As well as being a legend in the world of latin music, producer and songwriter Bobby Marin was also in his younger days a champion of stickball, a street-based version of baseball played in and about the tenements of America’s big cities. Bobby’s neighbourhood was East or Spanish Harlem and his home was 107th Street, hence the name of the group that made this super-rare album. The spirit of New York is something that pervades the whole LP, which we are very pleased to reissue this month.
Bobby has described to me the New York in which he grew up as a Nuyorican in the 1950s and 60s. It was a city that for him had the call of the island of Peurto Rico, from where his family came, which provided the many musical influences that dominated his brothers’ lives. Being younger than his brothers, as well as hearing the music of the two Titos – Puente and Rodriguez – Bobby had the influence of the nearby Apollo Theater. The sounds of Frankie Lymon, Jackie Wilson and the birth of soul filled his ears and influenced the producer that he became.
When he started working as the in-house producer at Speed Record in 1967, he took this mix further using soul and funk luminaries like Bernard Purdie on his sessions to create an incendiary mix of latin, funk and soul. In 2006 his composition ‘Ain’t No Other Man’ was sampled by producer DJ Premier on Christina Aguilera’s worldwide hit ‘Ain’t No Other Man’. The original recording was big and brassy, but while working at Speed he was equally at home delivering more soulful items, such as the Northern soul classic ‘Spanish Maiden’. After he left the label he worked on various freelance projects, including several with producer Ralph Lew that appeared on logos such as Rado and Dorado.
The 107th Street Stickball Team was such a project. Based around a nucleus of Bobby, Louie Ramirez, Ricardo Marrero and vocalist Butch Johnson, the record paints an accurate picture of the urban music of New York. From the sweet, big sounding soul of ‘On Old Broadway’, via the latin boogaloo of ‘Mojo Shingaling’, to the fiery funk of ‘Barbara With The Kooky Eyes’, it is a perfect album, which is what makes it so sought after by collectors the world over.
Our CD is finished off with three bonus cuts from a 1967 project put together by Bobby and his brother Richard, who produced the sessions. They feature a latin supergroup comprising Tito Puente, Louie Ramirez, Jimmy Sabater and others, performing under the name the Nitty Sextet. They recorded an absolutely amazing LP, which in their wisdom RCA rejected. 40 years later, only these three tracks remain, rescued from an acetate.
By Dean Rudland