The Orchestra Soledad-Vamonos/Let’s Go!

Label: BBE.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, 2.6 million people lived within Brooklyn’s seventy-one square miles. By 1970, it was largest and most densely populated of New York’s five boroughs. Brooklyn was also a cultural melting pot, with Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, Chinese, Polish, Russian and Latino neighbourhoods.  They all had their own individual cultures and listened to their own music. In the Latino neighbourhood, this included their very own salsa band.

Brooklyn’s salsa band was The Orchestra Soledad, which was led by trombonist and singer Hector Ramos. He also wrote and arranged much of the music that The Orchestra Soledad played when they appeared live. The salsa music they played may have been brash and energetic, but audiences found it the irresistible.  It was played by young and talented local musicians from the neighbourhood. Some of them had dreams and aspirations that The Orchestra Soledad would follow in the footsteps of the Fania All Stars, who had already released two live albums. However, when the time came for The Orchestra Soledad to record and release an album, it proved to be a much more low-key release.

When The Orchestra Soledad  released their debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! in 1970, it was on one of Chicago’s small, lesser known labels Futuro Records. They weren’t a prolific label and released less than a dozen releases. This includes The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which will be reissued on vinyl and download by BBE on ‘16th’ June 2017. The reissue of Vamonos–Let’s Go! will be welcomed by many music fans, as this extremely rare and collectible album has been out of print since 1970. BBE are the first label to officially release Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which was recorded forty-seven years ago in 1970. 

Having made the decision to record their debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!, a new chapter in the history of The Orchestra Soledad began. They Orchestra Soledad had been together a while, and were popular locally. When The Orchestra Soledad played live, it was always to packed houses. They were popular not just within Latino community in Brooklyn, but the wider community.  Recording their debut album made sense, and Hector Ramos and the rest of The Orchestra Soledad hoped that their popularity would translate to record sales. That was in the future. There was still the small matter or recording their debut album.

For what became The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!, Hector Ramos wrote Cuero,  Vamonos/Let’s Go, Problems, Just Like A Fool, Candela and Uptight. Hector also cowrote the three other songs on the album. He and William Corridor penned El Ritmo Soledad, while Hector Ramos and Raymond Gonzalez  cowrote I’ll Make You A Queen. The album closer La Puerta Esta was a collaboration between Hector Ramos  and Miguel Fulu. These songs would become The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!

To record Vamonos/Let’s Go!, The Orchestra Soledad made their way to a local recording studio.  Bandleader, first trombonist and lead vocalist Hector Ramos had arranged the nine songs, but the album was produced by H Hernandez. Meanwhile, the rhythm section featured bassist William Corridor and drummer and conga player Mike Curcado. They were joined by bongo player Tito Rodriguez; Raul (Ray) Rosa on timbales and pianist organist and vocalist Miguel Fulu. Raymond Gonzalez was another of the vocalists, who with the rest of the vocalists, formed the chorus. Tony Torres was the second trombonist, and completed the lineup of The Orchestra Soledad that recorded Vamonos/Let’s Go!.

With Vamonos/Let’s Go! completed, the album was released later in 1970. Sadly, it wasn’t the success that The Orchestra Soledad had hoped. While copies of Vamonos/Let’s Go! sold within the borough of Brooklyn, that was as good as it got for The Orchestra Soledad. For the younger members who had dreamt of following in the footsteps of the Fania All Stars, their hopes were dashed. It looked like they were destined to forever be part of the neighbourhood salsa band. The dream was over.

After that, Vamonos/Let’s Go! became just another musical curio that sometimes, crate diggers in New York stumbled across in record shops, boot sales and local flea markets. With its bright and distinctive cover, most dedicated crate diggers took a chance on Vamonos/Let’s Go!  and paid their money. This proved to be a wise investment.

As the years passed by, copies of the original album were almost impossible to find. However, DJ Amir stumbled across a copy of Vamonos/Let’s Go! in a shop not far from the Bushwick home of Hector Ramos. When he saw the copy of Vamonos/Let’s Go! he was spellbound by the striking cover with its bright and striking artwork. DJ Amir had already decided to take a chance on Vamonos/Let’s Go! That was when DJ Amir saw a trophy for sale. When he picked it up, it turned out to be a battle of the bands’ trophy that The Orchestra Soledad had won during their heyday. For the second time in the space of minutes he had struck musical gold.

When DJ Amir returned home, he put Vamonos/Let’s Go! on his turntable to check out his latest find. Straight away, he was won over by Brooklyn’s onetime neighbourhood salsa band. The sound of The Orchestra Soledad in full flight was an irresistible one. Granted the music was brash, but it was joyous, energetic and akin to a call to dance. This was when he decided that music this good, deserved to be heard by a much wider audience.

DJ Amir was so impressed with the music on Vamonos/Let’s Go!, that he decided to include El Ritmo Soledad on a compilation he was compiling for BBE, Buena Música Y Cultura (Good Music And Culture: Rare Latin Sounds From Across The Americas). Somewhat belatedly, The Orchestra Soledad’s music was being heard by a wider audience.

After featuring on Buena Música Y Cultura (Good Music And Culture: Rare Latin Sounds From Across The Americas), BBE decided to reissue The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! BBE’s timing was perfect, as demand was still outstripping supply when it came to copies of Vamonos/Let’s Go! Many record buyers wanted to add a copy of the album to their collection, but copies were few and far between. When a copy came up for sale, it sold for in excess $600. That puts a copy of Vamonos/Let’s Go! beyond most record buyers. However,  all record buyers will be able to afford a copy of BBE’s reissue of Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which takes the listener back to 1970, and the irresistible salsa sound of The Orchestra Soledad’s that filled the air in Brooklyn. 

El Ritmo Soledad opens Vamonos/Let’s Go! and sashays along, with the percussion and drums combining with the tack piano. They’re soon joined by an impassioned vocal, and after a flourish of piano, raw, growling horns. By then, The Orchestra Soledad is in full flight, with the chorus providing the perfect foil for the lead vocal. Meanwhile, an irresistible mixture of drums, jangling percussion, piano and braying horns combine with the vocal. Together they create an irresistible examine of early seventies salsa, Brooklyn style.

The tempo drops on the soulful ballad I’ll Make You A Queen. As a Hammond organ plays, drums are caressed and cooing harmonies accompany the tender, heartfelt vocal on this beautiful paean. Later, the chorus enters, before percussion augments the rasping horns which take centre-stage. When the vocal returns, it’s still heartfelt, but needy and soulful, as the chorus accompanies it. Before long, the vocal and chorus drop out, but the horns return as this beautiful, ballad draws to a close. It’s sure to have been played many a time in Brooklyn’s Latin quarter when it was time for the last dance.

Percussion plays before Cuero bursts into life. Stabs and flourishes of piano join with the growling horns, percussion and drums. Soon, the chorus delivers a joyous, but urgent vocal. By then, The Orchestra Soledad is playing as if their life depends upon it. It’s impressive and explosive performance. However, stabs of horns signal a breakdown where the piano augments the percussion before stabs of horns enter, and the rest of the track begins to unfold. As drums pounds brief , percussion gallops and the piano is played with urgency and it’s almost impossible to keep still during this call to dance.

Braying horns, galloping, rattling percussion and bursts of pounding drums combine on Vamonos/Let’s Go. They’re joined occasional flourish of piano, which helps power the uptempo arrangement along. Meanwhile,  the lead vocal is accompanied by the joyous sound of the chorus accompanying the lead vocal.  Later, the chorus and then jangling, tack piano enjoy their moment in the sun. Soon, stabs of blazing horns are added as the song continues to reveal its secrets and subtleties. Horns bray and blaze as the rest of The Orchestra Soledad propel the arrangement along. Occasionally the vocalists briefly interject, but mostly they sit back and enjoy The Orchestra Soledad who are in the groove, and reach new heights on this six-minute musical epic.

As La Puerta Esta unfolds, horns growl while the piano, percussion and drums lock down the groove.  Soon, a tender, heartfelt vocal is added, before stabs of blazing horns punctuate the arrangement and grow in power. So does the vocal, which is accompanied by the chorus and jangling piano. Just like the horns, it adds rawness to the sound. Later, the arrangement becomes understated, with the bass and percussion augmenting the piano as it takes centre-stage. Soon, the vocal and  chorus, return, and feed off each other. When they exit stage left, the rest of The Orchestra Soledad take charge, and showcases their skills. Before long, the vocal and chorus return, only to disappear as this truly memorable sashaying salsa reaches a crescendo.

The tempo drops on Problems, which starts off as a ballad. Drums rattle as the bass probes and weaves its way under the jangling piano. Taking centre-stage is an impassioned and emotive vocal, which is accompanied by the piano. At 1.36 it’s all change, and the arrangement bursts into life. The rhythm section and piano power the arrangement along as horns blaze. By then, the vocal is urgent but soulful, with the chorus matching it every step of the way. What started off as a ballad has been transformed and is joyous, irresistible and dance-floor friendly. It showcases The Orchestra Soledad’s skills.  Especially pianist Miguel Fulu who delivers a spellbinding solo. Later, the rest of The Orchestra Soledad accompanies the lead vocal and chorus, as this magical musical mystery tour reveals the rest of secrets.

While the organ plays slowly, a soul-baring, heartbroken vocal is added to Just Like A Fool. It’s accompanied by the chorus, while percussion and organ provide the perfect backdrop. Here, it’s a case of less is more, and allows the vocal and chorus to take centre-stage on this heart-wrenching tale of love, and love lost.

Just drums and percussion gallop across Candela’s understated arrangement. They accompany an impassioned vocal as the tempo starts to rise. Soon, the braying horns enter, before the rest of The Orchestra Soledad return.  By then, they play as one, as the vocal flits it and out. After the horns enjoy their moment in the sun, the piano and percussion combine and are joined by the vocal. It’s augmented by the chorus. Later, horns growl, drums pound and a flourish of piano signals the return of the vocal and chorus. They play their part in the sound and success of another irresistible and dance-floor friendly track.

The piano lead Uptight closes Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which sees the tempo drop. Horns bray as the piano joins percussion as the arrangement meanders along. They’re joined by the bass as the rueful, melancholy sound takes shapes. Stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement, while the piano takes centre-stage. They’re soon joined by rasping horns and together create a beautiful, but wistful sounding track. Later, the impassioned sound of the chorus adds the finishing touch, on what’s another of the album’s highlights. It seemed that have kept one of the best until last.

After nine tracks that showcase the considerable talents of The Orchestra Soledad, their 1970 debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! is over. It features what was Brooklyn’s finest salsa band, as they switch seamlessly between uptempo tracks and heartfelt ballads. The Orchestra Soledad who were a versatile and talented band were equally at home playing uptempo tracks and heartfelt ballads. That is no surprise, as The Orchestra Soledad featured a mixture of experienced musicians and some of the best up-and-coming young musicians. 

They hoped that Vamonos/Let’s Go! was the start of what would be a long and successful career. Music was one way out the crowded and sometimes dangerous streets of Brooklyn. 

For one of the older, and more experienced musicians, he hoped that the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go! would kickstart his career. Puerto Rican singer, musician and bandleader Tito Rodriguez rose to during the fifties and sixties. By 1970,  he was living in Brooklyn, and was hoping that the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go! would give his career a boost.

Sadly, Vamonos/Let’s Go! never found the audience it deserved, and The Orchestra Soledad never recorded another album. The dream was over for The Orchestra Soledad.

Sadly, after the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go! Tito Rodriguez never enjoyed the same success as he had during the fifties and sixties. A Tito Rodriguez continued to record right up until his death in 1973, aged just fifty. Vamonos/Let’s Go! was just one of many albums that Tito Rodriguez played on in the later years of his career.

Forty-seven years after the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go!, there’s been a resurgence of interest in this hidden gem of an album. The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album showcased the skills of the Brooklyn based salsa band. Their music is irresistible, joyous, dance-floor friendly, beautiful and soulful. However, Vamonos/Let’s Go! is an extremely rare album that changes hands for upwards of $600. This meant that Vamonos/Let’s Go! was beyond the budget of most record buyers. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, with BBE about to reissue Vamonos/Let’s Go! on vinyl and download by BBE on ‘16th’ June 2017. Somewhat belatedly, record buyers everywhere will have the opportunity to discover the delights of Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which features the greatest salsa band you’ve never heard…The Orchestra Soledad.

The Orchestra Soledad-Vamonos/Let’s Go!

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