Saturday, December 20, 2008

BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB - At Carnegie Hall (World Circuit)

Ten years ago, with the help of Juan de Marcos González and support of Ry Cooder, a bunch of elderly Cubans dusted off their instruments, cleared their throats and, with seemingly effortless ease, delivered arguably the most acclaimed album in world music history. And a decade on from an exultant (and to most of these veteran performers, previously unthinkable) New York performance, comes a timely reminder of the vitality and breadth of appeal of this old-school son, bolero and danzon music that sent sales of the original album into the stratosphere and sparked a franchise that still seduces to this day, despite the sad loss of many of its core members. One such loss being pianist Rubén Gonzalez, such a vital part of the sound here, and given many opportunities in concert (and hence this double CD) to add an improvisational flair that was (necessarily) reined in on the original recording (particularly on a number of fluid and richly textured solo spots). Compay Segundo is here too of course, and the gorgeous Omara Portuendo, as well as the delilghtfully playful tones of Ibrahim Ferrer on vocals, with sterling support from the likes of Eliades Ochoa (his guitar playing as lyrical as ever), Manuel Mirabal on trumpet and the incomparable Cachaito on double bass. I guess the question on the lips of many of the eight million purchasers of the original album is whether this live recording has enough differences to justify purchase? Well, the answer’s a resounding yes; eight of the eighteen tracks weren’t on the original album but hold their own amongst the many favourites-turned-classics that are — Chan Chan, El Cuarto de Tula, Dos Gardenias and Candela all sparkle and shine in a familiar yet subtly different, livelier way than the ‘originals’. And Cooder’s production sounds great, too — the audience’s waves of applause washing up on the shores of each pause between each immaculately delivered song. A perfect way to mark the tenth anniversary.

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