Blast From the Past: Coke, Self-Titled

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Coke (Sound Triangle Records)

One of the perils of collecting Florida music is the often confusing and frustrating searches one can often endure. There are many reasons for this: small print runs, obscure bands, even more obscure "record labels" and very few resources available, both in print and online to aid. So a few years ago (around 1998) I'm at the Bird Road (oldies) Yesterday & Today Records and I see a waiting list for the 1970 Coke LP. I get on the list and many years go by without a peep. So I inquire one day as to the list's progress and sure enough, I haven't moved in cue. Shit. This one's gonna take a while. At the time, I only knew that it was ten track album recorded in the 70s by some Hispanic teens.

Moving along to 2006, I'm looking for parking in the Gables area (which by the way, if you owe parking tickets, do not bother trying to park in this ruthless town, your shit will get towed lickety-split!) and I'm trying to scam a spot by one of the office buildings off Ponce when I see a box of records propped against a dumpster. I stop the car and rummage through the usual Julio Iglesias and run-of-the-mill classical stuff [I like the Deutsch Grammophon label, ladies and germs] when what in Sam Hell do I see? A Coke LP in very good condition! Wow! And I'm back in the car and tailing back home, screw whatever my plans were!

And here's a record that I know got a lot of play back in the day, so to find it in such awesome condition was hard-on inducing, even the cover looks good! Once I got home, I dusted it with my carbon-microfiber brush, D4'd it to get it glossy and dropped the needle into that awesome freak-out of funk and Latin music with rock and roll-tinged psychedelics. This is a party album that your hipster sister will enjoy alongside abuela.

I still don't know much about the band except the following: Coke was a quintet that had horn assistance for gigs and recordings, the core was comprised of Paul Garcia on guitar, Ariel Hernandez on bass, Ruben Perez drums, Jose Rubio on the keys and Peter Fernandez on vocals. The ten tracks on this album were begat by a single they recorded for über-famous Cuban expatriate music producer Manuel Mato. That single is "Sabor A Mi" and it's included in the album and it's as traditional as they get on the recording.

Imagine the first three Santana albums, the aspirations of Earth, Wind & Fire, electro-cumbia as bled by South American psych outfits (think Impala Syndrome, Los Shains or Los Speakers) but with roots firmly planted in the garage. Opening with "Na Na" they set a groovy and kinda stoney attitude to the rest of the album that is really nice before the balladry of "You Turn Me On" and "Got to Touch Your Face." 

The middle tracks are certainly where it turns into a more danceable business which is cool, because this band was all about the party - just ask ex-City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz who made his promoting bones booking these guys back in the day for "bailes" - before closing the album with some serious Latin funk that is simple and fun while retaining respect for the form. Closer "Que Seria de Mi" is make-out music, which I'm sure many chaperones back in the day did not encourage a dance to at the old "bailes."

It's a damn shame these guys haven't gotten a reunion going and maybe that's because from what is out there on them, it doesn't seem like the Coca-Cola corporation enjoyed their name, which apparently lead to inner turmoil, Fernandez pursuing a solo career and other members eventually forming Opus, a band I know even less about. 

Regardless of that, I do have some good news! Commercially available through and iTunes is Na Na: A Funk Anthology, which contains this entire album, a Fernandez single and nine Opus tracks, as well as an on-demand CD-R remaster of the album alone. Also of interest, although it'll double-up on a track, is the Hialeah Social Club CD which is a party starter! And look, not a single cocaine reference the entire article, ha!