One of the key figures in the salsa scene of the 1970s, Ruben Blades is a Panamanian-born singer, songwriter and bandleader with family roots in Cuba. Moving to the United States in the early 1970s, he became one of the most popular Latin American artists of the decade, also pursuing careers in acting and politics. Blades has worked in a wide variety of styles, but is best known for helping shape the sound of 'Seventies salsa, and in particular for introducing a new, more literary and politically conscious tone into the genre's lyrics. Here's a quick look at his career...


Ruben Blades & Pete Rodriguez "De Panama A New York" (Fania, 1970)

Ruben Blades & Willie Colon "Metiendo Mano" (Fania, 1977)

Ruben Blades & Willie Colon "Siembra" (Fania, 1978)

Ruben Blades & Willie Colon "Siembra: Live!" (Fania, 2010)
Discovered in the vaults thirty years after the original show, this album captures Blades and Colon still near their peaks in a live 1980 show... Worth checking out if you want to get a sense of what the energy level was like at the biggest salsa shows of the era...

Ruben Blades "Bohemio Y Poeta" (Fania, 1979)
His music is starting to get a bit slick here... Still solidly rooted in the standard New York salsa sound -- not a bunch of synthesizers yet, but the arrangements are getting smoother and less punchy, and a sense of profundity (or pretentiousness, depending on your point of view) seems to be settling in. Still a classic album, but, honestly, it's one of his last.

Ruben Blades "Maestra Vida 1" (Fania, 1980)
An adaptation of literary work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, dealing with lives of Carmelo Da Silva and Manuela Pere. Sounds kinda highfalutin', but I'm sure he makes it work!

Ruben Blades "Maestra Vida 2" (Fania, 1980)

Ruben Blades "El Que La Hace La Paga" (Fania, 1983)

Ruben Blades "Buscando America" (Fania, 1984)

Ruben Blades "Mucho Mejor" (Fania, 1984)

Ruben Blades "Escenas" (Fania, 1985)

Ruben Blades "Crossover Dreams" (Soundtrack) (Fania, 1986)

Ruben Blades "Agua De Luna" (Elektra, 1987)

Ruben Blades "Doble Filo" (Elektra, 1988)

Ruben Blades "Nothing But The Truth" (Elektra, 1988)

Ruben Blades "Antecedente" (Elektra, 1988)

Ruben Blades "Live" (Elektra, 1990)

Ruben Blades "Caminando" (Elektra, 1991)

Ruben Blades "Amor y Control" (Elektra, 1992)

Ruben Blades "With Strings" (Elektra, 1992)

Ruben Blades "La Rosa De Los Ventos" (Elektra, 1996)

Ruben Blades "Tiempos" (Elektra, 1999)

Ruben Blades "Siembra y Otros Favoritos: Salsa Para Siempre" (Elektra, 2001)

Ruben Blades "Mundo" (Sony, 2002)

Ruben Blades & The Spanish Harlem Orchestra "Across 110th Street" (Sony, 2004)

Ruben Blades "Ganas" (Rremark, 2005)

Ruben Blades "Cantares Del Subdesarrollo" (Sony, 2009)

Ruben Blades "Todos Vuelven Live, v.1" (Ariel Rivas, 2010)

Ruben Blades "Todos Vuelven Live, v.2" (Ariel Rivas, 2010)

Discography - Best-Ofs

Ruben Blades "The Best" (Elektra, 1992)

Ruben Blades "Poetry: Greatest Hits" (Elektra, 1993)

Ruben Blades "Poetry" (Fania, 1994)

Ruben Blades & Seis Del Solar "Greatest Hits" (Elektra, 1996)

Ruben Blades "Una Decada" (Sony, 2003)

Ruben Blades "Experencia" (Fania, 2004)

Ruben Blades "Lo Mejor, v.1" (Fania, 2004)

Ruben Blades "Lo Mejor, v.2" (Fania, 2004)

Ruben Blades "Maestro De La Fania" (Fania, 2005)
Best-of collection...


  • Wilson & Allroy's Record Reviews has a nice, low-key website with and annotated discography full of well-reasoned reviews and recommendations. A site after my own heart...

  • Music Of Puerto Rico profiles Blades (even though he was born in Panama...) Their excellent biographical essay is very informative.

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