Ah, finally getting into some real records now, even if this is an odd inclusion! For those following my “Every 10 Records” listening and documenting of my vinyl collection, it’s gotten a bit sluggish due to some early run-ins with bad pressings and bad music. I was happy to see my finger landing on Billo’s as I counted to my 80th LP, and for a split second I thought about pulling a different album by Billo’s just to make it a little less weird. Most of my collection is filed alphabetically first, then chronologically within the artist’s discography, but I knew that there’s so little info on any of these particular records that any chronological arrangement I’d done was likely made up of guesswork. Still, I kept things honest and pulled this out to listen.
I got turned onto Billo’s Caracas Boys by chance a few years ago — I was chatting with a friend about what we were listening to at work, and he’d been churning through a few YouTube albums and had landed on Billo’s as a result. He dug it, and I quickly did as well! I made a point of grabbing a few LPs by Billo’s on eBay (this was before I knew about better record marketplaces), but they were really pretty hard to come by. “Fin De Año” is actually one of the LPs that pops up most frequently, surprisingly enough, so it made itself onto my shelves very quickly.
I can’t find much online about Billo’s Caracas Boys or their discography. Yet they were super prolific and most of their stuff is available on streaming services. But I’d like to learn more since their sound is a good mix of several things. The bandleader was born in the Dominican Republic, got famous in Venezuela and ended up in pre-Castro Cuba for a bit before returning to Venezuela. That transiency across Latin America shows up in the songs — there’s a lot of merengue for sure, but I feel like I see salsa/cumbia/rhumba/and flamenco dancing through the orchestra as well. The music is heavier on the pop than the rhythms, so maybe that’s why it feels a bit more universal. Regardless, I love listening to it even if it’s not quite as forceful as some other latin dance records.
What makes this record a bit odd is that it really is an “end of the year” record, as the title states! To non-Spanish speakers, that’s probably meaningless until you get to songs like “Cascabel” — a Spanish language “Jingle Bells.” Still, I played this record while my family was doing their thing and no one seemed to notice — my son danced a bit to some of the songs, but to my chagrin no one had any Christmas tunes lodged in their head. There are better Billo’s albums in my collection, we’ll see when I get to them in this game…
Vinyl: VG- (pretty worn, no skips or pops but surface noise throughout)