Salsa fans to Willie Colón: Let the music be heard

To me, the subject of outtakes…the quality of them and whether the release of such music has a positive or negative effect on the original recordings and on the reputation of the artists involved has never been a major issue.

As someone who has bought lots of reissue cd’s of all types of music, I’ve approached the listening experience by not weighing the unreleased material against the original recording. That’s always been my starting point.

There are different reasons why I have always found outtakes, b-sides, unfinished tracks, etc…to be of great interest. For one thing, it has provided me as a music fan a rare look into the artist’s creative process. To me that’s been an endless source of fascination and inspiration.

Though not always, sometimes the quality of unreleased songs can be quite high resulting in great music being exposed for the first time which is something that I can definitely appreciate. Also, the release of outtakes have at times revealed the limitations that artists sometimes have in being the best judge of their own work.

For example, Bob Dylan. When Columbia released the first of what is still today a continuing series of unreleased music, “the bootleg series”. It was enormously fascinating and thrilling to hear songs for the first time that were outstanding and simply flawless like “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”, “Moonshiner”, “Blind Willie McTell, “Foot Of Pride” and “Series Of Dreams”. And it is also a serious mental exercise to try to figure out how such a brilliant artist could make such poor musical decisions because to not have included those songs on official releases is simply mind boggling. But that is part of the fun of listening to unreleased material.

Also, unfinished songs or alternative versions with different lyrics or arrangements are interesting to take in and absorb, aesthetically and as unique musical creations and I’ve found that to be true in reissues of artists like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Bill Evans, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, and many others.

I bought the Siembra reissue in 2006 and if it ever materializes I will of course buy the new edition of Siembra with the session outtakes.

It’s a good decision by Willie Colón. Fan reaction notwithstanding, it obviously makes alot of sense from a business standpoint and musically, the reputation of Siembra and of Willie as an artist will remain intact. And the inevitable success of a Siembra reissue with outtakes might even start a trend in Latin music where other artists will begin to release material long held in the vaults.

In the future maybe more outtakes by other Fania greats. Perhaps someday there’ll be some great outtakes released by Juan Luis Guerra, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Afro-Cuban All Stars, and so on.

Salsa fans to Willie Colón: Let the music be heard

Looking to avert a backlash from salsa fans, Willie Colón is withdrawing his opposition to the release of additional outtakes from “Siembra,” the classic album he created with Rubén Blades 30 years ago.

As reported in the Viva last week, some unreleased music from “Siembra” is included in the cache of tapes discovered three years ago in an upstate warehouse by Emusica, a Florida company that purchased Fania Records.

Colón threatened to go to court if Emusica published any new “Siembra” material, but the reaction to the story made him change his mind.

“Because of an outpouring of e-mails and blog posts of outraged fans, I am changing my position on the unpublished ‘Siembra’ tapes,” Colón says. “I will withdraw my objection to the publishing of these outtakes and leave the final decision to Rubén Blades and Emusica.”

One poster, Boriquabxstyle on the Daily News site, commented: “Willie’s an idiot! He should allow them to remaster the tracks. As long as he receives his royalties, he should not be complaining.”

Colón made it clear, however, that salsa lovers should not expect a musical treat: “In my humble opinion, outtakes are not very flattering to all concerned. Obviously, there are people out there that believe I have some agenda for wanting to deprive the world of some hidden masterpiece.”

Emusica CEO Giora Breil says that his company won’t release any music over the opposition of Colón — or for that matter Blades, who could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the company has not decided what to do about the bulk of unreleased tapes it’s sitting on, which according to Emusica includes recordings from such legends as Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Mongo Santamaría and Ismael Rivera.

“I can’t deal with that just yet,” Breil says.

Critics say Emusica has put too much emphasis on releasing remastered music that any true-blue salsa fan has while it holds back on putting out never-heard-before material.

“It remains to be seen whether or not there’s something wonderful” in the unreleased Fania trove, says Bruce Polin, owner of online Latin music seller

Polin adds, though, “From a historical point of view and the collector’s point of view, it’s probably very interesting material. I would market it as gourmet material.”


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