The Har-You Percussion Group, 1964 (Video/Audio)

har you historyForming after the Harlem Riots of 1964, Har-You make Afro-Cuban sounds with furious and hip-shakingly groovesome rhythms

If you’ve ever wondered whether the world has changed a bit since the late summer of 1969, or whether it’s basically the same, your answer will lie in this record and one of its contemporary reviews. “Here is a young, unknown group of musicians from Harlem,” US music industry bible Billboard wrote in the last August of the 1960’s. “[They’ve] pooled their talents to prove to the world that ghettos can produce more than shiftless undesirables.” Wow, well there’s a phrase to conjure with. Of course, it’s hard to tell whether the unnamed writer was going for humour, but – either way – there’s nothing funny about this LP. Funky, yes. Furious, yes. Hip-shakingly groovesome, yes. Awesomely enthusiastic, yes. Funny? Not so much.

Produced by legendary Jamaican jazz percussionist and drummer Roger “Montego Joe” Sanders and released by ESP Disk, this is a fantastically dynamic blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms with richly melodic jazz overtones, capturing the sound of people on the cusp of becoming great players. The horn-section in Tico is together and on the beat, but not quite confident enough to stretch out, while the gloriously full-steam-ahead attack of Santa Cruz threatens to derail itself but never does. Har-You began life as Harlem Youth Unlimited, a community group put together by Sanders after the Harlem Riots of 1964. On the audio track that accompanies this edition of the LP he described the group as “emotionally unstable young men with no inspiration and no place to go” and the record was meant to show those who held the city’s purse strings that many people who had been written off and ignored would be much better listened to and appreciated. You have to hope that, after a showing like this, they were. Of course, despite the goodwill, the stinging Latin percussion and the powerful R&B horn riffs, no one really bought it, but the track Welcome To The Party – thanks to its ebullient brilliance and insane rarity – grew into a huge rare-groove club hit, one big enough to ensure this wonderful album was never forgotten  (source).

Here’s the video for Welcome To The Party:

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