Craft Latino announces the release of It’s a Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul of Fania Records (The Singles), a brand-new collection that showcases Fania’s era-defining output of boogaloo and Latin soul music. Spanning 1965–1975, the box set compiles 89 singles from such best-selling artists as Ray Barretto, Joe Bataan, Bobby Valentín, Ralfi Pagan, and Larry Harlow, plus rarities from 125th Street Candy Store, The Latinaires, The Harvey Averne Band, and Ali Baba, among many others.
Set for release on October 8th and available for pre-order today, It’s a Good, Good Feeling includes four CDs plus a bonus 7-inch single, all housed in a 60-page hardcover book, featuring extensive new liner notes by compilation co-producer and DJ Dean Rudland, as well as photos and ephemera from Fania’s archives. Helping to set the scene is a 7-inch single, which culls vintage promo tracks for “Symphony” Sid Torin’s radio shows on New York’s WEVD AM and FM. The famed DJ was an early champion of Latin music and helped to popularize the genre in the ’60s. Featuring newly remastered audio by the GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer, Paul Blakemore, It’s a Good, Good Feeling will also be available on digital and streaming platforms, while an abridged, 2-LP vinyl edition of the compilation offers 28 choice cuts and an eight-page booklet. A collectible orange-crush colored pressing (limited to 300 copies) can be found on our store. The first instant grat. single “Gypsy Woman,” Joe Bataan’s 1967 debut hit, is available to stream/download today.
In the ’60s, a unique musical moment was brewing in New York City, as young Latin American artists—many of them second-generation—found themselves split between the traditional music they grew up on and the rising sounds of soul, doo-wop, and R&B. They began experimenting in the clubs, blending Afro-Cuban beats, Latin jazz, and soul with predominantly English lyrics. The result was a delectable new genre with broad appeal that epitomized the cultural melting pot of New York. While boogaloo and Latin soul was a short-lived craze (peaking in the late ’60s and early ’70s), it popularized Latin music in America and established the careers of many internationally beloved artists.
Fania Records was founded just prior to the rise of boogaloo in 1964 by bandleader Johnny Pacheco and his lawyer, Jerry Masucci. Over the next few years, Fania would sign and nurture a variety of emerging Latin soul artists. As Rudland points out in his notes, “Fania was not the first label to release Latin soul, but they were vital within its rise, releasing important records, and its owners patently understood the opportunity it allowed the young label to expand quickly.”
Among their earliest signings were Willie Colón, Joe Bataan, Bobby Valentín, and Ray Barretto: four rising stars who were all eager to experiment with their sounds—and Fania gave them the freedom to do so. Colón, who became one of the label’s most celebrated artists, rarely strayed from traditional stylings but offered one foray into Latin soul with his debut single, “Willie Baby” (1967). Valentín, meanwhile, straddled the line stylistically, but scored several boogaloo hits for the label early on, including 1967’s joyful “Geronimo” and “Bad Breath,” as well as the anthemic “Use It Before You Lose It” (1968).
Barretto, who had already established himself—and the boogaloo sound—prior to signing with Fania, was known for such foundational hits as 1962’s “El Watusi.” Once he joined the burgeoning label, however, he recorded one of the genre’s most important albums, Acid (1968), which spawned such enduring singles as “A Deeper Shade of Soul” and “Mercy, Mercy Baby.” Latin soul regularly reflected the political tensions of the ’60s and Barretto, in particular, often delivered socially conscious messages in his songs, including the funky “Together” (1969) and “Right On” (1971).
Bataan, meanwhile, burst onto the scene in 1967 with a cover of The Impressions’ “Gypsy Woman”—the title track of his debut album. A year later, he followed with “Subway Joe,” which, Rudland argues, is “the pinnacle of Latin soul,” and scored an R&B crossover hit with a two-part cover of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “It’s a Good Feeling” (subtitled “Riot” by Bataan). The artist also found broad success with emotion-filled ballads like “Sad Girl” and the epic “My Opera” (both 1969), as well as a dramatic cover of The Beatles’ “This Boy” (1971).
Taking the soul route even more directly was Ralfi Pagan, who scored a multitude of R&B hits in both English and Spanish, including sultry covers of Bread’s “Make It with You” (1971) and the Drifters’ “Up on the Roof” (1973), as well as the up-tempo “Wonderful Thing” (1974), and the reflective “Just for a Little While” (1975).
The man behind many of Pagan’s hits, as well as songs by Barretto, Bataan, and lesser-known Fania acts like the Latinaires and Ronnie Marks, was producer, songwriter, and musician, Harvey Averne. While Averne was not of Latin heritage, he was deeply entrenched in the scene and released several of his own albums and singles under a variety of monikers, including the swinging “Make Out” (Harvey Averne + 9, 1967), “The Micro Mini” (Harvey Averne and Group Therapy, 1967), and “Accept Me” (The Harvey Averne Dozen, 1968).
Larry Harlow was another white bandleader who found success in the Latin market, signing to Fania in 1965 and enjoying a long and prolific run with the label. While the majority of his work was more traditional fare, he did deliver several soulful tracks in the late ’60s with his Orquesta Harlow, including such funky cuts as “Mess Around” and “That Groovy Shingaling” (both from 1967’s El Exigente album) as well as a 1968 cover of Hugh Masekela’s “Grazin’ in the Grass.”
In addition to such legends as Louie Ramirez (featured alongside Bobby Marin as “Ali Baba” in this compilation) and Mongo Santamaría, the Fania All Stars also make an appearance on It’s a Good, Good Feeling. The supergroup—which, at the time included the likes of Bataan, Valentín, Barretto, Ramirez, and Colón, plus a handful of special guests—offered Fania an opportunity to showcase its talented roster. The two tracks here (“Richie’s Bag” and “Red Garter Strut”) are culled from the group’s 1969 live album, Live at the Red Garter, Vol.2, and feature vocals by the great Richie Ray.
By the mid-’70s, the popularity of boogaloo had widely given way to salsa—and Fania quickly rose to become a leader in the genre. While salsa ultimately proved to be the more enduring style, the success of boogaloo and Latin soul was instrumental in paving the way for its mainstream appeal. Many of the artists who found early fame with Latin soul records, meanwhile, would go on to enjoy thriving careers, including NEA Jazz Master Award-winner and International Latin Music Hall of Fame Inductee Ray Barretto, Joe Bataan, Bobby Valentín, and Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winner, Larry Harlow.