Never-released Fania’s golden era music hits stores

This is very exciting. A treasure of unreleased music by Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Celia, Machito, Mongo Santamaria will be seeing the light of day. Though not mentioned in this article, also appearing for the first time on CD will be a two-disc collection, of 40 Tito Puente songs from the 1950’s. This is all not just brilliant music, it is also of the highest historical importance.

And if all of this wasn’t enough……there’s unreleased music from the Siembra sessions!!!!

To even think that there are songs in existence that were made but not included on that legendary recording is extraordinary news and I’m sure many people will be very eager with anticipation, to hear that unreleased music for the first time……but…….. it appears that Willie Colón’s ego will get in the way of stopping what should be a real cause for celebration, stopping an important event in the history of Latin music.

Willie’s ongoing feud with Rubén Blades is not allowing him to exercise sounder judgment. Who is he really hurting by threatening to stop the release of this music?

I think his arguments are really weak. If the songs that were left out of Siembra were to be released today it would not diminish or take anything away from the original recording. Hardly. The music of the official album is so superb and deeply embedded in the hearts and consciousness of all the people who have listened to it and it is so embedded in the history of Latin music that there is absolutely nothing that could ever put a dent on it. The integrity of Siembra is unshakeable.

On the contrary, the release of these songs would complement the musical and historical context of the album. Willie is quick to talk about respect but not so quick to think about the millions of people who love his music and who have unconditionally supported his career. The majority of whom, I’m quite sure, would love to hear the unreleased songs.

And what about Rubén Blades? As someone who is as equally responsible for the creation and success of Siembra as Willie Colón, Rubén should surely have a say in what happens to the music. Even if he doesn’t have that right, legally, Is he not entitled to that right just out of artistic principle?

And how can Willie speak and carry on in public like he is rightfully the only one that should have complete control over a musical creation that he knows is not even remotely of his own making. He is wrong even if the law says he is right.

Respect and Integrity?

It’s sad to think that there is music from the Siembra sessions that will remain in the vaults for no other reason than that it is being used as ammunition by Willie Colón to continue waging his own personal battles.

Never-released Fania’s golden era music hits stores

Two never-released songs by the revered Celia Cruz?

A full recording of a live concert by the original Fania All-Stars in Cali, Colombia?

Unpublished music from Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto and other legends of Latin music?

These are samples of what has been found so far in the Fania Records archives since 2005, when Emusica bought the fabled label and rescued thousands of original tapes from an upstate warehouse where they had been languishing for years.

The names on these tapes, according to Emusica CEO Giora Breil and other people familiar with the Fania treasure trove, are astonishing.

Breil even talks of “songs unreleased” by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades from “Siembra,” the classic 1978 collaboration album that contained the hits “Pedro Navaja” and “Plástico.”

But Colón, who’s embroiled in a highly-publicized breach of contract lawsuit with Blades in Puerto Rico, says he would move to block any additional releases from the album.

“‘Siembra’ is a complete work. It should not be remixed nor should any material be added that we decided we did not want to release,” the bandleader said in an e-mail.

“I will take legal action to defend the integrity of my project,” he vowed. “Would they change the Mona Lisa’s backdrop or her clothing? That would be a lack of respect towards the artist who created the project.”

Whatever unreleased material may or may not exist from “Siembra,” it seems to be the tip of the Fania iceberg.

“Every day we find new, unreleased recordings,” says Breil.

Locating the Croton-on-Hudson warehouse where the tapes had been stored took some detective work in 2005, says Breil.

Since then, Emusica has been involved in what he called a “labor of love” to identify and preserve the material.

Some of the tapes had to be literally baked in order to save them from disintegrating, and many were not labeled at all, says composer, producer and Emusica consultant Bobby Marín.

To work on them “you had to literally blow the dust off the boxes,” says Marín. And some tapes weigh more than 20 pounds.

It was during this process that Marín noticed that “some titles looked unfamiliar, making me believe that perhaps they were never released.”

His research found that those titles had been “kept in the can for future release, but never were.”

The list of artists in these unpublished recordings, according to Marín, includes the legendary sonero Ismael (Maelo) Rivera; Cuba’s Orquesta Aragón; the dynamic duo of Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz; merengue singer Wilfrido Vargas and many sacred names in Caribbean music including Benny Moré, Daniel Santos, Machito, Mongo Santamaría and Cortijo y su Combo.


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