Mr. Mongo Santamaria
“Listen – Lady Marmalade MP3″
How’s every little thing?
I come to you relatively late in the week (at least as things go hereabouts), both tired (from work and all) and energized, because I’m preparing to throw down some heat this Friday night at the second installment of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions.
The inaugural session was a fantastic night, well attended and more than well spun, as the resident selectors – your host DJ Prestige, DJ Prime, Connie T. Empress, Jay Boxcar, Jack the Ripper and yours truly – played some of the hottest rare funk and soul, and will be doing so again this Friday. This time out they will be joined by WFMU’s Cool Hands Luke, and Brooklyn’s own Sport Casual, fresh from the decks at the Lucky Cat in Williamsburg.
If you are close enough to make the trip, and dig funk and soul spun exclusively on 45 (and I know you do) you’d be a fool to miss it.
Now, on the matter of the blog, I couldn’t very well finish the week out without some fresh sounds to carry you into the weekend, and so I won’t.
Today’s selection is a later 45 by one of the true kings of Latin soul, the master, Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria.
If all you ever heard by Mongo was his classic version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ then you wouldn’t be doing too badly, because as Latin soul goes, there are few selections as powerful (especially considering how early that particular cut falls on the timeline).
However (and this is a big however), were you to stop there, you would be depriving yourselves of a veritable wellspring of Afro-Cuban, boogaloo-ban, shake-yer-shoe-ban groove grease, and as your physician, I must recommend you not go down that particular road.
Mongo was not only a master conguero, but he also had a good enough ear to stay a few steps ahead of musical trends and the good taste/hippitude to do so with a great deal of flair.
He left Cuba and hit New York in 1950, and over the next 40 years recorded countless albums as a sideman (including many with Cal Tjader), and dozens as a leader. He recorded for Battle and Riverside into the mid-60’s, when he switched to Columbia, and then in 1970 to Atlantic. In the early 70’s he began to record for Vaya records (a subsidiary of the Fania label).
His cover of the Labelle disco/funk classic ‘Lady Marmalade’ hails from his 1975 Vaya LP “Afro Indio’.
The tune was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan*, and originally recorded by Nolan’s group the Eleventh Hour in 1974. Labelle went into the studio with Allen Toussaint and the Meters in 1975 and rerecorded ‘Lady Marmalade’, turning into a Number One hit in the process.
Mongo recorded his cover later that year giving the tune a Latin edge (with a slightly jazzy twist), and while it may not be the fire starter that the Labelle version was, it was still a heater.
As far as I’ve been able to tell, none of Mongo’s Vaya catalogue is currently available in reissue, but as he was one of the bigger crossover successes of Latin music, the vinyl shouldn’t be too hard to find.
So…try to make it out to the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, and if I don’t see you there, I’ll see you on the interwebs.
*Nolan, by himself and in tandem with Crewe wrote of a number of best selling pop and disco records, before waxing one of the truly insipid wimp-pop records of all time, ‘I Like Dreaming’, which of course – in an unpleasant twist- went on to be a huge hit. However, having also co written ‘Lady Marmalade’ Nolan is also laughing all the way to the bank.