the 45 in 1952. Finally by the early '60's most Latin labels put aside the 78. The 8-track was around for a while but that configuration also went "kaput." The LP is seeing its last days and the compact disc (CD) has come out the winner. The public is also the winner because the CD has great sound and the capacity for about 70 minutes of sound.
The no-heart, let's make bucks people, i.e., labels that function strictly for money and have no deep love for the product are putting out CDs with the same total time as their original LP release. This is no good and not fair to the music lover/collector, who is willing to pay up to $17 for a CD originally recorded as far back as the 30's. Let's give the collector some bonus tracks to make up for the frequent poor quality of old recordings.
Record companies...wake up!...we are putting you on notice...give us lengthier CDs or we will be more discreet in what we buy. Let's be aware that if Capitol Records can release material from the Stan Kenton bands of the 40's with up to 24 selections, we should expect more selections in our Latin CDs also.
The past masters of Puerto Rico music listed in our opening paragraph above are candidates for lengthier CDs. El Gran Combo was released thusly but, unfortunately, Mon Rivera was not. I got co-producer credits on the Mon which I produced (by myself) for my Alegre label in 1962. Thanks for that, although partially incorrect.
A great CD will be the Rafael Muñoz y su Orquesta originally titled "Top Pops of Latin America" (RCA LPM 1054), it included "Olvidame," "Perfume de Gardenia," "Campanitas de Cristal," "Quiereme Mucho," y "Besame Mucho."
The Rafael Muñoz Orchestra of P.R. could be compared to the Paul Whiteman Orchestra of the States. They both played the melody of a song before it was vocalized and they were both ignored by the super-hip crowd, although Whiteman had some great jazz sideman like Bix Beiderbecke, the protagonist of the 1950 movie "Young Man With a Horn."
The town of Ponce, P.R. is called the cradle of musicians. The Rafael Muñoz Orchestra was the cradle of the bandleaders. Muñoz spun off, Noro Morales, Cesar Concepcion, Jose Luis Monero, Pepito Torres, Moncho Usera, etc. When his singers sang, their diction was such that the lyrics were understandable. The many Muñoz vocalists included José Luis Monero, Victor Luis Miranda, Vitin Garayb, and Raffi Muñoz. An older Muñoz son (Moncho) fell in with the hip crowd and even played with the Tito Rodriguez band.
RCA or BMG, let's get this CD into the stores and make some money...yeah!
The Fox brothers in the music business are all overachievers. I have also been so accused, but, of course, it's complimentary. I was first made aware of Charlie Fox when he arranged the LP "Fiddler on the Roof Goes Latin" for Joe Quijano. Then I started seeing his name as music director for T.V. shows (i.e. "Happy Days") and later he wrote for many movies. His brother, Bernie, is a well known excellent audio engineer. The third Fox, Manny, is sort of a business-agent-manager-broker. Manny Fox called me and suggested we talk about a high-priced consultant position. He was representing the Time-Life organization and they wanted to prepare an anthology of 100 LPs that would reflect the music of Central and South America and Spain. To be included were top singers, bands and any type of musical aggregation from soloist to duo to trio, etc. to big band. Dance tempos indigenous to the various Hispanic countries were also to be involved. The consultant position was offered to Barry Rogers and Barry recommended me. Barry was right because with my 60 hours a week at Casalegre for twenty years, and my producing experience, I had the best background to compile this anthology.
My first meeting with Manny Fox went something like this:
M.F: You want to do 40 or 35 hours a week?
M.F.: Can you work 5 days a week?
A.S.: Prefer not to.
M.F.: How about Monday, Wednesday and Friday?
A.S.: No...I like Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
M.F.: O-kay then three days.
A.S.: No, three half days.
M.F.: O-kay. What about bucks?
A.S.: $100 an hour.
M.F.: 12 hours a week at $100 an hour. O-kay.
A.S.: And I want to get paid daily.
M.F.: O-kay. We'll write you a check every Tuesday, Wednesday
I started work and by the second week I nearly finished the project. That weekend my girl Louise (wife now) showed me some slides of her trip to Israel and I was enthralled with the beautiful land, sea and mountains. Then "she" did it. She told me that Latin-American music was very well received in Israel. Realizing that my high paying Time-Life gig was about to be up unless I slowed down my output, I decided to take the Alegre All-Stars to Israel in a concert tour. I called Manny Fox so he could set it up, but he wasn't home. I asked his wife to order 17 round trip first-class tickets to Israel for me. She yes'd me and called her husband very upset. Manny Fox called me from where he was and told me a few things:
1) Don't ever call him at home again.
2) I was fired, and
3) The Charlie Fox - Al Santiago Broadway collaboration was no longer in the works.
Since that experience I refuse to look at travel slides.
Hasta la proxima.