Monday, November 06, 2006

Joe Bataan mr New York soul

On the occasion of the release of the new exceptional album by Joe Bataan on the Vampisoul label I wrote this thing about this great artist and then i had a chat with him. Nobody has such street credibility as Joe, born in Spanish Harlem it was he who created Latin Soul and even anticipated disco and rap. Peter Nitollano (his real name) was born in 1942 to Afro / Philippine parents and was brought up in Spanish Harlem where during the 50’s he joined some Porto Rican gangs. In fact it was in prison that he first became passionate about music that gave him the strength, spirit and courage to start a new life. Characteristics of Joe are his lyrics that are all too often autobiographical, a kind of melancholy through his way of singing with that slightly out of tune way that has made him one of the most appreciated and admired Latin Soul singers. Latin Soul is in fact the genre that he created by forging together Afro American R’n’B sounds with Afro Cuban and Afro Rican rhythms. During the sixties, after a few misunderstandings with some impresarios who didn’t understand his style and just wanted him as a kind of ‘Latin James Brown’, he was finally heard and understood by Jerry Masucci who was the boss of Fania Records which was the most important recording label for Latin music. Thus the career of Mr. New York Soul Joe Bataan started. “Gypsy Woman”, his first album, was a true success as well as something completely new as Joe played Latin music but sung in English with a Pop R’n’B feel that was anticipated and simplified thanks also to a Break characteristic ‘double hand clap’, The Latin Soul Sound was beginning to come about thanks to the above mentioned fusion. During his career Bataan made many records with Fania including “St. Latin’s Day Massacre”, “Riot”, “Subway Joe” and “Singing Some Soul” where he reinterpreted some Philly Sound pieces of artists such as the Intruders, O’Jays and others. Through the years Bataan managed to create a genre that could be defined as a crossover where he Latinized Soul, Funk, Disco and vice versa! After the Fania period, around 1974, Bataan started the Mericana / Salsoul label along with Epic, a term that confirms this fusion between Salsa and Soul specialising in ‘crossover’ productions. The first album on this new label was “Salsoul” where Joe wrote some incredible pieces such as “After Shower Funk” or the Acid Latin “Fin” right up to “Super Strut” by Eumir Deodato renamed “Latin Strut”. On this album there are all the ‘Soul Beat’ ingredients and the fusion between Salsa and Funk is enriched by some Soulful Orchestration. In 1975 Bataan made a great commercial move and published “Afrofilipino” where his anticipation to disco music was more than clear. The great commercial success was due to an instrumental cover version of “The Bottle”, the Gil Scott Heron hit. There were also many other high points on this record like “Woman Don’t Want To Love Me”, the latest version of his classic “Ordinary Guy”, “When You’re Down (Funky Mambo)” finishing off with “Laughing And Crying” that, in my opinion, was the main influence for Jamiroquai for his song “Emergency On Planet Earth”! In 1979 Bataan gained success with his “Rap O Clap O” which was a piece that made history in the story of Latin music and one that practically invented rap. Out now, in 2005, is “Call My Name” the new album from Joe Bataan where the eclectic and groovy Vampisoul have wanted to bring to the public after almost 20 years the soul of Mr. New York. The extraordinary thing about this album is the fact that it is not a re-pressing (something that Vampisoul specialise in) but instead a brand new album that was recorded last year in New York. This piece of work that is produced by Daniel Collas encloses the whole soul of Bataan and confirms once again his unmistakable style. Peace friendship and solidarity.
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