Al reminisces about more of his record compilations.
Column: The Other Side Of The CD
by Al Santiago
While working for Fania Records in ‘78 and ‘79 I produced two or three LP’s and prepared 39 compilation LPs. A compilation LP is like The Best of Cuba CD I mentioned in my previous column. It contains selections that have already been released in other albums. The most common type of compilation is the “Best of...” album. I did many of these featuring artists such as Sonora Ponceña, Paquito Guzman, Louie Ramirez, Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Rodriguez and a Cortijo with Ismael Rivera. The difference was that I was not to call them the “Best of So and So” but was to come up with an original title. The obvious purpose was to get the record buyers to think these were new LPs and not rehashes.
I remember that while compiling the Cortijo with Ismael LP which I titled The Keys of Tradition I made an agreement with David Last, the owner of Seeco/Tropical, to lease some of the original Cortijo y Su Combo selections to include with the material from the Tico catalog which at that time Fania was distributing and producing (now is that a run-on sentence or not?).
Speaking of writing, a young lady journalist, whose name I would like to know, wrote in Latin New York magazine a review of the compilation. She praised the music, Rafa, Ismael and she also praised the backliner notes which I happened to have written. It was music to my ears of course. I will have to paraphrase her comments not having the actual review in front of me. She nominated my backliner notes for “the backliner notes of the year” and said, I must quote at least one line of the backliner notes and it is as follows, “The Combo’s original horn instrumentation of alto sax and trumpet was naturally harmonically simple but their intricate flowing lines and contrapuntal parts more than compensated.”...and then she said, “put that in your smoke and pipe it.”
Another LP from that era that is also available in CD today is the “Willie Colón and His Associates” compilation. I distinctly remember three peripheral anecdotes about that release (1) I had titled the compilation 49 Minutes and Pacheco who was half owner of Fania called me from his office and asked, “who titled that compilation? You — right? Only you would come up with a title like that” Hey, let’s remember that I was doing about one compilation a week. It was still a compliment to me. (2) That my daughter, whose real name is Orquestra, but whom everyone knows as Orchid suggested the concept of the compilation and I, of course, gave her credit for same on the backliner. (3) That Willie Colón wrote me a beautiful letter telling me how much he approved of the compilation of his works — the sound equalizations and the sequence, etc. I heard Willie’s band not too long ago at a political fund raiser at Roseland (Louie, Nieves, and El Conde were also playing). Well, I should have spoken to Willie to tell him how much I liked his “new-to-me” band...very exciting and dynamic and his unusual instrumentation of a tenor sax with two bones really pleased me, not only for its originality but also for its sound. Oh yes I just remembered another Willie compilation I prepared — titled three peripheral anecdotes about that release (1) I had titled the compilation Deja-Vu. I’m not sure if it is available on CD. [It is. -- Ed.]
By the way, my father Don Alfredo and Willie’s father Willie Sr. played in the same band together along with Johnny Ruiz and Carlos Medina. It was the Charlie Valero Big Band (Circa late ‘40’s). My father played tenor sax and clarinet and Willie Sr. played trumpet. It was an excellent band...78s were released but no LPs.
The Willie Colón letter I mentioned above is at “Boy’s Harbor” along with most of my collection of letters, catalogues, pictures, memos, reviews, postcards, etc. I donated this material to “Boy’s Harbor” over 10 years ago with an agreement that it would be available to columnists, writers, students, disc jockeys and any accredited or legitimate researcher. It has come to my attention that CUNY Associate Professor Vernon Boggs was treated courteously and given carte blanche to review the material. I would guess that some of that information was used in his book, Salsiology. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have read my interview in the book four times already.
Hope some of you will take the time to give me some feedback on “The Other Side of the CD” — thanks.