Azuquita y Su Melao En Hollywood LP (E & G, 1973)
I first got into Latin music by pillaging the record collection of the father of a now-long gone girlfriend. On the way to Southern California, we dropped in on her pop's ex for a short visit. She found out that I was record fiend and pointed to her ex's old records and said, "Help yourself." Normally, I'd never cop another man's vinyl, but this gal's dad was an asshole, and a rude one at that, so I figured, "Fair game!" The catch was that I had no idea what the hell I was looking at. All the records were Latin. Actually, I did recognize Tito Puente, but beyond that I was lost. So i just took what looked cool: Willie Colon's The Hustler, Fania All Stars, a couple old Celia Cruz, a Joe Bataan, Ray Barretto's Hard Hands - you know, a few odds & ends. Ha! What I blindly picked out were some of the best and most important salsa records ever made. The first record of the batch that I listened to was Colon's The Hustler. My mind was blown. Latin? Where? No record store with a "Mexican" or "Ethnic" section was safe when I stepped into it. I became a salsa vacuum. If a record looked like it was Latin and was made between the late 50s and mid 70s, I was game. Picked up a lot of crap, but also had some serious scores - like cleaning out the Latin section at Car City in Detroit or hitting an antique store outside of Bloomington, Indiana and walking out with a stack of prime 60s albums on Seeco or, in today's case, hitting a new Sacramento thrift store a friend hipped me to and finding ten Latin records stacked on the floor in an aisle. I looked 'em over. Azuquita's En Hollywood has a cover that you can't pass up, so I bought it (along with the other nine).
Azuquita is the stage name of Luiz Argumedes Rodriguez. From Panama, Azuquita started singing in Peru at the age of 15. In 1961, he released his first record and continued to record and perform throughout the 1960s. In '68, at the behest of Tito Puente, he made his way to New York City and hooked up with musicians in that great scene. Over the next few years, he made his home in New York and Panama and then Los Angeles, where he recorded En Hollywood. Since then he has continued his career and is one of the biggest artists in Latin America and draws crowds around the world.
En Hollywood is a great record from start to finish. The music is funky, the band is smooth, and the grooves burn.