In 1966, with the increased interest in Latin music, Pucho and his band were signed to Prestige Records by Cal Lampley, their head of A&R. After naming the group Pucho & the Latin Soul Brothers, Lampley produced their debut album, “Tough”, which mixed mambos, soul jazz and pop tunes.
Pucho and the band were not yet reflecting the music that was taking off in the Latin clubs of New York; they were a more staid outfit with one foot in the jazz past. This was emphasised by their second album, “Saffron and Soul”, which pretty much repeated the formula of “Tough”. With a cooking band featuring a horn line-up of Claude Bartee, Harold Alexander and Vincent McEwan, the material mixed originals with jazz standards and current pop hits such as the Four Tops ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’. The originals varied from the soul jazz grooves of ‘What A Piece’ to intense Latin numbers showing the power of the multi-layered percussion.
For their follow-up, “Shuckin’ and Jivin’”, vocalist Jackie Soul joined the line-up, immediately taking the record into Latin soul territory. Perhaps more significantly, pianist Neal Creque was also added; he would play on every Pucho album from this point until the group disbanded in the mid-70s. Creque also contributed three songs to “Shuckin’ and Jivin’”, including the title track, and supplied the vocals on ‘See See Rider’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’. It’s the vocal tracks that make the record sought after by DJs, but the playing on the rest of the album makes it a great listen throughout, with ‘Maiden Voyage’ and the percussive ‘Swing Thing’ demonstrating how capable the musicians were.