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Buena Vista Social Club
 World Circuit/Nonesuch CD 79478-2, 1997

 Ry Cooder goes Cuban

You may have already heard about this album: Ry Cooder goes to Havana to record with some West Africans, only they have visa problems. But all of the guys supposed to play backup in the studio are there, playing their stuff, and they knock him out. Turns out these guys are the legends of son, the Cuban acoustic music that form the roots of salsa and mambo.

Well, if you haven’t heard the story, you may have heard the music. If you haven’t heard the music, you owe it to yourself. Primarily acoustic guitars, piano, and percussion, you hear the songs as they might be played in a bar or family gathering. Two or three guitars chime in, one or two drummers begin a suggestive rhythm, the piano and a couple of horns add their voices and it’s time for the singer to step up and tell his story.

Everyone is relaxed but dead serious–these fellows have been playing for generations and they know their stuff. Compay Segundo, for instance, is ninety and wrote or performed on most of the original versions of these songs back in the ’30s and ’40s. Ibrahim Ferrer, in his seventies, has been singing these songs most of his life. Rubén González, nearing eighty, was thought to be suffering from arthritis so bad that he couldn’t play. Each one, and a dozen others, came to the studio each day to play, to sing and dance, to remember their songs, and to tell the story of the music for this recording session.

The album was originally released in Spanish-speaking countries and has made the old gentlemen into international stars. González has since recorded his own solo record (also on World Circuit) and there is enough material to release at least two more CDs if the audience wants it. Judging from the first collection, we’ll be very fortunate to get more.– Gerry Lenocker

of related interest

Rubén González

 Introducing Rubén González, World Circuit/Nonesuch CD 79477-2, 1997
(see our review)

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