Afrofilipino album cover

Joe Bataan

Salsoul Records

Joe Bataan’s first album for Salsoul isn’t just an excellent follow-up to its immediate label-naming predecessor on the Cayre Brothers-run precursor Mericana Records. It’s also a powerfully reinterpretive set from an artist aware enough to put his cultural background front and center in the title, and legit enough that Afrofilipino stands as a landmark of his prominence as a pillar of Latin soul. Recorded bicoastally and featuring two different session bands, you can hear something of a dichotomy in the “East Coast” and “West Coast” sides; the former’s got sweeter strings and packed-disco atmospherics while the latter’s heavier, organ-driven funky soul skews closer to open-top lowrider vibes. (Chicago’s “Woman Don’t Want To Love Me” has never sounded more destined to be a gem of brown-eyed soul.) But while his biggest hit came from the way he reworked Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s “The Bottle” into a brisk, David Sanborn sax-laced instrumental that upped the original’s Nuyorican sound, the deeper cuts shine because they complement both the mischievous joy and the bewildered pain in his voice’s warm, subtly raspy resonance. The former mode’s easily ingratiating — his cover of the theme to “Chico and the Man” and the 42nd Street throwdown of “X Rated Symphony” transcend good-time ’70s kitsch in part because he’s got the kind of voice that can also convey the modesty of an “Ordinary Guy.” But it’s the pathos behind that revamp of his own Riot!-era Fania classic — and another one, “What Good Is A Castle,” that reaches final-form perfection as a two-parter that flips from downer ballad into uptempo vamp — that seals his rep as one of the boogaloo-to-disco continuum’s greats.

Nate Patrin

Recommended by
Who also suggested

If you select your preferred streamer here, we will save your preference and link to that platform if possible. This can always be changed in the Settings menu.

Apple Music

If you’d like to prioritize Bandcamp if available, tap the Bandcamp logo.

Since some albums are only available on one service, you’ll still see logos for other services if the album is only available on that service.