CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SALSA CHRISTMAS CLASSIC, ASALTO NAVIDEÑO, VOL. II, WITH NEW REISSUE

CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SALSA CHRISTMAS CLASSIC, ASALTO NAVIDEÑO, VOL. II, WITH NEW REISSUE

Craft Latino is thrilled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of Latin music’s most beloved Christmas albums, Asalto Navideño, Vol. II. Led by the inimitable duo of Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe, with the addition of cuatro master Yomo Toro, this classic salsa title includes such festive favorites as “La Banda,” “Doña Santos,” and “Cantemos.” In stores on September 29 and available for pre-order now, Asalto Navideño, Vol. II features lacquers cut from the original master tapes (AAA) by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl. The LP is housed in a tip-on jacket, while the original jacket art (featuring Toro as Santa Claus) highlights the musicians’ playful personas. Fans can also find Asalto Navideño Vol. II in 192/24 hi-res audio on select digital platforms. In addition, an Evergreen color vinyl exclusive is being offered at CraftRecordings.com with exciting bundle options that include new holiday merch.

 

Asalto Navideño, which literally translates to “Christmas Assault” is named for the Puerto Rican Christmas tradition (also known as a parranda). Similar to the act of caroling, revelers visit their friends and families, singing (typically secular) songs and enjoying refreshments late into the night. In 1971, three leading Puerto Rican-American musicians (bandleader and trombonist Willie Colón, singer Héctor “El Cantante” Lavoe, and “King of the Cuatro” Yomo Toro) banded together to record their own parranda. The resulting album, which marked the first volume of Asalto Navideño, became a best-seller in the US and Puerto Rico.

 

As salsa reached its height in New York, fans could not get enough. And so, in 1973, the three musicians reunited with percussionists Milton Cardona and José Mangual Jr. to record even more holiday magic. As with the first edition of Asalto Navideño, Colón (who also served as producer and arranger) selected eight traditional Puerto Rican country songs (música jíbara) and reimagined them in the salsa tradition, blending them with an array of Afro-Caribbean rhythms (from Cuban guaguancó to Brazilian samba).

 

Throughout Vol. II is an air of spirited celebration, as the banda toasts to Christmas, Three Kings Day, and New Year’s Day, while pledging solidarity with their fellow Latin Americans – particularly in songs like “Cantemos” and “Pa’ Los Pueblos.” Mirroring an actual asalto Navideño, the album opens with “Pescao,” in which the trio announces the parranda. The song is a particularly strong example of the jíbaro tradition, as is the following track, “Recomendación.” The latter selection also showcases the fierce interplay between Colón and Toro, which can be heard throughout the album.

 

The biggest highlights of the album, however, are two of the trio’s most enduring and joyful favorites: “La Banda” and “Doña Santos.”  Translating to “the group” or “the gang,” “La Banda” begins with an upbeat piano montuno before the beat kicks in and Lavoe launches into his famous improvisations. “Doña Santos” continues the party, as the sonero sings about craving roast pig (a traditional menu item at Puerto Rican Christmas gatherings). The song climaxes in another fantastic trombone-cuatro jam by Colón and Toro.

 

In addition to these memorable songs, what made both records so special was the talent involved. At the time, Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe were among Latin music’s most formidable duos – and pioneers of the salsa sound. Both artists were teenagers when they began working together under Fania Records. There, they would release a string of best-selling albums, including 1967’s El Malo, 1970’s Cosa Nuestra, and 1973’s Lo Mato. Not long after the second Asalto Navideño dropped, however, Colón and Lavoe would each embark on exciting new phases of their careers. While Colón would hone his talents behind the scenes, Lavoe, who was revered for his bright vocals, seamless phrasing, and ad-libbed anecdotes, was ready to break out on his own as one of the great interpreters of salsa music.

 

Yomo Toro, meanwhile, was a well-known entertainer in New York City, where he hosted a popular Spanish-language TV show. At the time, he also had regular gigs performing with the celebrated Mexican bolero groups Trio Los Panchos and Los Rivereños, but his work on both Asalto Navideño albums would make him an international star. In addition to becoming a mainstay in the salsa scene and performing with the Fania All-Stars, Toro became a hot commodity in the industry, eventually appearing on more than 150 albums by the likes of Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, and David Byrne.

 

The impact of Asalto Navideño Vols. I & II cannot be understated. Filtering the classic songs of their youth through a modern, New York City lens, Colón, Lavoe, and Toro paid homage to their Puerto Rican roots, while creating new musical traditions. Today, both Asalto Navideño volumes rank among the top salsa albums of all time, while they remain Christmas staples in Latin American households, passed down from one generation to another.

 

 

Asalto Navideño Vol. II tracklist (vinyl)

Side A

  1. Pescao (Popurri Sambao): Si Se Quema el Monte / Coje el Pandero / Pescao (Samba)
  2. Recomendación
  3. La Banda
  4. Doña Santos

 

Side B

  1. Cantemos
  2. Pa' los Pueblos
  3. Arbolito
  4. Tranquilidad

 

Asalto Navideño Vol. II tracklist (hi-res digital)

  1. Pescao (Popurri Sambao): Si Se Quema el Monte / Coje el Pandero / Pescao (Samba)
  2. Recomendación
  3. La Banda
  4. Doña Santos
  5. Cantemos
  6. Pa' los Pueblos
  7. Arbolito
  8. Tranquilidad

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