6/23/2013

Reaping What You Sow: 'Siembra' Turns 35

WILLIE COLON and RUBEN BLADES
Siembra
[Fania-1978]
Considered, arguably, salsa’s finest moment, as well as the towering achievement of Panamanian-born, Harvard-educated, former Fania Records mailroom clerk Rubén Blades and bad boy prodigy from The Bronx Willie Colón, Siembra, with one lone exception, was penned entirely by rising star Blades and remains his most impressive batch of tunes. Kicking off with "Plastico", a blunt attack on empty consumerism and racial/class-related prejudice, capped off with a rallying cry for Latin American unity, the album is undoubtedly a reflection of the harsh times in which it was created. 

However, Siembra is rarely heavy-handed in its approach, as evidenced by the inclusion of a tender love song such as "Dime", with its joyous and infectious swing, one of the album's definitive moments. (Much props to Colon for his killer arrangements throughout.) It also happens to be home to "Pedro Navaja", a re-imagining of "Mack the Knife" as a tragic Lower East Side slice of life; it is Siembra's best known track and one of the great anthems of modern Spanish-language music.

A landmark recording universally beloved in Latin America 35 years after its release, Siembra is both the best-selling salsa album of all time--hovering, purportedly, in the 25 million copies range--and considered to be "one of the indisputable masterpieces of 1970s New York salsa". There are those who believe it's the salsa masterpiece. Three and a half decades later, we're not inclined to disagree.

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