Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Ponce, Puerto Rico) Singer, bandleader, composer, producer, label boss; leader of an adventurous salsa band, presenting hard-edged jazz-oriented dance music, replete with solos, with a constant core ('71-80s) of trombonists John Torres and Ricardo Montañez, Antonio Tapia on congas, and bongo player Louie Rivera (who left to work with Rubén Blades '84-7). To Brooklyn with family at age ten, where he grew up listening to Rafael Cortijo's Combo and was influenced by lead singer Ismael Rivera. He played timbales in a group led by guitarist Luis Torres, then replaced the vocalist with the Ray Jay Orchestra; he made his recording debut on Brujeria '71 (reissued '77 as Mas Sabor under Canales's name) as lead singer of Sabor (means 'taste' or 'flavour'), the band of African American pianist/arranger/composer Mark 'Markolino' Dimond, who wrote the entire album. Dimond had worked with Willie Colón, writing tracks on The Hustler and Guisando--Doing A Job; he played a brilliant solo on 'Rompe Saragüey' on Héctor Lavoe's La Voz '75; he also did a notable mid-'70s solo LP Beethoven's V with singers Frankie Dante and Chivirico Dávila, but after a disappointing rock/R&B The Alexander Review '75 left the salsa recording scene, reappearing only on Andy and Larry Harlow's Salsa Brothers: The Miami Sessions '88. Dimond died about six months later of a stroke.

When Dimond left, the band became 'Sabor con Angel Canales' on Sabor '75 on Alegre, with Torres as music director, 'El Cantante y la Orquesta' written by Tapia and two standout tracks by Canales, who got top billing on Angel Canales And Sabor '76 on TR, described by UK salsa disc jockey Tomek as 'heavy metal Latin Bronx style', with eight of ten tracks by Canales, including 'Concierto en Bongo'. Bassist/arranger John Henry Robinson III joined with this LP, co-produced by keyboardist Ricardo Marrero with Tito Rodríguez II. The name 'Sabor' fell into disuse; Canales had an 'interesting--because new to salsa--mannered, indeed almost decadent edge to his singing', wrote John Storm Roberts. He soon produced his first LP, El Sentimiento del Latino en Nueva York '79 ('The Feeling Of The Latino In New York') on his own Selanac label (Canales backwards), with a respectful cover of Beny Moré's 'Soy del Monte' ('I Come From The Mountain') and Canales's own 'Panama Soberana'. The same lineup made Angel Canales Live At Roseland '78 on TR; both LPs featured Lesette Wilson on piano, a rare instance of a woman in salsa: she had worked with Yambú (formed '72 to play their version of the sound of El Barrio, combining typical and progressive Latin infl. by rock and soul), sang on one track on their eponymous '75 LP on Montuno produced by Al Santiago, and had her own hit on UK dance charts with 'Caveman Boogie' (from her solo LP Now That I've Got Your Attention on Headfirst), which made the UK soul charts '81. Canales recruited Victor 'Even' Pérez on timbales; he appeared on El Diferente c'81 on Selanac, which included a driving version of the Puerto Rican classic 'Bomba Carambomba', and standout tracks 'La Vida Es una Caja de Sorpresa' and 'Saragüey Santoja'. El Diferente en 'Vivo' Desde el Poliedro '82 was made live at Poliedro Stadium in Caracas, issued on Venezuelan GM label (Greatest Hits Live '91 reissued five of the Poliedro tracks plus a another number recorded at the venue). The well-known session player Steve Sacks on flute/baritone sax joined with Different Shades Of Thought '82 on Selanac, which included a haunting version of another Beny Moré tune, 'Guantánamo', and the outstanding 'Tenemos Que Echar Pa'Lante'. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Angel Fernández (sideman/arranger with Ray Barretto '80s--early '90s) arrarranged several tracks on various LPs; on Ya Es Tiempo (It's Time) '85 on Selanac five of the seven tracks were his, including his own composition, a long instrumental 'Angel Canales Theme Song', studded with solos. Canales's confident and uncompromisingly distinctive sound and image were seen as radical within the context of the conservative Latin music industry; even when he was hot in the mid-'70s he received little airplay. The gigs ebbed away as he resisted the insipid salsa romántica trend of the late 80s; he disbanded '90. He moved his family to Miami and established a successful diamond-cutting business. He resumed recording and touring; two tracks made in Colombia were included on the compilation De Colombia Pa'l Mundo Entero Vol. 3 '95 on MCR.