I first heard about Ray Barretto from the inimitable
Soul Sides site, which had claimed Acid to be one of the premier latin soul albums of all time (I'm paraphrasing very loosely here). I take that kind of commendation from Mr. Wang very, very seriously - the guy's an encyclopedia - and sought the album out immediately.
I'm not the best equipped to judge this stuff. My cursory experience with latin/Brazillian music has been purely through the Nu Yorica stuff, a bit of Airto, Brazillian tropicalia. I can pick up the glaring differences between Candido and Tito Puente (the ass shakes in a completely different way), but haven't had time to get into the gritty details between Celso Fonseca and older Caetano material (I'm thinking there's something in Fonseca's pastiche that sounds more romantic and less urgent).
Acid's not hard to sink into, though. The album's fusion of soul and latin groove is pretty immediate. Barretto's various breaks and conga solos are dizzying; the man's got more sense of rhythm and timing than most, without overwhelming the pop element of the composition. It's because of this that I find Acid more appreciable for Barretto's playing than for the soul element of it: the vocals are great, but Barretto's playing is so meaty that the vocals become dressing to Barretto. Being this is Barretto's album, I suppose that's the point.