Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Fania All-Stars

The Fania All-Stars


The flagship act for Fania Records, the Fania All-Stars popularized New York salsa during the 1970s by organizing concerts at larger and larger venues (from the Red Garter in Greenwich Village all the way to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx) that spotlighted not only the label's but the salsa world's biggest stars — Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Johnny Pacheco, Rubén Blades, Hector Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Cheo Feliciano, Bobby Cruz, Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, and special guests like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and Eddie Palmieri. LPs by the collective were usually recorded live and featured long jams with plenty of space for solos for each of the salsa heroes on-stage at the time. Though the label management's quest for crossover success led to a few diluted major-label recordings during the late '70s and early '80s, infrequent events featuring the Fania All-Stars remained huge attractions into the late '90s.

Wedged between recordings and appearances by individual group members, the Fania All-Stars played sell-out shows across North America, from Puerto Rico and Panama to Chicago. Then, on August 24, 1973, the salsa wave crested with the group's performance at New York's Yankee Stadium in front of 44,000 fans. In 1974, the group traveled to Zaire and performed before the Rumble in the Jungle, the notorious heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Another appearance at Yankee Stadium in 1975 was also recorded and (unsurprisingly) released as a pair of albums (Live at Yankee Stadium).

The Fania All-Stars recorded eight studio albums during the 1980s, gradually moving from the overly polished sound of the late '70s to a more organic Latin jazz. In 1994, the group celebrated the 30th anniversary of Fania Records with live dates in San Juan, Miami, and New York. The Fania All-Stars continued to perform occasionally during the rest of the '90s. ~AMG

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