Joe Bataan ‘Salsoul’ (BBR) 5/5

joe-bataan-salsoulOriginally on the Mericana label that eventually fused into Salsoul, this is a definitive slice of Latin funk that is awash with intoxicating hooks, dynamite percussion and soulful vocals and when all elements are added together it is purely and simply a winning formula.The early 1970s was in fact a time of fascinating musical and more generally cultural interaction and this is illustrated by the bilingual original English and Spanish sleeve notes. The genius of Bataan was to appeal to both Anglo and Latin audiences and do so without compromising his craft. The funk element sounds as though he was hearing the Meters as much as James Brown while his own Afro-Filipino heritage meant that he was acutely sensitive to alternative cultures and more particularly the emerging Latino consciousness of the era. Of course it helps greatly to have an instrumental number in ‘Latin Strut’ that rivals ‘The Bottle’ for dance-floor action, but that is just one of the treats on offer here. Just as compelling is ‘Aftershower Funk’ which has graced many a compilation in recent years and rightly so, or the Latin soul killer that is ‘Johnny’, while Latin jazz fans will find a kindred spirit in ‘Sunny gets blues mambo’. The Salsoul label is in the UK primarily known for the classier side of soulful underground disco, yet throughout that period and before it targeted the Hispanic communities with rootsy innovative Afro-Cuban rhythms from Conjunto Libre and harder edged salsa that directly sourced Cuba from the likes of US group Saoco. Bataan could get down with the best of Latin outfits as on ‘Mujer Mia’. Of the bonus cuts, these are mono single version of the key cuts previously alluded to. It is to be hoped that this is the first in a series of classic 1970s re-issues of albums that Joe Bataan recorded including the superlative 1975 release ‘Afrofilipino’ that features Bataan’s take on ‘The Bottle’. Equally of note are ‘Saint Latin’s Day massacre’ (1972), ‘Poor Boy’ (1971) and ‘Sweet Soul’ (1972). Latin fusion never reached dizzier heights than this. Tim Stenhouse