Eddie Santiago Biography

c.1961, Puerto Rico. Santiago’s record-breaking solo debut Atrevido Y Diferente was full of saccharin-sweet romantic vocals and hip arrangements over a driving yet laid-back beat. It triggered a revival of salsa’s fortunes with a new wave - variously called salsa romántica, salsa erótica, salsa sensual or sexy salsa - and spawned a breed of new solo singers and bands and some comebacks, including Nicaraguan Luis Enrique, Willie González, Paquito Guzmán, Lalo Rodríguez, Roberto Lugo and Nino Segarra. Billboard’s former Latin music reporter, Carlos Agudelo, attempted a definition of salsa sensual: ‘This Puerto Rican song-and-dance craze mixes the Spanish lyrics of romantic ballads - borrowed shamelessly from pop records even before they have exhausted their life span - with the traditional salsa beat. It’s performed by a mostly new generation of soneros (salsa singers), all of them remarkably similar in the pitch of their voices, the moods and cadences of their sensually, or shall we say sexually, tinged tunes’ (from New York’s Village Voice, August 1988). Although Santiago’s rapid rise to fame helped rescue salsa from the depths to which the Dominican merengue boom had pushed it, it was a massive set-back for the tradition of solid, progressive salsa associated with names like Willie Rosario, Papo Lucca And Sonora Ponceña, Mulenze, Libre, Angel Canales and others. UK salsa broadcaster, Tomek, said in 1991: ‘Eddie Santiago’s success represents the nadir of salsa’s commercialization. A thin voice made ludicrous by an impressive range of bum notes, even smoky reverb and echo failed to redeem its dismal squawk. However, his true crime was the success of that album - it launched a tidal wave of palsied imitators. Credit to his producer Julio César Delgado, though; a cunningly crafted if deeply cynical and ultimately resounding success, now thankfully on the wane’.

Santiago started as a singer with various bands, including Generación 2000, Orquesta La Potente, Orquesta Opus and Orquesta Saragüey. In March 1984 he joined Willie González as co-lead vocalist of Conjunto Chaney, led by bongo player Nicolas Vivas. The band’s self-titled album of the same year was a great success, spawning such hits as ‘Desesperado’ and ‘Que Maravilla Fue Sentirte’ performed by Santiago. He and González both departed to go solo. Santiago signed with TH (later TH-Rodven) and released the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Atrevido Y Diferente in 1986, which catapulted him into the limelight. González signed with ex-TH executive producer Tony Moreno’s Musical Productions company and issued the Billboard chart-topper Willie González & Noche Sensual Orquesta in 1986, which went platinum and earned him Diplo awards for Album Of The Year and Best New Salsa Artiste Of The Year. He continued with the diminishingly successful Sin Comparación (1989) and Para Ustedes... ‘El Publico’ (1990). Chaney, who previously released Chaney Chaney Chaney (1980), Conjunto Chaney (1983), carried on with El Conjunto Del Amor (1986), Mas Que Atrevido (1988), El Conjunto Del Amor (1989), which contained the superb ‘Sera Que Estoy Soñando’, and Somos Amigos (1991). Atrevido Y Diferente quickly went gold and caused Santiago to win the Billboard Bravo Award for Best Selling Album and ACE Award for Band Of The Year in 1987. His chart-topping follow-up ... Sigo Atrevido! was nominated for a Grammy Award in March 1989. 1988’s Invasión De La Privacidad was another number 1 and attracted nominations for the Billboard Lo Nuestro awards for Album Of The Year and Artiste Of The Year in May 1990. In 1989, Eddie made a controversial move to the multinational label Capitol / EMI Latin.

The company also managed to acquire TH-Rodven’s house recording and production director, Julio César Delgado, who worked on all Santiago’s releases and albums by most of TH-Rodven’s impressive past and present roster of salsa artists and bands, including Marvin Santiago, Willie Rosario, Raphy Leavitt, Tommy Olivencia, Oscar D’León, Andy Montañez, La Solución, Paquito Guzmán, Frankie Ruiz, Milagros Hernández, Alex León, Lalo Rodríguez, David Pabón and Héctor Tricoche. Baritone saxophonist Delgado was a key architect of the salsa romántica sound, however some regard Louie Ramírez’s early 80s Noche Caliente project as the true genesis of the style. In 1990, TH-Rodven and CBS Records collaborated to release the highly successful joint Eddie Santiago/Luis Enrique (a CBS signee) compilation Los Príncipes De La Salsa. Santiago’s final TH-Rodven release, El Rey De La Salsa Romántica, was his least successful in chart terms. In April 1991, he made his UK debut with a lacklustre concert at London’s Empire Ballroom. In late 1991: ‘his stunning lack of insight into his own qualities was hilariously evident in the choice of title for his first album on the major, Capitol/EMI Latin: Soy El Mismo/I’m Still The Same. Oh dear. Depressingly, it reached number 1 in the Billboard chart.’ (Tomek). However, the album did less well in his homeland of Puerto Rico.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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