Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Jazz, Latin, International, Cuban Traditions, Afro-Cuban, Latin Jazz, Danzon, Mambo, Rumba, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Bolero, Cha-Cha, Cuban Jazz, Modern Son, Son
Buena Vista Social Club surely need no introduction but, just to be on the safe side, this legendary collective of Cubans became a global phenomenon almost two decades ago, launching a host of careers and inviting the world to party the Havana way. A new collection of previously unreleased tracks from the original members, Lost & Found compiles studio tracks that never quite made it onto the original album, interspersed with delightful live recordings from the various musicians. When World Circuit’s Nick Gray revisited the archive, what he found was far from scrapings at the bottom of the barrel, but more a treasure chest crammed with gold.
The Buena Vista Social Club were an international phenomenon, and yet the full band released only two albums: the bestselling 1997 studio set and a recording of their one US show in 1998, released 10 years later. Now, as the two surviving Buena Vista stars Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa prepare for their final UK tour, comes an album of “previously unreleased tracks”, and it includes two classics, both recorded during the original Havana sessions. It seems remarkable that Portuondo’s cool and charming version of Lágrimas Negras or Compay Segundo’s treatment of his own Macusa never appeared on the 1997 album.
It's hard to believe that it took Nick Gold and his World Circuit team to plunder the vaults for unreleased Buena Vista Social Club recordings. This loose-knit group of all-but-forgotten all-star musicians from pre-Revolutionary Havana was assembled by Juan de Marcos González and American guitarist Ry Cooder -- and supported by a cast of players they influenced -- to record its self-titled 1997 album that went platinum in the wake of Wim Wenders' 1999 film of the same name. Its members subsequently recorded solo and together, and various versions of the group have continued to tour internationally, but some of its foundational members have since passed on -- singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo, pianist Rubén González, bassist Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, and bassist Miguel "Angá" Díaz.
Applause is a fitting sound to open a new Buena Vista Social Club record. It starts polite and measured, simmering beneath the opening rise of horn and percussion. Then, when they really roll the sound out, about a minute in, the crescendo of cheers hits a note of pure and grateful elation. It’s easy to enter into the spirit of it, even listening at home.
Lost and Found comprises 14 previously unreleased tracks, studio and live recordings, by members of the Buena Vista Social Club, the beloved Cuban ensemble that Ry Cooder and producer Nick Gold recorded in Havana in 1996. World tours, a documentary film, and concerts and albums by individual BVSC members followed the 1997 release of their debut album, which, with more than eight million copies sold, remains the best-selling “world music” recording to date. Most of the musicians and singers who formed the BVSC were in their late sixties and seventies, and the Cuban styles they performed dated back to the 1950s.
Many of the Cuban masters who defined 1997's Buena Vista Social Club are gone now. That fact makes these archival finds precious; the music makes them irresistible. Some are outtakes from the original sessions, like Omara Portuondo's lancing read of "Lágrimas Negras." Others emerged from the solo projects that followed, like "Pedacito de Papel," a guitar ballad cut with folk hero Eliades Ochoa.
Global conquest was on no one’s agenda when a clutch of Cuban veterans cut Buena Vista Social Club with Ry Cooder back in 1996, but the album became a phenomenon. Though several key players have since passed, the group are currently on an “Adios” tour, to which this collection of live tracks and studio offcuts is a nice companion. The passion and intimacy of those original sessions is there on tracks by Compay Segundo and Omara Portuondo; Ibrahim Ferrer’s three live songs capture him with a brassy big band; and guitarist Eliades Ochoa has two winning after-hours pieces.