Upon hearing Marvin Santiago’s El Sonero del Pueblo
for the first time, I really didn’t know what to make out of it. Marvin’s vocal style is raw, probably too raw for most casual Salsa listeners. But his ability to improvise and to cram every word and syllable in between a choro
is hard for anyone to match. Ruben Blades put it best when describing Marvin Santiago’s style: "Marvin is capable of fitting a Mack truck into a parking space where a Volkswagen Beetle won't fit." His raspy voice and lyrical improvisational skills are closer to Reggaeton star Tego Calderon
than to someone like Eddie Santiago
El Sonero Del Pueblo
(The People’s Sonero
, which was also his moniker), originally released in 1985, is a collection of Marvin’s best material that he recorded for the TH Rodven label. His voice, rough from years of improper vocal training, sounds, as Neil Young once put it, “As real as the day was long.” The recordings that he made for TH Roven sound like the meters on the recording console are peaking deep in the red. The slightly overdriven sound of the band matches the intensity of Santiago’s voice, which is a good thing. It’s like the Salsa version of Black Flag’s The First Four Years
. Like that release, El Sonero Del Pueblo
is filled with fast songs full of intensity, often layered with humor.
Songs Such as "El Pasajero" (The Passenger) and "Caro Viejo Y Mujer Fea"
(Old Car And An Ugly Women) were Salsa Dura classics before there was a term for it. On top of that, try to keep up with Marvin’s thick improvised Puerto Rican colloquialisms. This is one for the dance floor as much as for the people that like to sit and enjoy great musicianship and vocal ability.