Classics: Nuyorican Soul – Sweet Tears (Talkin’ Loud)
A quick look at history tends to show as to how only those who released quality material happened to deeply love music and respect it. With Roy Ayers‘s name standing on top of the pile. Seating on an impressive list of timeless classics. From ‘Running Away’ to ‘Don’t Stop The Feeling’, ‘Poo Poo La La’ and ‘Sweet Tears’ to name a few. Therefore meaning by extension that crap music is the work of the ones who have no clue nor taste. The latter unfortunately forming the majority.
Props are most likely due to Maurice Bernstein and Jonathan Rudnick of Giant Step Records in NYC. But also to Gilles Peterson at Talkin’ Loud for havin’ blessed us with the release of the Nuyorican Soul album back in 1996. A concept which most likely stands as the very last ambitious project that has seen the light in the history of contemporary music. Bringin’ us back to the souvenir of those super productions which appeared during the Disco heydays. With the first label names comin’ to mind being Philadelphia International Records, Salsoul Records or Prelude to name a few.
As for those who crafted this Nuyorican Soul album – Louie Vega and Kenny Dope – it stands as a brilliant digest of their roots. Jammin’ along with some of their heros, including Jazz Funk vibraphonist Roy Ayers. Meanwhile revamping his classic ‘Sweet Tears’. The latter admittin’ this version was even better than the original. And the fact is Louie and Kenny pretty much did what it takes to achieve this. Bringin’ Lisa Fisher, Cindy Mizelle and Jocelyn Brown to secure the backing vocals. But also hiring a violin 14 piece section, along with Vincent Montana, Jr. in charge of the strings.
‘Sweet Tears’ of joy. That’s most likely what we have here…
I wish there would have been a follow-up album. Alas, it unfotunately never saw the light. Most likely because of both production but even more promotion costs. As a result, no one has ever done any music like this since. This makin’ of this album such an unvaluable testimony. Don’t you think?
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– The first mention to Nuyorican Soul dates from 1993 with the release of ‘The Nervous Track’ on Nervous Records.
Nothing more from then on until 1996 and the release of a self-titled album. “Nuyorican” (meaning “New Yorker” in Spanish) being a reminder of both Louie Vega and Kenny Dope‘s Puerto-Rican roots. Although both of them have a slightly different background. With Louie (Hector Lavoe‘s nephew) inheriting from Fania / Salsoul Records’ influences. And Kenny being more of a Hip-Hop B-Boy guy. The twosome getting their connection via Todd Terry and makin’ themselves a name under various guises such as KenLou and Masters At Work.
As a result, ‘Nuyorican Soul’ stands pretty much as their legacy. Paying props to classics that have nurtured their teens such as The Salsoul Orchestra‘s ‘Runaway’ featuring Loleatta Holloway. Or Rotary Connection‘s ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’. But also collaborating with some of their heros from Roy Ayers to Tito Puente, George Benson and Vincent Montana, Jr. among others. This giving birth to gems such as ‘Our Time Is Coming’, ‘You Can Do It’ and ‘Sweet Tears’. Not to mention ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It!’ which received countless remixes, from Roni Size to Armand Van Helden or Mood II Swing.
Louie and Kenny told me about their aim to release a follow-up, eventually mentionning their will to collaborate with Manu Dibango among others. Alas, the project never saw the light. Most likely due to the promotional costs of the volume 1, with so many legendary artists on board.
– A native of South Philaldelphia, PA, Vincent Montana, Jr. grew up in an Italo-American neighborhood. He first began playin’ drums as a child before venturing into other percussion instruments such as the marmimba and the glockenspiel. By the late 40’s, one would find him playing in clubs with Jazz luminaries such as Charlie Parker or Sarah Vaughan. Soon after, he went to perform in various hotels in Las Vegas, NV, accompanying artists such as Harry Belafonte and Louis Prima. Then he returned to Philadelphia by the late 50’s, eventually playin’ vibraphone on Frankie Avalon‘s 1959 smash hit ‘Venus’.
As a matter of fact, Vincent Montana, Jr.‘s contribution to the maturation of contemporary music has simply no equal. From setting up the legendary Sigma Sound Studio with Joseph Tarsia in Philadelphia, PA. Which is how he met Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. To his position as a major actor in the establishment of the Philadelphia Sound. Meanwhile gathering people from all origins/ethnics. Be they Blacks, Jewishes, Italians or Rednecks. And by that, embodying beforehand what Indamixworldwide is about…
All in all, the list of artists he arranged music for stands as a who’s who of the groove. Jamming along with The Intruders for instance. But also The O’Jays, The Trammps, William De Vaughn and Lou Rawls. Not to mention The Stylistics and Teddy Pendergrass to name but a very few. This in addition to being one of the founding members of MFSB with whom he recorded an impressive series of classics. From ‘Love Is The Message’ to ‘TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)’ to name a few.
Although promised to reach the upper heights, his partnership with Gamble & Huff brutally came to and end in 1974. And this, after financial issues. Hopefully, the wait didn’t last before Joe Bataan gave him the opportunity to jump on the next wagon. This while introducing him to the Cayre brothers. Three guys who were the owners of a NYC distributor of Latin Music whom he helped setting up Salsoul Records.
By that time, several members of MFSB had left for the same reasons. From John Davis who soon after formed John Davis & The Monster Orchestra to others who joined Ritchie Family. Not to mention Ronnie Baker, Bobby Eli, Norman Harris and Early Young who regularly joined Montana for recording sessions.
Montana put together The Salsoul Orchestra and soon after delivered the first release – ‘Salsoul Hustle’ for the label. An instant success, it opened the path to a string of 6 albums. Including classics such as ‘Getaway’ and ‘Ooh I Love It (Love Break)’ to name a few. But also collaborations with Carol Williams and Loleatta Holloway. This resulting in extra gems such as ‘Love Is You’ and ‘Run Away’.
By 1978, Montana left Salsoul Records and joined Atlantic. There, he put together Goody Goody along with his daughter, Denise, on vocals. Releasing one album – ‘Goody Goody’ – which spanned memorable cuts such as ‘#1 Deejay’ and ‘It Looks Like Love’.
Another 4 years on and Montana launched his own Philly Sound Works label. And then again, he would add a couple of goodies to his impressive collection. Beginning with ‘Who Needs Enemies (With A Friend Like You)’ and the infectious ‘Heavy Vibes’.
Last but not least, one might also remember him for his collaboration with Louie Vega and Kenny Dope back in 1996. The latter resulting in the release of their Nuyorican Soul album concept. A package which saw them comin’ up with a cover version of ‘Run Away’ with La India on vocals. And also span extra classics such as ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’, ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It’ and ‘Sweet Tears’ among others.
He sadly died at Cherry Hill, NJ, on Apr. 13, 2013, at the age of 85.
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