Willie Colon & Ruben Blades – Tiburon
Collaborations simply don’t reach greater heights than the one that brought Ruben Blades and Willie Colón together in the late 1970s and early 1980s. John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn: the names at the top of any list will reflect the taste of the list-maker, but it’s hard to imagine one that wouldn’t be graced by Nuyorican trombonist/bandleader Colón and Panamanian singer/composer/activist Blades. With the possible exception of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, no two musicians have combined unforgettable melodies, innovative rhythms, and lyrics that fuse personal experience with political awareness to greater effect than Blades and Colón during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The 1978 concept album Siembra quickly became the best-selling salsa album of all-time, but its real importance comes from the lasting power of the satirical bite of “Plástico,” the tragi-comic social epic “Pedro Navaja,” and Colón’s supernaturally inventive arrangements. The keynote of the 1981 album Canciones Del Solar De Los Aburridos, “Tiburón”–the version here highlights the precision of Blades and Colón’s band–expands the image of the shark to comment on the impact of imperialism on Latin America. It’s as relevant today as on the day it was released.