Joe Bataan is the truth. He may not be the most original member of the Fania squad, but he's got an intangible quality that makes everybody feel him. Something about his voice- maybe it's cause he was a grimy dude back in the day, running with gangs in Spanish Harlem. At some point, he got locked up and focused his energy on making music, which he is still recording to this day. Joe is an Afro-Pilipino, but was heavily influenced by his Latin surroundings and crew, which allowed him to play a significant role in blowing up the hybrid of Latin-Soul music that became popular in the 60's. Originally released in 1967 and produced by Jerry Masucci, Subway Joe was Bataan's second album with Fania. The title cut "Subway Joe"; was the main hit off the album. With its driving percussion and blaring horns, it literally sounds like the Iron Horse is coming through the tunnel. With lyrics like "Well I took the subway downtown one day, just to buy me some Chinese food," Bataan sounds more like a rapper than a singer. A humble attitude and simple everyday subject matter, maintains his everyman appeal. Although he was credited with writing all songs on this album, Bataan only sings on two other tracks, "Special Girl" and "Magic Rose." Throughout the rest of the album, Joe showcases his piano playing and arrangement, which owes a lot to Eddie Palmieri's style. Tito Ramos takes lead vocals on the other tracks, which are sung in Spanish and the liner notes include a dance-style description for each. "Triste" is listed as a Bolero-Cha Cha, which must mean it's a mixture of the slow Bolero dance with the popular Cha Cha. "Ponte En Algo" is closer to the straight up Latin sound I expect from Fania albums, although I would never try to dance to that shit. Bataan is up there in that Sly Stone category of artists, I can just listen to him over and over again. Subway Joe is a good introduction to his smooth style and a must have for any Latin-Soul collector.
- music label: Fania Records
reviewed by JMS 05/2016