Here’s a relic from the early-mid 70’s New York scene, they were the Latin rock influenced Toro.
Written by: gdmonline
LABEL: Coco Records
SERIAL: CLP 106
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Andy Sanchez – lead vocals * Eddie Perez – bass * Steve Napoleoni Monge – lead guitar * Felix ‘Pito’ Tollinchi – rhythm guitar * Vinnie De Paola – moog programming * Larry Harlow – moog, mellotron, clavinet, piano, electric piano, organ * Paul Alicea – timbales * Frankie Malabe – congas * John Headley-Down – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Ramona * 02 Small Folk Reservation * 03 Fields Of Laughter * 04 Falling In Love * 05 Like The Sun (N.Y.C.) * 06 Michaela * 07 Cabo Rojo * 08 Nena * 09 Going To Borinquen
Here’s a relic from the early-mid 70’s New York scene, long before Studio 54 became an aberration for the city that never sleeps. They were the Latin rock influenced Toro, who navigated the same fusiony territory as 70’s contemporaries Santana, Chango and Azteca, all three bands featured here at GDM.
Toro were signed to Coco Records, a label starting out in 1972 by Harvey Averne who was a bit of a legend of the latin/chicano scene during the 60’s and 70’s. Averne also produced the Toro LP, and while most of the band were not recognised names away from the NYC latin scene, only drummer John Headley-Down was the exception, who played with Peter Frampton under the name John Siomos, and appears on the seminal ‘Frampton Comes Alive’.
‘Toro’ represents a lively mix of Latin energy, jazz fusion plus freestyle playing from this multi-instrumental ensemble. There’s a load of moog synths; in fact there are two players, plus two guitarists and a percussion heavy backbone. These guys would’ve been more at home in Miami rather than NYC I reckon.
The opener ‘Ramona’ is heavy on Santana like inspiration, with a nod to ‘Samba Pa Ti’ in the soundalike stakes. ‘Small Folk Reservation’ features some twisting guitar parts from Steve Napoleoni Monge, the whole thing a classic rock/latin rock fusion. ‘Fields Of Laughter’ veers on the side of subdued, an opportunity for singer Andy Sanchez to lead from the front. The guitar noodling is reminiscent of that mid 70’s jazz fusion sound.
‘Falling In Love’ rolls along nicely, with Sanchez singing in a 70’s rap style, decades before it was invented! ‘Like The Sun (N.Y.C.)’ meanders across the speaker space, not too much happening with this one other than hearing the Santana influence once again. ‘Michaela’ is another played with initial restraint, the shuffly rhythms are offset by some plucky lead guitar work later in the song, which by then throws the shackles off for a jam like flurry.
‘Cabo Rojo’ is a different proposition altogether, sounding like a 60’s mash-up tune which is also sung in Spanish. It gets kinda crazy, like a musical street party in the studio. ‘Nena’ is by far the most calm and soothing track here, a real contrast to the prior songs that have gone before. Toro go out with a bang on the finale ‘Going To Borinquen’. The percussion is all over this one, just in case listeners were thinking this was a different band.
Without much momentum being generated in the USA, the Toro album was repackaged in 1977 for the European market as ‘Banana Split’ on the mostly Dutch power pop and disco label called Scramble Records. This was obviously a ploy by Harvey Averne, who by the end of the 70’s decade had relocated to Europe permanently, moving into the burgeoning pop/disco scene over there. Yes, Toro were a rarity and an obscurity, I’m glad I finally got to this review.