b. Ciales, Puerto Rico. Santiago’s relaxed and flawless lead vocals are among the best in salsa, and for over two decades he has sessioned as a coro (chorus) singer on countless New York recordings. His early influences included the great Cuban vocalists Beny Moré and Miguelito Cuní (b. 8 May 1920, Pinar del Río, Cuba, d. 5 March 1984, Havana, Cuba). Santiago started his professional career singing with trios and playing bass and guitar. After stints with the bands of Chuíto Vélez, Willie Rodríguez and Willie Rosario, his career really took off when he joined Ray Barretto’s band. Between 1966 and 1972, Santiago made seven albums (excluding compilations) with Barretto. In late 1972, Santiago and four other members of Barretto’s band departed to found Típica 73. He appeared on three of their albums before disagreement over musical direction led him, and three other band members, to split during the mid-70s to form Los Kimbos. Meanwhile, Santiago sang lead vocals on two critically acclaimed charanga albums, Fantasia Africana/African Fantasy and Our Heritage - Nuestra Herencia, by flautist, composer and producer Lou Pérez.
Los Kimbos were reputed to be a tough working band and had a sound reminiscent of both the pre-split Barretto band and Típica 73. With them, Santiago recorded 1976’s Los Kimbos and The Big Kimbos With Adalberto Santiago in 1977. That year he made his solo debut on Adalberto, which was produced by Barretto and contained two of his own compositions. Los Kimbos continued under the leadership of timbales player Orestes Vilató and released two further albums- Hoy Y Mañana (1978) and Aquacero Ne Me Moja (1979). Santiago sang lead on one track on Louie Ramírez Y Sus Amigos by Louie Ramírez. In 1979, Adalberto and Ramírez co-produced his solo follow-up, Adalberto Featuring Popeye El Marino. The same year, he reunited with Barretto on Rican/Struction. Ray produced Santiago’s next solo album, Feliz Me Siento, the following year. Sonora Matancera member, Javier Vázquez, produced, arranged, directed and played piano on the rootsy Adalberto Santiago, which was Santiago’s contribution to the early 80s tipico (typical) salsa revival. In 1982, he teamed up with band leader/bongo player Roberto Roena for Super Apollo 47:50. Santiago co-produced Calidad with Papo Lucca, who also played piano, arranged one track and oversaw musical direction. His Cosas Del Alma was an album of lush boleros which included his third recorded version of the classic ‘Alma Con Alma’ (previously contained on Barretto’s The Message and Gracias). He returned to harder-edged urban salsa in 1985 on Mas Sabroso.
Adalberto did his own mature version of salsa romántica on the classy Sex Symbol, with production, arrangements, musical direction and piano by the ubiquitous Isidro Infante. In 1990, he again performed ‘Alma Con Alma’, this time arranged by Infante in a salsa romántica style for Louie Ramírez’s second album entitled Louie Ramírez Y Sus Amigos. Santiago has written songs for a number of the albums on which he has appeared, both as band leader and solo artist, and provided compositions for other artists to record, such as Joe Cuba. Santiago has remained true to his Latin roots and a statement he made in 1977 is still relevant in the 90s: ‘I want to bring a truly Latin message to the people; this is what I do best and the structure of Latin music is best suited to my singing style’.
Solo albums and selected albums on which he sang lead vocals: for ratings see the individual artists. With Willie Rodríguez Heat Wave (mid-60s), with Ray Barretto Latino Con Soul (1966), Acid (1967), with Willie RosarioBoogaloo & Guaguanco (1968), with Barretto Hard Hands (1968), Together (1969), Power (1970), The Message (1971), Que Viva La Musica (1972), with Típica 73 Típica 73 (1973), Típica 73 (1974), with Típica 73 La Candela (1975), with Lou Pérez Fantasia Africana/African Fantasy (1975), with Los KimbosLos Kimbos (1976), with Barretto Barretto Live: Tomorrow (1976), with Lou PérezOur Heritage - Nuestra Herencia (1976), with Los Kimbos The Big Kimbos With Adalberto Santiago (1977), Adalberto (1977), with Barretto Gracias (1979), Adalberto Featuring Popeye El Marino (1979), with Barretto Rican/Struction (1979), Feliz Me Siento (1980), Adalberto Santiago (1981), with Roberto Roena Super Apollo 47:50 (1982), Calidad (1982), with Celia Cruz and Barretto Tremendo Trio! (1983), Cosas Del Alma (1984), Mas Sabroso (1985), with Alfredo Rodríguez Monsieur Oh, La, La (1985), Sex Symbol (1989), with Charanga Ranchera Charanga Ranchera (1989), with Papaíto, Melcochita, Herman Olivera, Yayo El Indio and Isidro InfanteValdesa Records Presenta Vol. 1: Salsa Sudada (1990), Hay Algo En Ella (1991).