Harlem River Drive is a highway that cuts through Harlem, allowing cars and citygoers to bypass the local streets of the neighborhood entirely. It was a stretch of road that allowed the rich to zip past and avoid the harsh social realities that were ever-present in the ghetto of 1970's New York. For many locals in Harlem - including Eddie Palmieri - the highway symbolized the harsh inequalities of modernity that was rife with racial turbulence. Palmieri's Harlem River Drive group was a diverse and top-tier class of musicians that sonically unified both black and Spanish Harlem (both communities were suffering similar iniquities). You had members of Aretha Franklin's orchestra, Bernard Purdie, Cornell Dupree as well as some of the most important Latin musicians of the day including Barry Rogers and Ronnie Cuber. Stylistically and sonically the album cuts a broad swath through Harlem, combining Puerto Rican soul, Spanish Harlem Latin, and New York funk and jazz in a way that unified all of Harlem in the face of this concrete adversity. From the guajira funk mix of the title track, to straight ahead soul in “If We Had Peace Today,” to the funk guaracha mix of “Idle Hands,” to a Bitches Brew-inspired free jazz jam in “Broken Home,” and to the funk-mambo mix of “Seeds of Life,” this album grooves hard and has become a legendary record for DJ's, rare-groove diggers and, at the time of its release, underground leftist radicals (current price for an OG sits at a crisp $100). While the album failed to achieve the crossover success Palmieri and Roulette Records had hoped for, the albums sound was ahead of its time, and the powerful socio-political statements present in the album still resonate to the present. 5 tracks in all, released by Get On Down. Recommended.
- music label: Get On Down 2018
reviewed by Ralphy Corduroy 2/2019
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