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Deeper Shades Of Soul: The Good Good Feeling Fania Boxed Set, Part 2

Mark Smotroff puts his dancing shoes on…

Yesterday, we explored a bit of the fantastic new retrospective from Craft Recordings called It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records. This set presents the tremendous and often groundbreaking singles from legendary, pioneering Latin Soul label Fania Records.  If you missed that first part of the review, please click here to catch up on it. 

Before I continue, it is important to point out that for a retrospective compilation spanning many years and different artists,  the fidelity is great on this set. So kudos must go out to Grammy Award-winning engineer, Paul Blakemore who ensured remarkable consistency from track to track which were no doubt recorded at many different times and places. This is especially significant given that the recordings here were pulled from best available sources, a combination of original master tapes, 45 RPM singles and probably some non-analog sources. Nonetheless, I’ve found this to be a very enjoyable listen on standard CDs and the streams found on Qobuz and Tidal (links follow below).

“Some Lonely Heart” by Ronnie Marks is an epic pop production with stinging electric guitars, soaring orchestral strings and passionate vocals.  Ralfi Pagan’s fascinating twist on David Gates’ “Make It With You” starts out more like the Bloomfield-Cooper-Stills version of Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch” — with a ripping distorted electric guitar solo — before it settles into a sweet falsetto vocal backed by chill vibe slow groove. 

Ray Barretto — who makes a particularly stunning performance in the fantastic new documentary Summer Of Soul — turns in some killer tracks here. Included is his original version of “A Deeper Shade Of Soul” (which was sampled by Urban Dance Squad for their early ’90 smash hit of the same name).  “Hard Hands” and “Love Beads” are great rocking soul slabs as well.

Ray Baretto

“Accept Me” features spectacular vocals on this track from The Harvey Averne Dozen.  Ali Baba’s novelty jam “Ungawa” revolves around a fun tale about a visitor from Mars all wrapped up in a slinky groove with punchy horns, congas and piano. 

Disc four has a slew of tracks which I’m loving by an artist I’ve never heard prior to this release, again, Ralfi Pagan.  I need to get more of his music — Ralfi’s voice falls somewhere between Little Anthony (of The Imperials fame), Eddie Holman (“Hey There Lonely Girl”) and even “Prince.” “It’s Alright” is a kicker, working of a great wah-wah guitar pulse a smokin’ rock groove and ripping distorted guitar leads weaving between the vocals and congas — its kind of like hearing an alternate universe version of early Chicago when Terry Kath was leading the band but with a singer who seems to channel James Brown and Edgar Winter in the same breath. Pagan breathes an authentic Latin groove in to Carole King’s “Its Too Late” which hinted at the vibe in her original hit. 

Butterscotch’s “Try A Little Harder” is really interesting, feeling almost like a an early Todd Rundgren pop hit (think “Hello Its Me”). But, with its very unconventional approach to the drum beats — which land the snare hits in a place you don’t really expect them to be in a dance recording — the result is an unusual groove that makes it sound like nothing else.  The other Butterscotch track, “Today” is a bit more of a conventional slow soul burner ala The Delfonics and The Stylistics.  By the time you get to W.R.L.C.’s “Johnny No Good” we are getting into early Disco territory but the vibe is more hard rocking and some badass electric guitar breaks and a fine groove this side of Bohannon are featured. 

It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records also includes a bonus 7-inch vinyl single featuring vintage promo tracks for famed DJ “Symphony” Sid Torin’s radio shows on New York’s WEVD AM and FM — an early champion of Latin music who helped popularize the genre in the 1960’s. 

It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records is on many popular digital and streaming platforms. You can find it in CD quality on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here). 

A two-LP vinyl edition of It’s A Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul Of Fania Records cherry picks 28 choice cuts plus an 8-page booklet. There is an  orange-crush colored pressing of 300 copies which is sadly already sold out from the pre-order.  I suspect there will be standard black vinyl copies of the set happening at some point given the likely strong demand for a set like this.

But really, you’ll probably do well getting the boxed set. Its a really fun package and with nearly five hours of music, you’ll have a great handy soundtrack for any party or road trip road trip at your fingertips. 

Highly recommended.

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