A Latin afternoon in London with


Tom Bigg


November afternoons in the UK darken very fast as winter approaches. They're often cold and frequently miserable. Getting out and about is essential for staving off autumnal blues so forumusic was delighted when Tom B returned our call and arranged to share a November afternoon with us luxuriating in a selection of his favourite Latin sounds from lps and singles he has picked up intermittently over a period of fifteen years.


Tom Bigg is a contributor to both the VG+ and Waxidermy music forums (as Tom B and alfafa sprouts respectively) as well as being a regular attendee at Brillo; VG+'s monthly record collector meetings in his home town of London.


A collector of vinyl records from his university days he has amassed a superb collection of music from across a broad range of genres and still trawls charity shops, market stalls and record shops on a regular basis

seeking out new sounds.


As a regular participant in the annual VG+ Cd Swaps since 2006 his eclectic taste, blind punts, accrued knowledge and relentless vinyl-fiending have informed a series of excellent mixed genre compilation Cds.


Running discos at college gave him an excuse to buy more records as did moving to London in the 90s where like many others his taste was broadened both by access to a variety of different record shops and also by purchasing white label boot lps from Camden Market record stalls that were awash with them.


Regular travelling to New York on business trips fuelled his appetite for purchasing Latin lps.


At this juncture in Tom's resume we'll hand over to him discussing his Latin habit in his own words:


One of the things I started buying early on was Brazilian records.  There was a period when you could buy good quality Brazilian records for very little.  Then the internet opened things up.  All of a sudden you could buy amazing stuff you would never find in the UK and get it cheap too. 

Nowadays you buy Brazilian stuff and it’s nearly always trashed, plus Brazilian sellers seem to go for Buy-It-Nows which are always really overpriced.. 

I’d go on a sellers site and buy ten records for very little.  This would have been around 2000 and well before the period when you could hear soundclips so you really were buying blind.


The Harvey Averne Band - Brotherhood


The weird thing with Latin lps is that the name on them is quite often not the singer or main musician but maybe the timpani player. 


The other thing about Latin is there’s quite often some real shmaltz on them.  I love My Dream on here.  It hits a real mid-point between soul and latin and is also a good example of how latin tracks change over a song.



Listening to Latin is for me quite different for me from mainstream pop music where you more or less know what you’re getting from the first twenty seconds. 


With a Latin track you put it on and immediately start wondering where it’s heading and then it builds and builds over the track.


There’s a lot of tracks in a similar vein on here including a nice cover of Curtis Mayfield - Running Child and also a version of Stand by Sly and The Family Stone.


His earlier lps are better-known than this.  His first one Viva Soul has got the fantastic Think It Over on it which I think is a crossover Northern Soul track.





Joe Acosta - The Power Of Love


Most of what I’ve pulled out is US latin stuff.  This one is on Joe Bataan’s label called Ghetto which has a cool cat logo. 


Joe Bataan was hugely successful on Fania and then followed the model of setting up his own label and having his own stable of bands.  I got this from MVE about six years ago. These were quite small pressing runs. There's some lovely bits on this. 


There was a period when MVE had quite a lot of really good latin stuff so quite a bit of the stuff here I got from there with trade. The best tracks on here are probably the first two. I Need Her is a bit more of a soul ballad type of  track and the one I just played you which is the second track called Bendita Illusion





Kool Heat - The Orquestra Kool


This is another one from MVE which I think I paid around a tenner for because it looked so trashed but it’s actually a Columbian pressing and sounds fine.


What's interesting with a lot of these is that you get pressings from all over latin America so this is a Columbian edition of a US lp, on thefamous Fuentes label.  You’ll find pressings from all over latin America of the US stuff. 


In the 60s and 70s places like Colombia and Panama were also getting records from Africa, so the likes of Fela Kuti were really big and you get bands from there basically doing the Afrobeat sound.  You get a real a really exciting melting pot of musical styles. 


A lot of latin stuff coming from North America but also stuff coming from other places as well.  The stuff I buy is very much all from the late 60s and early 70s.  

Booglaoo Baby has really explicit and pretty positive drug references, including to LSD. The lp came out in around 65 or 66 so it's interesting that Latin artists were singing about drugs then. The counterculture didn't begin and end with rock bands.


My favourite tracks on the Kool Heat lp are Boogaloo Baby and Tira Jala.












Johnny Zamot – La Guerra

There are  two or three albums he put out in the early seventies that are really good.  It looks like a downbeat lp but it’s a real mixture musically. 


The title track La Guerra has air raid siren effects but other than that you wouldn’t think it’s a protest song. It’s aimed very much to the Latin audience and has the type of dance each track is straight after the title. 


This is a lovely album and if you like more straight down the line type latin stuff it’s great.  He really built his  reputation on boogaloo which is looked down on a bit by latin afficianodos. I think here he got the top musicians from all around and deliberately set out to create a top quality Latin lp.  It’s like he already had a reputation but wanted to put something out to show people he could do more than he was known for and turn his hand to something a little more sophisticated.


Joe Bataan - Riot

Joe Bataan’s Riot lp is a classic example of a latin lp that has a kind of split personality to it.  It has both a Spanish and an English vocalist. 


Joe Bataan is the English vocalist here.  There’s also soul tracks alongside Latin ones so it’s very much aiming at two audiences.  I haven’t pulled out a lot of non-US Latin stuff,  I’m showing more US-based Latin that’s crossing over with other music and if you had to name one person who epitomises that it would be Joe Bataan.  I don’t think he’s even Latin by birth.  I think he’s half Filipino and half black but he would have grown up in a Latin area.


The first copy I got of this was from MVE for about three quid and they’d listed it as a Venezualan pressing with a little sticker on saying ‘the lp inside doesn’t match the cover’ because the cover had all the titles in English and the lp had them in Spanish so they priced it based on that.  Turns out it was an original pressing, that's just the way they produced them back then.

joe bataan
joe bataan

If you’re getting into record-nerdery about latin stuff I guess the Fania gold label is the equivalent of a Vertigo swirl.


I love all of his lps and could have chosen any one of them.  I love it when an artist totally re-interprets their own songs and Joe Bataan did cover versions of his own songs throughout his career. 


The version of Ordinary Guy on one of the early Jazz Juice compilations is very different to the one on this lp which I think is the original.  On this, Louie Gonzalez sings the Spanish tracks and Joe Bataan handles the English ones. 




The six and a half minute track What Good Is A Castle is another example of a track that builds slowly from the start then opens up into something very different.


Tito Ramos - Where My Head Is At


I don’t think this is very well-known:it's a US pressing on Cotique produced by Larry Harlow and it’s mainly English language titles. 


This lp is a great mixture of Latin and soul with an excellent blaxploitation-sounding track on it which must have come from some film or other.  There’s doo-wop harmony tracks here too like So You Need Someone that are very much in in the vein of Little Antony & The Imperials.  Of course a lot of Doo Wop artists were Latin.  There’s a real continuity between people doing that in the 50s and 60s then going into more overtly Latin stuff later on.  Someone like Joe Bataan would have been doing Doo Wop in the early 60s.  I doubt someone Tito Ramos would have thought doing soulful harmony stuff as selling out in any way as it’s the sort of music he grew up with.  I think I put the track To Find Someone on one of my VG+ swap cds. 

tito ramos
Jose Mangual

Jose Manuel - Latin Rhythm & Moods


I think this is underated too. Probably because being 1984 it's too late for most people.


This is a real drummer's lp as you can see from the cover and hear on Sambala. From the late 70s Latin stuff really went disco in a big way and some argue that music from that period hasn't aged well. I think this is one that slipped through.


I bought this record off a guy who was selling records from a street market in New York. I'd already bought quite a few records off him and he said that if I liked them then I would probably like this. It's aways nice to chance on something good outside of the period of music you usually go for. Having said that it doesn't really sound 80s at all and may have been a 70s lp released from the vaults. No list of who's doing what on this but you can hear there's a fair few drummers.




Eddie Palmieri - The Sun Of Latin Music


If I had to play an lp to someone who had preconceived ideas about Latin I'd play them this.


I think the word Sun in the title is a pun on the Cuban word Son which is one of the main form of indigenous Cuban music. Palmieri is a piano player and this is quite extreme jazz.


Un Dia Bonito on here is amazing. About eight minutes into it, after it's been fairly hard work to listen to and very atonal, the Latin rhythm and music just suddenly bursts through and it's pretty special when it does.


It combines a definitely Latin sound with very weird and experimental textures. It's like Latin meets Prog. Sorry about the crackles. It's pretty hard to find clean copies of these lps.


Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri

Sleeve notes:


His primary goal has never been to reach out for the mass audience, but he invariably attracts the striongest cult of knowledgeable Latin music fans.


Trying to be more commercial usually means lowering one's own musical standards in order to sell records to a greater portion of the potential buying public. I'm here to tell you that Eddie Palmieri has succeeded in combining the elements of musical growth, commerciality, professionalism and quality. He has once again dared to explore the possibilities beyond the existing level of Latin music, as well as create an album carefully conceived for the public taste.


Eddie Palmieri in Un Dia Bonito has taken us one step further along on our journey to universal understanding and apprecxiation of Latin music in it's purest form.



Golden Boys - S/T


I doubt the Golden Boys were ever cool. This is easy listening Latin with great production and a real sunshine sound


With that cover I couldn't not pick it up and it's even more bizarre that the cartoon of the chicken on the back cover appears to bear no relation to the content whatsoever.


It's got a lovely sound overall. I have a single of theirs when they try and go a bit funky and it's not that good.I haven't listened to this in a while. I put Chuva De Vereo on a Swap mix about three years ago.




The Golden Boys are a vocal quartet formed by brothers Roberto Correia José Maria, Ronaldo Correia José Maria, and Renato Correia José Maria (siblings of the members of the Trio Esperança) and a cousin, Valdir Anunciação.

Golden Boys

Golden Boys

They recorded their first LP in 1958, which had the hit “Meu Romance com Laura.” Departing for a series of national tours for the rest of the decade, in the ’60s they performed in Uruguay for two months. Recording several albums in that decade, they had hits with “Michelle,” “Se Eu Fosse Você,” “Andança,” “Mágoa,” “Pensando Nela,” and “O Cabeção,” among others. They also toured through the U.S., Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and other countries.


In 1971, Renato became a producer and left the group, which remained a trio. The brothers have written (alone or together) several hits recorded by other interpreters, like Roberto Carlos (“É Papo Firme,” “Não Precisas Chorar”) and Evinha (“Casaco Marrom”). Renato also wrote the soundtrack to the film Juventude e Ternura, starring Roberto Carlos and Wanderléa.


Additional information from www.whyfame.com

Edu Lobo - Ponteio


So well known but incredibly good. This is one of those songs I'd have as a Desert Island Disc.


I found this in a junk shop in Rio when I was visiting there last month and it's not rare at all but it's one of those things where you're in Brazil and you find a song that you know very well which you will knever got around to picking up at home.


There's a great clip somewhere of him performing this. He looks like he's about nineteen! You know that in the 60s song contests in Brazil were huge. If you were a good musician winning the song contest was massive for your career. This song won one of those annual song contests and the winners ceremony when they're singing it; him and female vocalist Marilla Medalha in front of this packed audience. The crowd go bananas, totally bananas.



Edu Lobo
Jose Mauro

Jose Mauro - Exaltacao E Lamento Do Ultimo Rei


This guy was about to become very famous when he died in a car crash.


He died just after cutting the lp this is on. This is another Brazilian single that I found in MVE and I was very lucky they that they didn't know what this was worth


It's got that uniquely melancholy vibe you get from Brazilian music. It's so ubiquitous they even have a word for it, saudade, which doesn't really have an accurate English equivalent but it's got elements of nostalgia, sadness and loss.









Lennie Dale - E O Sambalanco Trio


Do you know this? Lenny Dale was an American who got invited to go to Rio to do a couple of concerts and he never left.


He's a real American belter in the tradition of crooners like Frank Sinatra only based in Brazil and doing Brazilian songs. I love that idea of an American just going to Rio and never coming back and being a club singer with Sambalanco Trio.


When I got this I looked it up on websites and there was a thing saying he was a huge influence on Elis Regina. There's a whole strand there of quite melodramatic performers in Brazil of whom she's the epitome. I don't know how true it is but that connection from the American crooning tradition is fascinating to me.


Lennie Dale

Tom Bigg

I love that thing in Brazil of having incredibly high quality musicianship under very popular music.


There wasn't the same dividing line between stuff that would be mass produced to sell in millions and stuff that was considered more artistic.


When you just sit and listen to how it's produced; the way they construct the production on popular songs which, if they were created the UK would be real throwaway stuff, the finished article is incredible.


I have no idea what the dalmation theme on the cover is all about. It's as mystifying to me as the Golden Boys lp.








Yvette Garcia - Pobro E Teimoso


I bought this one from that Tropicalia shop I was tellling you about.


I knew it was next to a flower market and wandered around asking where it was for about half an hour. It turned out to be on third floor of an apartment block with just a sign in the corridor but until that point there was nothing to indicate it was there at all.


When I go abroad and and I'm looking at records, I always prefer to follow my instincts and buy stuff if I think it's worth the price they're asking and not by pulling out a price guide or getting on the phone.


This one cost a bit but I liked the sound of it. When I got back there was nothing about it online which is intriguing. There's something nice and personal about a record that's unGoogleable.




Yvette Garcia
Umas and Outras

Umas & Outras - Quarentao Simpatico (Renatao)


This is a classic bit of Brazilian pop. A ton of Brazilian music from the late 60s and early 70s was from mini-series soundtracks.


There are loads of soundtracks full of the songs that were on popular series. I think this is a single off one of those.


It's a really nice song, a cover version of a pretty well-known Marcos Valle song . I got it out of a junk shop for a couple of quid.








And in a style reminiscent of an English cricket match played on an overcast day, bad light stops play and the camera goes into the bag just in time for tea and biscuits at four o' clock.


forumusic would like to thank Tom for his generous loan of white label boot lps, his hospitality and for giving up a Saturday afternoon to share some superb Latin sounds with us.




Next up in our Collector series:

Cranium Pie drummer and owner of Second Scene record shop Julian Leigh-Smith.


Julian discusses his childhood fascination with 45s and how a music forum challenge re-ignited his interest in making music and lead to a record deal, live concerts and Cranium Pie being included on one of the most talked about compilations of 2010.

Tom Bigg
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