Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Song A Day: Los Pajaros, "Salsa Ye Ye"

MAY 30, 2017




For decades, I’ve had the habit of digging into any record racks in sight. In the summer of 1985, that meant sifting through albums in a department store called Gigante in the Nueva Santa Maria neighborhood of Mexico City.

When this album cover—four young ladies in 60s finery smiling amidst a splashy multicolored explosion—glared at me, I didn’t hesitate a second.

Los Pajaros (The Birds) were four Central Americans: Colombian sisters Carmen and Mary Vargas and Venezuelans Gloria Campos and Otilia Rodriguez. They recorded at least two albums, with Mary…Otilia…Carmen…Gloria most likely the first. It was issued on the Discomoda label of Veneuzuela, with a soft cover, and also in a stiff cardboard sleeve by Ibersound, based in Miami.

(Their other album, Cariñosamente, was released by Philips, a much larger label. At one point they apparently received an award as Venezuela’s top group of the year, but I can find no further details about the award, or even the year. Hit songs are mentioned in that album's liner notes, but I find no evidence of 45 RPM releases.)

Mary…Otilia…Carmen…Gloria is really all over the place in a wonderful way. One cut, for instance, “Has Amado Alguna Vez,” is a Spanish-language adaptation of a Hollies song ("Have You Ever Loved Somebody") first recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1966.

While wrapping your head around how a coterie of Central American singers might have chosen that, note that the LP also features boogaloo, bolero, cumbia, R&B, cha-cha, traditionals, and a dose of Sunset Strip-styled rock. One number was written by Lucho Bermudez, Colombia’s top big-band impresario of the 1950s and 1960s.

Los Pajaros offer superb harmonies and personality plus. The arrangements, by Sergio Olguin, are tight and played with tons of energy. Mary…Otilia…Carmen…Gloria reminds me of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s Equinox, or the Odell Brown records, or even the Blow-Up soundtrack: funky, poppy, “latin” 60s lounge/club jams. It’s all that, except this one is actually Latin American in origin.

It would be nice to learn more about Sergio Olguin, and Gunther Ricardo, who wrote two of the album’s best songs. Most of all, I’d like to find out what happened to Mary, Otilia, Carmen, and Gloria. Perhaps someone in Venezuela or Colombia can tell me more. I sure hope so.

For now, I hope you enjoy the groovy, upbeat “Salsa Ye Ye,” which in title and content sums up the “going in all directions” feel of this wonderful album.

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