Craft Latino is proud to present an all-analog reissue of Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 2, the 2nd edition of the iconic Fania live album responsible for officially launching the salsa explosion that emerged from New York and swiftly conquered the entire planet. Consisting of six electrifying tracks including the closing theme, the album was recorded on the night of August 26, 1971, just as the Fania label was complementing its growing catalogue of studio classics with the concert performances of a mega-orchestra made up entirely of stars. Never in music history has a band boasted the inclusion of most of the key protagonists in a genre within a single outfit. The Fania All Stars did just that, and the results speak for themselves: The Cheetah gig showcased an orchestra of virtuosos singing and playing harmoniously in a vibrant display of Latino power that continues to feel relevant today.
Out on February 3rd and available for pre-order now, the new edition of Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 2 was cut all-analog from the original tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio and pressed on 180-gram audiophile quality black vinyl in a single-pocket gatefold tip-on jacket. A Green Smoke Vinyl variant will be available exclusively at Fania.com. The album will also be released in hi-res digital for the first time, including 192/24 and 96/24 formats on February 3rd.
In interviews, the late Johnny Pacheco described Fania All Stars concerts as family gatherings. Perhaps because they were already enjoying wide acclaim on their own throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America, its members were happy to lend their individual talents to a bigger cause. The summer of 1971 edition of the Fania All Stars was arguably its best. In terms of vocalists, it included Héctor Lavoe, Pete ‘El Conde’ Rodríguez, Adalberto Santiago, a very young Ismael Miranda and the elder statesman of the bunch, Tito Puente orchestra veteran Santos Colón. The instrumental lineup was equally mind blowing: Ray Barretto on congas – fresh off the masterful The Message LP; Roberto Roena on bongó – just as his Apollo Sound band was taking off in Puerto Rico; Orestes Vilató on timbales; Bobby Valentín on bass; Larry Harlow on piano – admired in New York for his rugged Afro-Cuban sessions with Ismael Miranda; Reynaldo Jorge and none other than Willie Colón on trombone; Roberto Rodríguez on trumpet and boricua folk master Yomo Toro on tres; Cheo Feliciano, Bobby Cruz and Ricardo “Richie” Ray appear as special guests courtesy of Vaya Records. Pacheco played the flute, sang backup vocals and acted as the outfit’s buoyant MC and bandleader.
Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz, invited guests, open up the A-side of Vol. 2 with their signature style on Ahora Vengo Yo. Richie’s piano riffs and Bobby’s vocals bob and weave throughout and set the pace for the All Star’s trademark track, Estrellas de Fania, up next. All the featured vocalists, Adalberto, Hector, Ismael, Pete, and Santos Colon take turns with their soneos as well as other band members with their instruments and that turns Estrellas de Fania into a showcase of the band’s talent.
B-side highlights include track 1, Ponte Duro, an all-out percussion jam courtesy of Roberto Roena on bongos. The lengthy “Macho Cimarrón” is a tour de force for El Conde’s prowess, with Pacheco, Harlow and Colón’s soloing as the icing on the cake. A reprise of the band’s intro theme brings this glorious night to its end.
Years of splendor would follow for both the Fania label and its dream orchestra. Not only a mythical concert at Yankee Stadium and an African tour, but also the expansion of the salsa aesthetic in an ongoing effort to create soundscapes that were ever more thrilling, progressive and experimental. Still, nothing compares to the adrenaline of the moment when it all came together. More than 50 years after the fact, Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 2 delivers an aural snapshot of the specific time when the rhythm of salsa found itself, against all odds, on top of the world.
Pre-order the vinyl now and explore exclusive bundle options at Fania.com.
Live at the Cheetah, Vol. 2 tracklist (vinyl):
- Ahora Vengo Yo
- Estrellas de Fania
- Qué Barbaridad
- Ponte Duro
- Macho Cimarrón
- Closing Theme
*Digital version tracks mirror the vinyl tracklist