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In the first two parts on this series on Hector Lavoe I wrote about his work with Willie Colon (Part 1), and the early part of his solo career (Part 2).
In this part I’ll share with you how I see Hector’s work towards the latter part of his career. This later part of Hector Lavoe’s career was characterized by albums with one or two good songs, but no great albums.
Two Themed Albums; Christmas Salsa and Boleros
From his later production of Hector Lavoe’s career, probably the best remembered was the first one from this period. Perhaps it’s because it continues the pattern of his 4th best album being the 4th one he released as a solo artist.
The album “Feliz Navidad” had a few good numbers but does not compare in quality with any of his two “Asalto Navideño“ albums recorded with Willie Colon. “Feliz Navidad” had as guest artist the legendary Puerto Rican singer Daniel Santos. It also featured Yomo Toro on the Puerto Rican “cuatro” guitar. Yomo obviously provided the album with the Christmas touch.
The album has a few good songs, and although there are better Salsa Christmas albums than this one, I would recommend that you buy this one only after you get some of the better ones. Overall it’s a good album, although not great.
“Recordando a Felipe Pirela” is a bolero only album which Hector Lavoe recorded in 1979 after “Feliz Navidad”. In it he honored the Venezuelan singer who was one of the best bolero singers in Latin America. The hit single “Sombras Nada Mas” although a good song, never appealed to me. Therefore, this ended up being the only Hector Lavoe album I don’t have, nor am I interested in owning.
Hector Lavoe Last Four Studio Recordings
The next four studio recordings of Hector Lavoe are nothing to write home about. All albums have some good Salsa songs which make them worth buying if you’re an Hector Lavoe fan like me. However, none of the good songs were spectacular hits and the albums lacked quantity of good songs.
The album “El Sabio” had the title song as the best song of the album. It’s actually a very good song, where Hector and the band perform the late Tito Rodriguez hit with a very aggressive arrangement. I was waiting for more aggressive Salsa in the album. However, only “Para Ochum” comes in a distant 2nd place in terms of quality of the song.
“Que Sentimiento” is an album that only inspired a “sentimiento” of disappointment. The bomba “Lo Deje Llorando”, the old hit from Cortijo and Ismael Rivera, is perhaps the best song. In it Hector showcases some of the humor in the “soneos” that was his trademark.
“La Fama”, written by Hector Lavoe, was the most popular song of the album “Revento”. It is a good song, and has more meaning as Hector shares his frustrations with the fame that he acquired. However, my favorite song of the album is “Dejala Que Siga”, perhaps because its happier and Lavoe again sprays humor into the song.
Finally, “Strikes Back” was Hector’s final studio album. The best song of this one is “Ponce”, which is dedicated to his hometown in Puerto Rico. I really like this song a lot and would think it should have been the closest to a mega-hit in these last 4 albums. Although it became popular, it did not reach mega-hit status.
Here’s a video of Hector Lavoe performing “El Sabio”. However, it has an overdubbing of the original recording audio, which is much better than the audio in this live performance.
Hector Says Goodbye with “Live”
A collection of songs from these 4 albums would produce a very nice album, as there are good songs in all four albums. But as said, all albums lack the depth of good songs needed to make the recording worth the money spent.
One album released after Hector’s death was “Hector Lavoe Live”, which was recorded in a New York club during a Hector Lavoe show. This recording not only has a good collection of his hits, but more importantly, captures Hector in a “live” performance, where you see his wit, charm, singing, and his band expanded arrangements on some songs.
The music of Hector’s orchestra is at a good point when he did this performance. The sound quality was quite decent, considering it may not have been intended for a recording. And Hector’s voice and char is still great. This one I highly recommend you add it to your collection.
Next: Hector’s work with the Fania All Stars
My next blog of the series will be of the work Hector Lavoe did with the Fania All Stars. He recorded some great things with them, and is worth covering as an epilogue to this series. Stay tuned to Latino Music Cafe for that one.