LINER NOTES FROM OLIVER WANG (soul-sides.com):
Few music styles capture the remarkable magic of America’s cultural mixing better than Latin boogaloo. Born as a Black dance craze in Chicago, boogaloo traveled to East Harlem, where a young generation of Puerto Rican American musicians remade it in their own image: part Afro-Cuban with its mambo and guajira grooves, part Afro-American with its doo-wop vocals and R&B basslines. Beginning in 1966, when the first hits began to emerge - The Joe Cuba Sextet’s “Bang Bang,” Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like It Like That” - Latin boogaloo stormed out of uptown New York and swept its way throughout North and South America. Whether sung in English or en español, the lure of the “ooh/aah” choruses and slaps of hand claps proved irresistible internationally.
Few cities embrace the remarkable magic of America’s musical mixing better than New Orleans. At the crossroads of Spanish colonialism, the African slave trade and U.S. expansionism, New Orleans’ sonic roots have long been intertwined. Especially with the close ties between New Orleans and Havana, it’s no surprise that the clave rhythm - the “key” at the heart of Afro-Cuban styles - also made its presence felt on NOLA musics from ragtime jazz to second-line funk drumming.
For all these reasons, when I first heard the music of Los Po-Boy-Citos, it just made sense. What better music to link Chicago, New York and New Orleans - three of the pillars of polyglot America - than boogaloo? And like the young East Harlem bands of the mid-60s, the Po-Boy-Citos inspire a vitality and excitement that any dancefloor audience can relate to.
Their irresistible rhythms are felt throughout the album, especially on their covers of less-known boogaloo hits such as Charlie Palmieri’s tense and funky “Either You Have It Or You Don’t,” and Joey Pastrana’s deliciously swinging “King of Latin Soul.” On the other, original songs like “Long Way Home” and “Baila Conmigo” demonstrate that the band has mastered the essence of boogaloo in penning their own songs that pay loving tribute to the music’s best traditions.
Personally, my favorite tune of theirs is “Brand New Dance,” first released on 7” vinyl and sold to loyal fans at gigs. Here, it all comes together - a little Texas funk courtesy Archie Bell’s “Tighten Up,” mixed with some down-home flavor in the form of Eddie Bo’s “Check Your Bucket,” and then all filtered through a Latin percussive makeover that recalls the sizzling fusions of bands led by boogaloo legends such as Larry Harlow, Joe Bataan or George Guzman.
Conventional wisdom says the boogaloo “died” around 1969 but as a band like Los Po-Boy-Citos suggests, no good music ever really disappears so long as it still inspires the interest and passion of new generations of acolytes. New Orleans has long embraced musical cultures from around the world; little wonder that it’s now home to this new breed of Latin soul seekers (and they cookin’!)
Los Angeles, CA
Oliver Wang (soul-sides.com)