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Hector Lavoe had a very successful solo career. Hector inherited most of Willie Colon’s band after they went on separate ways.
Willie Colon continued to support Hector Lavoe by producing most of his solo recordings. In my opinion, you can find the best recordings of Hector Lavoe’s solo career in the first 3 solo albums.
3 Early Hits That Became Salsa Music Classics
In my opinion the first 3 solo albums by Hector Lavoe placed him among the legends of Salsa and Latin music. From his solo career, I suggest that “La Voz”, “De Ti Depende”, and “Comedia” were the best albums Hector Lavoe recorded. Each of these albums contains a song that marked the career of Hector Lavoe. The songs “Mi Gente”, “Periodico de Ayer”, and “El Cantante” identified and marked his career forever.
Hector had some hits in other solo albums, but the overall quality of the later albums was not that of the quality of these 3 albums. And if I have to sort them in order of my preference, I like them just in the order in which they were released.
“La Voz” Is The Best Hector Lavoe Solo Salsa Recording
When you compare the quality of song and music of the first 3 albums, I go with “La Voz” as the best solo album. “Mi Gente” became a huge success for Hector Lavoe. However, I believe this was because of Hector performing the song with the Fania All Stars at their “Live at Yankee Stadium” album than for the version in “La Voz”.
Still, “La Voz” had great Salsa hits like “El Todopoderoso”, “Rompe Saraguey”, and “Paraiso de Dulzura” (this last one written by Hector). It also had the boleros “Emborrachame de Amor”, “Un Amor de la Calle” (which got a lot of play in the Puerto Rican radio), and “Tus Ojos”.
All these are very strong boleros, and they established Hector Lavoe as a great overall singer. Hector barely sang boleros in his stay with Willie Colon. “Ausencia” comes to mind, but that starts as a bolero that converts into a chorus-backed cha-cha.
The 3 salsa tracks I pointed out above were all huge hits, and with good reason. “El Todopoderoso” was the main single, and even with its religious message, it became a huge hit. “Rompe Saraguey” has a great and long piano solo by Mark Dimond. It also had the always great but often under-recognized job of Eddie “Guagua” Rivera on bass. “Paraiso de Dulzura” was penned by Hector Lavoe as a tribute to Puerto Rico. He gives one of the best performances of the album in this song. To me, without a doubt, this is his best solo album of Hector Lavoe.
“De Ti Depende” Another Good Salsa Album
The much anticipated follow-up to “La Voz” was “De Ti Depende”. It immediately impacted all radio stations with Tite Curet Alonso’s hit “Periodico de Ayer”. In this album, Willie Colon decided to try something new in Salsa. He used the sound of violins (using keyboards) with this song.
I read an interview with Willie Colon where he said that Jerry Masucci didn’t agree with the idea of the violins. Willie convinced Masucci by putting his wallet where his mouth was. He would cover the album’s production costs if it didn’t meet a certain sales number. We all know Willie Colon was right once again.
“Periodico de Ayer” was a top 10 hit for four consecutive weeks in Mexico, not know for being a big Salsa music country. The other song I love in this album is “Hacha y Machete”. In this song Willie Colon joins Hector Lavoe behind the microphone. “Vamos a Reir Un Poco” and “Horas Felices” are good songs, but nothing to write home about. The album’s 2 boleros are not as good as those in “La Voz”. This includes the album’s title track “De Ti Depende”.
“Comedia” An OK album with 2 Great Salsa Songs
The album “Comedia” was anchored by the single “El Cantante”. This song became Hector Lavoe’s signature song, and served as the base to his next nickname, “el cantante de los cantantes” (the singer of singers). A lot has been written of this super-hit song authored by Ruben Blades.
It’s been said that Willie asked Ruben to give this song to Hector. That Ruben didn’t want to. Or that Ruben said he never minded giving the song to Hector. And that Ruben said Hector sang it much better than he could have ever done, etc., etc., etc..
The fact is Hector Lavoe made it a huge hit and it fit him as if the song was written specifically for him. The only other good song I enjoyed in this album was “Songoro Cosongo”, which I read was a poem turned to Salsa song. “La Verdad” is a catchy song, but it truly didn’t mean much to me. And the bolero “Comedia” was even less attractive than those in “De Ti Depende”.
Here’s a video from the Fania archives with Hector Lavoe singing part of “Songoro Cosongo”. Watch how he improvises in the “soneos”, something not many do today.
Conclusion and Next Part on Hector Lavoe:
If you are going to purchase a Hector Lavoe album, or want are looking for a good vintage Salsa music recording, you can’t go wrong with “La Voz”. Hector Lavoe’s best albums where his first 3, and I like them in the order they were released, with my favorite obviously being the first one.
Which album is your favorite Hector Lavoe solo album?