Fania Records, founded in the 1960s by Gerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco, became the top tropical latin label in the world. Izzy Sanabria had been designing covers for Fania beginning in the late 60s, then stepped up to the plate as marketing and and art director of Fania in the early 70s, and helped coin the name “salsa” to bring together and market the various tropical latin styles under one roof and moniker: son, guaracha, cha-cha, plena, bomba, cumbia, pachanga, boogaloo, merengue, et al. (Tito Puente didn’t like the term “salsa” at first, thought it should just refer to the condiment). With Masucci as entrepreneur, Johnny Pacheco as musical director, and Sanabria going on to run Latin New York magazine and other media outlets on TV, Fania became a tropical music powerhouse with albums by Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, Joe Bataan, Joe Cuba, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, The Fania All Stars, Ruben Blades: they all recorded for Fania.
(Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri, and Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra appear at the Hollywood Bowl this week in an unprecedented show with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic).
And now Codigo, the music conglomerate that owns the vast Fania catalogue, has reissued on cd the bulk of Fania with remastered and vastly improved sound; the original lp’s and cassettes were not mastered well. Thanks to remastering engineer Alex Abrash, Codigo has brought the shine back to this great music. And now Codigo is also reissuing classic titles on lp. This is special because Fania cover art was all hand-designed, drawn, and painted. In this day of computer-everything, this cover art goes back to the time when artists did it all by hand. There’s a great book devoted to Fania cover art celebrating artist Izzy Sanabria among other great Fania designers who did most if not all of Fania’s covers by hand. The book was put together by an aficionado dj/producer Pablo Yglesias and called Cocinando: Fifty Years of Latin Album Cover Art, a must for anybody who loves salsa or just album cover design. There you see the classic album cover art designs from Ron Levine, Lee Marshall, Charlie Rosario, Ely Besalel, Walter Velez, and others who gave Fania its “look”.
For dj’s and audiophiles, these great lp reissues will be very tempting. No cd or digital file captures the fun of seeing full-size images of these classic designs. Not to mention the great analog sound.
Here’s a link to some of the first batch of lp reissues:
And here’s a sample of one of the hot classic vinyl tracks housed therein: Orlando Marin’s 1960 “Que Chevere”