On July 20, 1969 the orchestra “El Apollo Sound” of the great Puerto Rican musician Roberto Roena was born. Together with trumpeter Elías Lopés he founded “El Apollo Sound”.
This name comes from the first rehearsal of his group, which coincided with the day of the launching of the Apollo rocket to the moon.
Roberto Roena recorded 10 albums in nine years for the Sello Internacional, part of the Fania label, and although he was not a great student of music, he was able to surround himself with very good musicians and use his talent to form his own group, which is now in its fiftieth year.
It is indisputable that the most popular orchestra in Puerto Rico and South America during the 70s was Roberto Roena’s Apollo Sound.
“Lucky 7” was his seventh release in front of Apollo with the Fania International label, after his discreet debut as leader with Los Megatones and after a fruitful career as bongocero of Rafael Cortijo’s Combo and Rafael Ithier’s El Gran Combo.
With “Lucky 7” Roena consolidated his popularity on a continental level thanks to the arrangement of an innovative song that challenged the schemes of the overwhelming salsa sound institutionalized in New York during the decade: “Mi desengaño”, by Julio Merced and Pucho Soufront.
In 1976 the Apollo and its new singer Papo Sánchez, pride of Hatillo, climbed the charts with a nostalgic lyric inspired by unrequited love. In his arrangement, trombonist Merced himself incorporated the cadence of the samba, linked through its bars with a son covered with the nuances of bossa nova, jazz and bomba.
The hit “Mi desengaño” invited many to reinvent their sound and reformulate their proposals in salsa, with more elaborate arrangements and harmonic sophistication, such as those made in New York by Marty Sheller for Willie Colón.
In addition to the brilliant debut of Papo Sánchez, the excellence of “Lucky 7” rested on the arrangements and orchestrations of such great musicians as trumpeters Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz and Elías Lopéz, pianists Papo Lucca and Jorgito Millet and the King of the Bass, Bobby Valentín.
The sequence begins with the guaguancó “Que me castigue Dios”, performed by Sammy ‘El Rolo’ González, Apollo’s star singer until “La 8va. Maravilla”, their next album. In “Que me castigue Dios” we hear at the end the then incipient Rubén Blades with the declamation of some verses that today would deserve the repudiation of feminist organizations, but that in 1976, were applauded by the prevailing macho sociology in the industry:
May my mouth dry up/If I ever kiss you again/And if I ever look at you again/May my eyesight blur/I’m tired of your bad breath/I never reproached you/Your feet smell too/And I know that not even the worms/With you they wouldn’t get their hands on that day you die/You a cow and I a horse with class/I wish a truck would run over your head/Pa’ que salga la sucieza con que tú a mi me me trataste.
“Lucky 7” was also an LP that satisfied the expectations of the dancer. Although many may have crossed themselves dancing to the samba of “Mi desengaño” and the fusion of “Que me castigue Dios”, the merengue “La mala maña”, arranged by Conjunto Quisqueya pianist Chokie Acosta, the pachanga with cumbia “Estás equivocada”, the composition “A bailar mi bomba” by Arsenio Rodríguez and the guaguancós “Me le fugué a la candela”, “La hija de la vecina” and “Fea” pleased the couples who in those days overflowed halls such as Rancho Luna, El Moroco and El Carretero.
There is no doubt that the best oiled edition of the orchestral collective Apollo Sound was precisely the one that intervened in “Lucky 7“, led then by flutist Miguel Rodriguez, trumpeter Mario Cora, timbalero Cuqui Santos, conguero Papo Clemente and trombonist Julio Merced, who later defected with singer Papo Sanchez to found the band Salsa Fever. Three decades after its release it is an irrefutable affirmation.
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