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Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez is Salsa royalty, being a central piece of the Fania machinery. Perhaps my favorite “El Conde” album is “A Touch of Class”.
Pete “El Conde” with Johnny Pacheco
“El Conde” made one of the most famous pairs in Salsa when he joined bandleader Johnny Pacheco. They joined forces just before the foundation of Fania Records. Their first recording together was “Suavito”, which was released under the Alegre label in 1962. Then, in 1964, they recorded “Cañonazo”, the first album ever recorded under the Fania label. Pacheco founded the label with Jerry Masucci that year.
The duo of Pacheco with Pete “El Conde” lasted 9 years, until 1973. In that time, they launched 7 albums together and solidified themselves as Salsa icons.
Pete “El Conde” Solo Career
After the roaring success with the Fania All Stars first three albums, “El Conde” decided to launch his solo career in 1974. The self-titled debut album “El Conde” was a smash success. Particular in the album was his duet with Johnny Pacheco in the Cuban song “Los Compadres”. It also contained the hits “Babaila”, “Un Toque Pa’ Yambao”, and “El Conde Negro”.
The second solo album was equally successful, with the smashing hit “Catalina La O” leading the way. It also contained the hits “La Abolicion”, “Guaguanco de Amor”, and “Pueblo Latino”, three of the five songs written by Tite Curet Alonso.
Pete “El Conde” went on to record three more solo albums before rejoining Johnny Pacheco from 1983-1989.
“A Touch of Class”
The third solo album of “El Conde” was my favorite “El Conde” album of all he ever released. Although “A Touch of Class” caused some furor when it was released in 1977, unlike his first two releases, it seemed to have been quickly forgotten.
Its first hit was “Tambo”, a fine song written by Ruben Blades. However, that was just the appetizer.
A Touch of Class opens with “Mi Bongo Antillano”, a powerful Salsa song written by Johnny Ortiz and arranged by Louie Cruz. The rest of the arrangements were made by Jose Febles and album producer Louie Ramirez.
Besides the above song, Johnny Ortiz wrote “Areito Va Sonar”, one of the albums best songs. I hesitate to say it’s my favorite only because there are so many good ones in the album.
Tite Curet again contributes to another El Conde album with three songs. “Que Rico Pa’ Bailar”, “Los Genuinos”, and “Rayo Veloz” are his contributions, but the first two of this trio are exceptional.
In “Los Genuinos” Pete shines in his soneos, including one where he references his January birthday.
The album has Adalberto Santiago and “la voz de oro” Nestor Sanchez on chorus.
A Great Album that Highlights a Great Salsa Career
Pedro Juan Rodriguez Ferrer, also known as Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, passed in the year 2000 due to his heart condition. By then, he was well established as a Salsa icon. Considering that he was 30 when he recorded “Cañonazo” with Pacheco, his talent and unique style quickly made him a favorite among Salsa fans.
His voice, his unique singing style, his stage presence, his goatee, and his hair all contributed to his persona as part of Salsa music royalty.
If you somehow missed a “A Touch of Class”, I highly recommend you check it out. I believe it was a relatively recent addition to the streaming services.
In my opinion, this album really highlights “El Conde” at his very best!