Filet of Soul by Luis Rivera – album review

I collect vinyl. By default that means I spend too much time trawling through websites, charity shops and record stores to satisfy my habit. The task is always lonely and the outcome mostly disappointing. But persistence yields rewards. Every now and then I come across something special. A curiosity by an artist I’ve never heard of which shouts, “Buy me!” And so it came to pass that I discovered Filet of Soul, by Luis Rivera.

Pressed once only, in 1961, by Imperial as a mono recording, Filet of Soul is a gem.

As far as I can tell, Louis Rivera is virtually unknown. Do some background research; you’ll find almost nothing, apart from the occasional mention of an album he made with Dog Bagby – Organs – and that is pretty much it.

To support the research efforts of others trying to find any scrap of information about Luis Rivera, I’ve included an image of the sleeve notes below.

Filet of Soul is a joyous piece of 60’s exotica. I came across a copy for sale while virtual crate digging on eBay. I had no idea who Luis Rivera was, but I was attracted to the cover, so took a punt and bought it.

The album could be described as crossover jazz more than it is soul, incorporating swing, rhythm ‘n’ blues, soul and early rock ‘n’ roll. But then the kind of music associated with specific genre labels can change with time. What we think of today as soul is very different to the music attributed to the genre in 1961. Or it could be that the sleeve notes got it completely wrong.

However one chooses to categorise Filet of Soul, the music conjures up images of intimate, after-hours sessions played in sleazy jazz joints.  I can imagine Tom Waits listening to Filet of Soul and picking up the vibe before sitting down to write the track Frank’s Wild Years.

Central to Filet of Soul’s distinct character is Rivera’s kitsch, fairground-sounding organ. I presume it’s a Hammond, played through a Leslie speaker. The laid back groove occasionally picks up to become jaunty, but is never upbeat. This is lounge lizard territory. Filet of Soul comes with a little ham and a sprinkling of cheese.

Here’s a video I made of track segments from the album:

Sleeve notes:

Sleeve notes of Filet of Soul by Luis Rivera
Sleeve notes (click for larger image)


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