I am going to indulge and review a record by Latin soul star, Boogaloo pioneer, and proto-rapper Joe Bataan. Said review will, of course, include wise musical insight and clever Olympic jokes.
So the impetus for this bit of writing comes from my weekly frustration with Ol’ Suze Howson. See the Suze writes movie reviews, and although that isn’t inherently wrong or bad by any means it does make her content incredibly easy to plan. My content on the other hand is entirely up to my feeble imagination and sometimes costs you, the reader, time and energy as you try to wade through my emotionally-driven Richmond music propaganda. To solve this problem I thought I might hunker down and do some reviews myself. Typically I don’t engage in what “they” call reviews, but since I DO get to pick my content I am going to indulge and review a recently PURCHASED record by Latin soul star, Boogaloo pioneer and proto-rapper Joe Bataan.
Joe Bataan. I might try and tackle an efficient life’s work summary if Allmusic.com didn’t exist. Those of us who try to write efficient life’s work summaries in the wake of Allmusic will fail miserably and should embrace our fate of constantly link link linking our souls away. Anyhow, do yourself a favor, open a new tab, and commit to understanding a bit about this African-American/Filipino who grew up in Spanish Harlem, ran with Puerto Rican gangs, absorbed R&B, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Rican musical influences, and whose music career followed a pair of stints in Coxsackie State Prison. I will, of course, devote the large majority of my own words to wise musical insight and clever Olympic jokes.
Subway Joe by Joe Bataan, released 1969 on Fania Records
Ok. I listened and I did a bit of note taking – I imagine in my head that might be one of the first things that reviewers do (note: ask Suze how you actually are SUPPOSED to do this). Anyhow I will outline to you my thoughts… I could do like Bill Simmons and just give you my live diary, but I’m not as funny as him and as great as Subway Joe is, it is no Lakers/Celtics Game 4. Anyhow, undeterred by the human drama that is sports (sports!) I will continue.
The bro successfully combines genres. That’s his bag. I hear some salsa nazis don’t like him, and he sure cashed in on few fads in his day – BUT he is SO good at it! This particular album features doo-wop, R&B, lounge-y jazz, salsa, boogaloo, and probably a handful of “Latin” genres that I can’t delineate. Anyhow, it’s nice, it works, and is super fun. The vocals certainly stand out as a centerpiece to his sound, and the doo-wop background that he is well known for shines like Shawn Johnson’s smile. Related is the fact that I love vaguely sexual catch phrases from another era as well as exuberant shouts of emotion that double as brand new slang that I can introduce at the RVANews water cooler. Some highlights that fall into the aforementioned category are…
“do the push, do the pushey pushey”
“gonna rock the party!!”
“BRING IT HOME NOW!”
“FREAKY BABY FREAKY!
Enough about voices – who cares about those things anyway? To the instruments!!! I’m not entirely sure what the exact lineup is, but it’s something like piano, bass, a couple percussionists, and two trombones. The percussion is sick – supa sick – and although there is a high bar for beats in all that music with the “Latin tinge,” I have a crush on all of Joe’s percussion breakdowns. I think it’s the clapping. I have an unnatural crush on all things with clapping and apparently so does Joe B. There’s some great bass playing, some fantastic piano solos and the like but the real highlight of this album is those damn trombones. Instead of rattling of a list of superlatives I will, in fact, include my Bill Simmons-esque live journal about trombones…
“TROMBONES!!! Unison trombones. Little children’s theme on trombones returns and returns. Trombone solo – THERE’S TWO OF THEM. HIGH ENERGY. That duo trombone thing kills me. blasting lines in the same register. Trombones. This is a trombone album for life. Horns – super tight trombone shit HIGHLIGHT!!!”
Ok. A few more nerdy music addendums and we will wrap this thing up – body lengths ahead of everyone else (like Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, whomever you prefer). I think the salsa proclivity to highly sectionalized compositions really leads to nice dynamic shifts and pleasurable bouts of tension and release. AND, I also think that the tag sections (the ending jams) that highlight a handful of the eight cuts on the album are superb.
In conclusion, dear friends, this is everything a classic summer album should be: sing-a-longs galore, light-hearted as a Slurpee, big beats that make your scantily clad body move it, and some new slang you can whisper to your newly found and soon to be discarded summer crush. Buy it here.
Keep your ears oiled.