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In October, members of Vinyl Me, Please Classics will receive Celia & Johnny, the debut collaboration album between Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco, and part of our partnership with Fania records. The album has been remastered from the original tapes and pressed at QRP on 180g vinyl, with a tip-on jacket. You can read an excerpt from our liner notes here, and read below for why we picked this record. Sign up here.
Andrew Winistorfer: A long time ago, like two years ago, you told me to check out a bunch of Fania records, because you love this music, so this is the culmination of that. How did this go from that moment to this?
Alex Berenson, Head A&R at VMP: We work really closely with Concord on a lot of projects; they have a lot of classic labels we love working with. In 2018, they acquired the Fania catalog, and came to us and said we should work together on some reissues. I was excited because I’ve been a huge fan of Fania since I was a teenager when I first heard the Fania All Stars stuff. I also watched that documentary called Our Latin Thing in college, and was so dumbfounded at the legacy of the label and who they worked with. Tito Puente, Johnny, Celia Cruz, Willie Colón, Héctor LaVoe, and on and on. I’m Nicaraguan, and I grew up listening to Latin music so it was really exciting to me that we could do this, as our first entirely Spanish language album in Classics.
Plus, it’s happening in the heart of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which felt really important for us to do as a club. Hopefully we can expand the horizons of our members.
Totally. You mentioned Our Latin Thing, for me, the thing that was mind-blowing, was hearing that quote: “Black people have their thing with Motown, and with Fania, we can have our Latin thing.” And realizing that, yeah, Fania really was the Motown of Latin music in the ’60s and ’70s. They had everybody at a point.
The liner notes for this one were intercontinental; they were written by Jaime Andrés Monsalve B., who’s the music director of the national radio in Colombia, and were translated by Betto Arcos, who’s a Latin music reporter for NPR. Felt awesome to get someone who’s well versed in Fania and the impact of the music in South America to do these for us.
We also got to do three other records with Fania, and in revisiting those and this Celia & Johnny, it feels like music you didn’t realize you were hearing all the time. Particularly with “Quimbara.”
Yeah, that song, and the Willie Colón album were the albums that helped break salsa to a big audience, and us getting to do these crown jewels of the Fania catalog has been awesome.
Same deal as our last couple Classics albums: Remastered all analog from the original analog tapes, pressed at QRP, on 180-gram vinyl. Tip-on jacket, whole nine yards. Not to belabor the same point as the Flaming Lips details post, but this is the definitive version of this album. You won’t find one that sounds better than this.
Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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