Personnel: Rubén Blades (vocals, acoustic guitar); Willie Colón (percussion, gong); Papo Vasquez, Lewis Kahn (trombone); Tom "Bones" Malone (tuba); Jose Torres (piano); Milton Cardona (congas, talking drum, claves); Jose Mangual Jr. (bongos, maracas, percussion); Nicky Marrero (timbales).
Liner Note Author: Jaime Torres Torres.
Recording information: La Tierra Sound Studios, NY.
Any Willie Colón fan who couldn't understand why Colón and Hector Lavoe would want to go their separate ways must have been reassured by the recruitment of Rubén Blades to take his place in 1977. (Surely, no one could argue with the results of 1975's The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, which featured all three figures on one of the best LPs that any of them ever recorded, together or apart.) But Blades certainly wasn't a double for Lavoe; in fact, their styles were completely different. Lavoe was a spark plug of a sonero who could motivate the oldest abuela to get up and dance. Blades, while he may have had the ability to sound like a romantic crooner, only hit with a punch when he wanted to, instead pushing to the front his lyrical concerns with the underclass through a variety of storytelling modes (an interest he shared with Colón himself). There aren't any standout tracks like both its predecessor (The Good, the Bad, the Ugly) and successor (Siembra), but Metiendo Mano! was a worthy introduction to the two recording as twin leads. It's certainly an adventurous record. Colón kept only three arranging assignments for himself, which makes it sound less like a Willie Colón record (and is probably why it's remembered slightly less fondly than its bookends). Luis Ortiz's two excellent charts included one that sounded a much different note than Colón (the opener "Pablo Pueblo") as well as another that sounded as though Colón were writing it himself ("La Maleta"). Colón bolstered his strong brass lineup with additional power (including a tuba solo on the opener), and the lineup is a powerhouse (including frequent collaborator Yomo Toro on two tracks). Meanwhile, Blades proved his range, moving from raging first-person narratives to pastoral boleros -- with no lack of passion on each -- and although Colón is heard less here than on his previous classics, his lieutenants proved the confidence he had in them. ~ John Bush