(by Dave Hucker, from The Beat, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2004)
AH C- I-D-AH- C-I-D- AH-CI- D-AH-C-I-D punctuated the air as the sound system suddenly lost its connection to electricity and the ability to drown out the noise from a totally diverse mix of the general population, an interesting slice of society—ex-football hooligans, assorted general nutters and crazies, black and white, all wide-eyed, rubbing shoulders, reveling in the moment of being really out there and doing something new—who continued to chant AH-C-I-D-AH-C-I-DAH- C-I-D-AH-C-I-D.
They bounced, sharing an extreme stimulation of nerve ends, modulating, creating a sparking discharge of positive energy and good vibes, going mental while actually being in a muddy field in Oxfordshire.
AH-C-I-D-AH-C-I-D came from the mass of people still bouncing up and down without the aid of music, calling the gods of the 240v supply, imploring them, pleading and hoping that they will reinstate the missing 50 htz current.
It was 1988, and I had been contacted by an old dj associate of mine, a character whom I knew from experience liked to live dangerously, a bit too dangerously for me, so our paths had not crossed in a while. When the rave business first started to take off he jumped in there with the gusto of seasoned hustler. He was booked to deejay at what was supposed to be the "chill out" area at a rave. He claimed he could not do it because he had been offered more money to work somewhere else, but the real reason was that the North London crime family who had bankrolled this event had discovered that dj E. IRA was actually named Paul Collins, the same Paul Collins who had seriously ripped off an uncle in this notorious crime family with a scam at club called the Purple Pussycat. So they were looking for retribution and recompense which for Paul probably might have led to surgical restitution of various broken bits.
A-H-C-I-D A-H-C-I-D A-H-C-I-D A-H-C-I-D.
At first I had been not sure if I wanted to do this. "Maybe my style of music might be a bit obscure." My friend shook his head."Just play em some of that Mongolian Fela Kuti stuff an then some Mongo Santamaria—you know—whatever, you know they are so far out of their trees you don't have to go out on a limb." Reassured by his alliteration and mix of metaphors and the fact that the money was very very good, I said yes.
My contact number steered me to a supermarket car park at Neasden on London's demiperipherique, the north circular road. There I had to hook up with a one-legged roadie called Mal, who would be standing by a lorry that said Adams & Brothers Cattle Transport, and I was to follow him. Security was tight, the police were starting to crack down on these raves.
Trying to keep to a square four-four beat, I was immediately flipped back 20 years with an A-C-I-D flashback to a previous period of acidic activity. Seeing a new generation frying their brains, waving light sticks and doing silly dances interested me and in some way warmed the cockles of my heart. This was radical, maybe the next generation were not such a bunch of softies after all. The course of history unhappily proved me wrong.
The original ripples of lysergia had spread fairly quickly into most areas of popular music around the globe. There was even a definite psychedelic Latin sub-genre, frequently linked into the boogaloo movement. The Lat Teens had their first (and only) hit with "Mary Wanna," while Johnny Colon's magnificent boogaloo opus magnum "Boogaloo Blues" has a chorus that repeats "LSD got a hold on me." Joe Cuba, never a man to miss a trick, gave us such gems as "Psychedelic Baby" and "Joe Cuba's Madness Pts. 1 & 2," a whacked-out 12,000 rev full-throttle blast of Jimmie Sabater on timbales dukeing it out with seriously disturbed keyboards, which sounds as if it was really written for the freak-out sequence of an early Roger Corman film, when the characters think they really are going mad, rather than just imagining it.x Ray Barretto's 1972 Fania release Acid has become one of the great classics. The title track is a sparse bass-led percussionstorm jazzy free-form excursion with redhot horns, not so much as Sun Ra on acid, but on homebrew bathtub amphetamines. The big bit off this release which has proved its endurance and longevity over the years is "Soul Drummers," which has been a pretty constant dance-floor filler in the Latin soul arena, but even "straight" tracks here are really kicking, tough-roots salsa.
I had recently been flashed forward with a recent release by percussionist/bongocero Ivan Caceres y Su Bongolandia. I am always attracted to groups led by percussion players because they make sure the percussion is always right up front and I am a sucker for upfront percussion. I love Puerto Rican musical godfather Rafael Cortijo for his slapping congas and the very deep rhythms he played that were often considered to be "too black" for some of his critics. Rafael Ithier, the piano player from the Cortijo band, went on to form El Gran Combo, one of the smoothest and most kicking rhythm machines in the history of smooth rhythm machines, but because they were led by a piano player they have a different emphasis. The percussion is still there, but it does not clatter upside in your head like, say, like Tito Puente's did.
Ivan lets the percussion run free and stand in front of the sound on The Roots of Acid Salsa (Bongolandia), etching the rhythm into deep contours. Ivan discovered Puerto Rican star Frankie Dante and forgot about the rock music he had been listening to as he was introduced and immersed in the world of classic salsa from the likes of Sonora Poncena, Joey Pastrana and the very legendary Ernie Agosto y Conspiracion.
This is an interesting release that does not pretend to be something it isn't. It is honest, original and hand-crafted, sharp, syncopated and full of that percussion clatter that works very well for about 65 percent of the tracks as Ivan and the collection of top-notch musicians, like ex- Roberto Roena piano player Willie Sotelo, the arranger here, explore a range of Caribbean rhythms.
The album starts with "Campana Mayoral," a cracker of a track originally done by percussion master Jose Mangual Jr., where Willie's piano spars with Ivan's percussion and everything moves along swiftly. Flautist Nester Torres' "Vous Le Vous Dancer," which became a huge hit in Italy for Ivan, is a very seductive little French journey, n'est-ce pas? "Don't Stop the Carnival" gets a rare outing here and it benefits from a percussion-heavy groove.
A medley of songs done by Ivan's mentor Frankie Dante, "Medley la Flamboyan," rips through the hits and shows what a great songwriter Frankie was. "Changui Compay" is a trip into wonderfully fragmented Elio Reve Changui territory: The rhythm judders and shakes its head like a bike under heavy braking. Ivan shines on the bongos, which clatter away like worn tappets and tres player Oscar Rios gives it a sixth-gear wheelie.
The NY mambo puppets' favorite dance track, Johnny Colon's "Merecumbe," gets a fuzz guitar addition, hey, why not: Jimi Hendrix was another big influence on Ivan. All in all a top-notch little effort that generously rewards the listener with quality music. It is not going to go down in history as one of the greatest recordings ever, but compared to half the slush out there it shines brightly.
One of the vocalists on Ivan's recording is Lusito Carrion. A highly regarded singer, he is also featured on the new Yuri Buenaventura release Vagabundo (Wrasse). I really cannot recommend this release more strongly, with sixteen tracks of pure creativity of a quality many lesser artists can only dream of. Yuri resonates throughout the world—often people come to me and say "I heard this thing it's kind of Arabic and goes like this." "'Salsa Rai' by Yuri Buenaventura" is the answer I usually give. That song was huge a good many years ago and is obviously still going strong somewhere or other.
Remember a Lenny Kaye compilation about '60s American punk called Nuggets? Well, the salsa equivalent is here. Lost Classics of Salsa Vol. 1 (Libertad) is an immensely corrosive release that strips the wax out of your ears so you can hear the full limited range of the tinny sound of what is described as "garage salsa." Culled from a whole range of obscure '70s lps that in their period probably never sold more than a few hundred copies, Lost Classics has got the retro collectors, djs and dancers slathering at the mouth over tracks by such luminaries as Candido y Su Moviemiento, Kent Gomez and his Orquesta and Orquesta Ritmo Swing. I love it as well, especially the scratches on some of the tracks, where you can hear where they were transferred from lps, as I would imagine the masters might be difficult to track down. Sad, really, isn't it when the sound of scratches on a vinyl lp excite you.
You really don't get much rootsier than the tracks here and there are some wonderful performances and great songs. It feels almost bootleg with that raw sound. I think it would be fair to describe the kicking tracks on this indispensable collection as garage salsa: You don't get much more garage than this superb selection. It really is wonderful stuff. Opening up the proceedings and setting the tone for the rest of the cd is "Palos de Fuego" by Candido; a madcap timbales-led romp from timbalero Jose "Candido" Rodriguez.
Louie Colon y Su Combo comes up next with "Oyarde," a rocking effort with great trumpet, tres and piano, a real masterpiece. Kent Gomez's "My Ghetto" is a seriously whacked-out descarga-type thing where Kent's piano moves all over the place as he charges from classical to jazz then back to Richie Ray style over a pounding rhythm, very acid jazz.
"Tumbaron la Veintiuna" from Orquesta de Cuchon is a Tite Curet song about the social meaning of the bus stop numbers in Santaluce, PR. On route an abstract piano and a firing percussive horn section ride alongside a cowbell with attitude. This is real gritty street music: Just listen to "El Vago" by Danny Gonzalez y Su Orquesta Sensacional which is social-documentary tell-it-like-it-is lyrics over a mega-tight heavy groove. There is not a weak track in evidence, every one is a masterpiece of grittiness in its own right. Essential.
Remembering the days of the raves I checked on the shelves to see what I had of acid music from 1988. I turned to Acid Beats (Warrior) which features some great examples. Listening to the tracks on this compilation now I still see it as a pretty radical movement in those early days. "Cut It Up" by X-10-CIV is a maniac cut-andpaste job which is very entertaining, while "Knightrix Acid" was a funny gas giggle. I was flipped back to 1988:AH-C-I-D-AH-C-I-D-AH-C-I-D-AH-C-I-DAH- C-I-D.