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Subway Salsa

PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:59 am
by garth cartwright
Anyone else out there obsessed with the consistently excellent releases by VampiSoul, the Madrid-based reissue label? They have done so much great soul, Latin jazz/soul, Spanish 60s pop and rumba flamenco and Afrobeat and are now venturing into rare salsa reissues. Their latest effort, a double CD called Subway Salsa: The Montuno Records Story is a fascinating document, chronicling as it does an archive of ultra- rare salsa and Haitian recordings cut by Record Mart, a record store based in the New York subway system!

On this fascinating double CD they have truly gone underground – to the New York subway where Record Mart, a store specialising in Latin music for the city’s Puerto Rican and Cuban populace, has existed for many decades. In 1970 Record Mart went from simply selling Latin albums to setting up its own label, Montuno Records, to record the talent that presented itself at the shop with either finished masters or the desire to make a record. Gathered together here are 28 recordings that Montuno issued across the 1970s and 80s. Most prominent are salsa bands but there is also Haitian compass (the label owner was approached by local Haitian businessmen), Latin jazz, traditional Cuban son and several other interesting hybrids – the Nuyorican music scene being open to influences from rock, funk, doo wop and pop music. Most of the recordings here are aimed at Latin dancers so are tight, brassy anthems sung in Spanish. Recording qualities are basic but the energy and good vibes carry the performances through. A 48-page, illustrated booklet tells the history of Record Mart (which still apparently exists beneath Times Square!) and Montuno Records. It is a fascinating tale of a small Jewish businessman who went into the music industry as it appeared to be a viable business (back in the 1950s) and through contact with the Latin community came to be a major outlet for Latin American music in New York city. Some of the music here is great, some pedestrian, but as a document Subway Salsa is fascinating.

Re: Subway Salsa

PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:34 am
by Jamie Renton
garth cartwright wrote:Anyone else out there obsessed with the consistently excellent releases by VampiSoul

Yes, but I try to avoid checking their website too often, as it gets too expensive! This I've got to have though.

Re: Subway Salsa

PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:57 pm
by gary booth
Yes, it's a great label. There's a Johnny Watson track on No Reason Vol 3 from 'Scratch That Itch' and two tracks: Hank Ballard, and also The Valentines on the current No Reason (Vol 9) from 'Teach Me To Monkey' which are Vols 1 & 2 in the excellent 'R&B HipShakers' series.
So, we have a small obsession.

Re: Subway Salsa

PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:09 pm
by Jonathan E.
Yup, I'm about to order Subway Salsa — isn't available in the US until mid Feb, and the shipping and higher Euro prices are a bit prohibitive for immediate satisfaction of the itch.

I went through all my Latin and Haitian records last week looking to see how much Montuno I have and the answer is "not enough" — only two or three, and something I used to have is gone! I suppose it suffered a negative decision at some long-ago culling. Lots of surviving vinyl from other small Latin labels from the time and I'm sure I also have some sleeves with a Record Mart sticker on them that friends brought back for me from New York or that I bought used. If I'm ever in NYC again, I'll be sure to pay the store a visit.

PS Vampisoul's Cumbia Beat Vol. 1 of Peruvian experimental/guitar/tropical sounds of the 60s and 70s is rather fun and keeps growing on me. The AfroSound of Columbia Volume 1 is another look at the Columbian scene, a bit different from the Soundways angle although many of the same artists. Both from 2010. I think the label falls down a bit on the sleevenotes, however. Pretty sleeves, though.