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Deeper Shades Of Soul: The Good Good Feeling Fania Boxed Set, Part 1

Mark Smotroff polishes up his soul shoes…

In the world of record collecting — and music collecting, I should say — there is both excitement and periodic regret which comes with experience. The excitement is from the joy of discovering new music which we’ve never heard before and come to love. The regret comes from knowing that we’ve overlooked this music many many times in the past.

Such is the case with for me with what are now regarded as classic — and even legendary — recordings on the Fania Records label.  Most of my life I remember seeing albums from this company, which specialized in modern Latin sounds, popping up pretty much everywhere I looked.  But, for whatever reasons, I never bothered to stop and try to listen to them. So, I frequently skipped over these records when I would find them out in the wilds of collecting, from garage sales and flea markets to used record shops. My bad. As I’ve been diving deep in to Soul and Latin musics, especially over the past 20 years, my collection and listening tastes are much more balanced and diverse than when I was a kid. 

Nowadays many of these Fania recordings are highly revered by both fans of dance music as well as jazz infused Latin sounds. If you go to whosampled.com and search for some of the great Fania artists like Ray Barretto and Joe Battaan you’ll find they have been referenced a whole bunch in the digital age, pumping up the collectibility and value of these already rare original records as DJs around the world seek them out for their collections and new projects. 

Just recently I was very excited to have found one of these rare Fania albums at a garage sale in great condition for its age by the great Latin soul singer Joe Battaan.  It is sooooo good! When I looked up the album on Discogs.com, I was kind of stunned as even the CDs and re-issues of his recordings are commanding some very hefty prices on the marketplace!  There were no original vinyl pressings listed at the time of this writing!

Joe Bataan

So the point of all this record collector’s hoo ha is simply that if you want to start exploring this music, there are some good options out there. Thankfully, the good folks at Craft Recordings — which owns the Fania Records catalog — are beginning to make this music available again on a wider scale.

First up is a fine new four CD hardcover book styled set providing a terrific overview of the label and the single releases from its major artists.  This music onIt’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records sounds timeless and totally fits in with the music that new artists today are making as heard on labels like Penrose Records and Colemine Records. I’ve written about these labels before and some of the lowrider-vibing bands on them such as Thee Sinseers, Thee Sacred Souls, The Altons and Los Yesterdays. If you missed these reviews, please click on those label names in the prior sentence add you’ll jump to some of the stories.

All this really whet my appetite for more of this music so the timing of receiving It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records for review was just perfect. I’m way into this, as you might be able to tell! 

A little paragraph from the album’s official press release may help to put this music into further perspective: “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.” 

In total on the set you get nearly 90 songs spread across four nice sounding compact discs. This music was originally designed for play on AM radio back in the day so there is a certain flavor to these single mixes which still sound great whether you are playing them on at home, on headphones or your car stereo. That said, don’t be thrown by the reality that the recordings were pulled from best available sources, a combination of masters as well as 45 singles and other non analog sources. Generally, the fidelity is great on this set all things considered.

There is so much goodness here, its hard to narrow down favorites on It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records. You’ll find classics like Joe Bataan’s “Gypsy Woman” and the Doo Wop-inspired low-rider vibe gem “When We Get Married.”  Monguito Santamaria’s “Crying Time” is a wonderful slow jam with punchy horns and a fat bass line (and yes, he is the son of legendary Cuban percussionist and bandleader, Mongo Santamaria!).  

I’ll go into more of my favorites tomorrow in Part II of this review. If you want to start streaming it to get a taste of the music, you can find it in CD quality on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here). 

Monguito Santamaria

You can also check out some of the tracks I’ve posted below for you to taste these great grooves. 

There is so much more, so tune in tomorrow as we continue to explore It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records. More fun to come!

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