Fajardo Y Sus Estrellas: Fajardo’s Boogaloo (Kubaney)
Even with the ever-enticing word “Boogaloo” present in large blue letters on the front and several other times in the song titles, I passed on splashing out good money for this record twice due to Fajardo’s fey appearance on the cover. For some reason, the white slacks, red sweater vest, and flute-man beach stance do not really bring the word “HEAVY” to mind, and the thinness of his pictured band, with the many unmanned instruments, makes a rather weak impression as well. As silly as it may sound, when blind buying mid-range priced records, such seemingly superficial subtleties suddenly become an integral part of the decision-making process, and can often tip the scales one way or another. My intuition was dead wrong on this album, though, and after finally hearing one of the better boogaloo cuts from it, I bought a copy and was rather pleased with the number of quality tracks it contained.
Fajardo’s backing on this album is provided by Eddie Palmieri’s band “La Perfecta,” who were one of the best Latin bands in New York City in the 60’s. They provide a strong rhythmic foundation for Fajardo, who steps in to spice things up with well-placed flute lines. The high recording quality on this album really helps bring out the individual elements of the band. Each instrument has its place in the musical space and the songs have a fullness and clarity of sound that is not a given when it comes to smaller label Latin records. The group’s cover of Palmieri’s “Azucar Pa Ti” is a shorter, slightly slower, more sparse, and less spirited version of the original but it still manages to hold its own. Most of the tracks on the album are played in a similarly safe style and never risk cacophony, which has both a good and a bad. Only once do Fajardo Y Sus Estrellas really let loose and bring the tempo up sharply, and the result is the stellar track “Descarga de Kiki”–a boisterous two minutes of freedom amongst the smart sweater vest boogaloos.
The five boogaloo tracks on the album are all worthwhile listens even though they do not stray too far from a basic (yet enjoyable) formula. “Taste of Honey Boogaloo” stands out amongst the group since it is more varied and dynamic, whereas the other tracks chug along with the same beat and pace throughout. The title track, “Fajardo’s Boogaloo,” and “Boogaloo Del Momento” are the next best, while “Batman Boogaloo” and “El Burro Boogaloo” are just a little too campy.