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Essays

The Collaboration of Willie Colón/Rubén Blades at Fania Records - Page 4

Siembra - page 3       With Strings - page 5

SIEMBRA (1978) :

Willie Colón/Rubén Blades

Siembra

Plastico / Buscando Guayaba / Pedro Navaja / Maria Lionza / Ojos / Dime / Siembra

Leopoldo Pineda, trombón / José Rodriguez, trombón / Angel Papo Vasquez, trombón / Sam Burtis, trombón / José Torres, fender rhodes / Salvador Cuevas, bajo / Eddie Rivera, bajo / Eddie Montalvo, tumbadora / Jimmy Delgado, timbales / Bryan Brake, bateria / Al Santiago, maracas / Willie Colón, coro / Rubén Blades, coro / José Mangual Jr., coro / Adalberto Santiago, coro

In 1978, the second disc collaboration between the two men is released. It has the effect of a bomb in the New York salsero world. It is this disc which will go very quickly gold, and which remains today, according to some, the highest selling disc in the history of this music (information rather difficult to control objectively, because the owner of Fania Records, Jerry Masucci, does not seem to have been a large partisan of transparency).

Already on the preceding album, the duration of the pieces largely exceeds the usual format of the radio operator programmers of the time, around 3 minutes. On this second album, one reaches briskly 7 minutes 20 with "Pedro Navaja". The DJs of the NY radios systematically cut the end of the pieces to respect the usual duration, causing the boards of all the stations to explode under the calls of the listeners who demanded the title in its entirety. But to annoy the DJ is not enough for them: the two men also start to do bookings without intermediaries and the 'conscious salsa', with message, with text, which is listened to as much as it is danced to, does not render service either to the owners of clubs, who sell fewer drinks, because people perspire less with their concerts.

Of the 7 titles of the album, Rubén composed 6 of them, adding a true coherence to the album as a unit. The few defects of the preceding albums are completely erased on this one, with richer compositions with simpler melodies, more consistent texts, and more sophisticated arrangements.

Plástico lyrics : 1978, it is also the great period of the disco music. The introduction of this piece is a small wink at the fashion of the moment. The words denounce people who sell their hearts to save appearances and to maintain their social status, then rocks suddenly in a call for the unity of the people of Latin America. The theme proceeds with 5 long verses before arriving at the 'montuno', the more danceable part . In a salsa hitherto famous for its frivolousness and its unconcern, "Plastico" serves as scathing political attack.

Buscando Guayaba lyrics : In this piece, Rubén goes out looking for love. Arrangement is much simpler, the sequence of the parts is academic. But the simplicity of this title makes it possible for Rubén to again show his inventiveness in the 'montuno', which arrives very quickly after a rather short theme. It starts, in a traditional way, by a brass solo, in the event the trombóne of Willie. Rubén slips into the piece a vocal imitation of a guitar solo, before adding his voice to the brass section riffs, as he often does.

Pedro Navaja lyrics : Arranged by Luis Perico Ortiz, Pedro Navaja is a small jewel in more than one way. It is still a title which speaks about the everyday life of the great urban concentrations of all America, North and South. It's the story of a small gangster, of whom the song makes us a very successful portrait, who attacks a prostitute. In the aggression, the girl defends herself by shooting Pedro Navaja. They both die, while a drunk finds the bodies, searches them, and sets out again while singing out of tune what immediately becomes the chorus of the following 'montuno'.

Based on the history of "Mackie Messer" of The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weil and Bertold Brecht, become a jazz traditional under the title "Mack The Knife", sung among others by Ella Fitzgerald, adapted into Brazilian in "Opera do Malandro" and in French by Bernard Lavilliers under the title "Pierrot La Lame", "Pedro Navaja" is built in a very sophisticated way. It starts with an instrumental introduction, with police siren intended to put to us directly in the environment. Then, the instruments enter progressively to accompany Rubén: congas on the first verse, the bongo and the timbales on the second, the bass and the piano on the third, and finally brass on the fourth. The entry of the brass makes the tonality of the piece rise a semitone. This rise, which is used to gather the dramatic and musical intensity, will be reproduced on the sixth, eighth and ninth.

Siembra, finally, the last piece of the disc, the title song, is a proclamation which says, in substance: "Sow if you wish to reap something, but never forget that the fruits that you will obtain will depend on the seed".

Siembra - page 3       With Strings - page 5

Other websites by this publisher: jimserrat.com  AND  carletteandjim.com




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