Until earlier this year, I only knew salsa as one of two musical genres you really don't want your downstairs neighbor to love and consequently blare at all hours, the other being Merzbow-style noise. But I'm learning the error of my ways, thanks to a recent influx of reissues and compilations from Fania Records.
Fania, the iconic Latin music label co-founded in 1964 by bandleader Johnny Pacheco and attorney Jerry Masucci, was acquired by the Miami-based company Emusica in late 2005. The new owners immediately set about refurbishing the back catalog, remastering the albums (as of 2006, the plan was to reissue at least 300 titles) and commissioning new liner-note essays from knowledgeable writers like Ernesto Lechner, Latin Beat contributor and former DJ Nelson Rodriguez, and descarga.com contributor John Child. Fania's also getting into the compilation business. Folks even I recognize as major figures (Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Pacheco) get two-CD digipak collections, while second-tier but still important artists like Ismael Quintana and Roberto Roena get single-disc anthologies. Fania's also taking a tentative step toward the future, with Fania Live 01: From the Meat Market, a mix disc assembled by DJ Rumor.
In the last month, I've received about 50 Fania albums in the mail, including some of the aforementioned compilations. So far, the artists who leap out most vividly are trombonist-composer-producer Willie Colón and singers Ismael Rivera and La Lupe. [Read the rest here.]