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128 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2000
I first heard of Buena Vista Social Club through a colleague of mine. He would play this CD in his office and I found the melodies quite rhythmic and haunting.
Once I purchased my copy of this wonderful CD, I was really hooked. The more I listen to it, the more I love it. The love and emotion for the artists' craft comes through and leaves an indelible mark on each listener's heart.
These once forgotten musicians through the help of Ry Cooder have been able to share their traditional melodies with the western world.
I was amazed to see how successful this album's sale have been for a world music title. But a few listens later, it didn't surprise me at all. I guess people just know great music when they hear it even when it crosses ethnic and language boundaries.
By the way, I'm an audiophile and the sound quality on this album is exceptional. The sound has a lot of depth and ambiance. Try this CD in a high end audio system and you'll experience a certain intimacy you don't find in most traditional studio albums.
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87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 1999
This is an album of great delicacy and power, recorded with a reverence for the music and the musicians, in which every musician's humor and grace is allowed to shine through. For those who claim there are better records of son music out there--maybe. But how many have done as much for this kind of music? None. Especially magical is the fact that this group could easily never have happened were it not for a few people with the dedication to see that it did. The story behind this album is as inspiring as the music. These tracks have a little something for everyone: melancholy, laughter, power and grandeur. Shame on those reviewers slamming Ry Cooder, as if he were just another "musical imperialist," a slick showbiz creep exploiting these musicians, as if he weren't one of the most tasteful and versatile players in the world today. Let's make one thing perfectly clear: it took many wonderful people to make this record, but without Ry Cooder, it would never have had this kind of success. And shame on the goofus who breaks down the profit distribution for the record--as if he knows!(sad little person). If you see the inspiring film made about this group, you'll see the look on their faces as they play Carnegie Hall--80 year old men whose dreams are coming true! Not to mention most of these musicians are now touring elsewhere and enjoying music careers for the first time in 30 years. They haven't gone back to poverty and obscurity--and they are more than happy to hear Cooder's slide guitar!
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 1999
While visiting some friends, with several three-year-olds swirling around us and shreiking (mine included) as the adults tried to talk, this disc was playing in the background. And somehow, amidst the cacophony, this lush, warm, soulful and vibrant music cut through it all. It encirlcled my head and filtered into my ears.
I must have asked three seperate times what was playing--the information wasn't sticking because of the distractions, but the music did stick and made a strong impression on me. I bought a copy the next day and haven't played a recording over and over like this since I was a teenager.
The simple arrangements and instumentation are powerful. A guitar, trumpet, conga, saxophone, and vocals that sound as if they are from another time are often all there is to make this gem come alive. The disc is beautifully recorded, yet still sounds as if you have stepped back into the 1950s in Cuba.
I wish I spoke Spanish (more than my mediocre ability to order food at the local bodega) so I could REALLY enjoy this wonderful recording, but it's not necessary. The music speaks for itself and the meaning of the songs are fairly obvious. But to satisfy your curiosity there is a translation included with the Spanish lyrics so you can read along and get the gist even if you aren't Cuban.
This is certainly an essential recording to add to your collection. I expect I will be giving this to several people I know for gifts. No holiday required. It will add texture to any party you choose to play it and it will take the edge off a work day from hell. Cook dinner for yourself and put this on while you chop and sauté. You might even find yourself dancing a bit...
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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2000
"Buena Vista Social Club" is a collection of music done with true feeling, talent and spirit. Great music never gets too old and here is evidence the great music from Cuba is still vibrant today as it was 40 years ago. The film based on the group had a special message about how age doesn't matter in the area of the great artists. One of the musicians here is in his 90s and look at how alive and energetic and moving this music is! The vocals, the music, the lyrics are all rich and full of style. These are real musicians playing real music. Like Santana's "Supernatural," "Buena Vista Social Club" is more of an experience than just good music. Songs like "Chan Chan" are really deep and move you in a nice way, others like "Candela" just excite you with the energy and fun feeling of it all. I'm grateful to Ry Cooder for bringing back these incredible musicians who play some of the best Cuban music ever. The only reason other arists like Celia Cruz don't mention them that often is because they still live in their homeland, Cuba. But they deserve praise and more. Recently we remembered Tito Puente who was a great musician and recently passed away, but we should also appreciate those who really brought Latin music to life, the ones who really play it with spirit and feeling. "Buena Vista Social Club" is no less than a masterpiece.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2003
During a trip to Paris a few years ago, my aunt (knowing I had an affinity for Latin Jazz) took me to see a movie. I was so perturbed all the way to the cinema, dreading the idea of spending an afternoon in a movie theater while being in arguably the most beautiful and culturally splendid cities in the entire world. Two hours later my life had changed. I had discovered something that has since become so integrated into my personal defintions of "music," "passion," and "life" that I still wonder how I could have once lived without knowing this music. That movie was "The Buena Vista Social Club."
The music is the quintessence of "breathtaking." The story-telling poetry and conflagrant rhythms will hold your attention from the opening strums of "Chan Chan" all the way through the fading seconds of "La Bayamesa." I could not possibly recommend any other album more highly than this one. If you are a music lover in the purest sense, you have to own this CD. I also highly suggest renting/buying the documentary to fully appreciate the stories behind the performers and songs. Their personalities alone will endear you to some of the most talented and passionate yet almost tragically forgotten artists ever.
The Buena Vista Social Club literally changed my life...and I have my stubborn old aunt to thank for it.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2000
On a cold, blustery day driving through the small country town where I live in Pennsylvania, I couldn't care less about the -10 below zero weather, because I'm listening to Buena Vista Social Club.
The music is so romantic, yet so subtle and so vibrant all at the same time. When Ibrahim Ferrer sings "Dos Gardenias," you just yearn to be the recipient of those two gardenias, to be the one told by him, as in the song, that he loves and adores you. I felt so swayed by the mellowness of the sound and the elegance of how he sings it.
I was swept up by one one song after another in this highly artisitic CD, in which each of the artists adds something to the total rendition, and, at the same time, takes energy and inspiration from all the other artists. It's really amazing how the music all comes together in song after song.
I remember growing up in NYC in the 1950's how we were all caught up in Latin rhythms, especially from Cuba. Then Came Castro and the subsequent blackout from there.
How wonderful to welcome these great artists and their marvelous music back in this wonderful CD after such a long time away.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2000
This is the album that started all the recent Cuban craze. A simplified version of the story: Son, danzon and bolero were played in thrifty clubs in Havana before WWII and in years following it. Compay Segundo, Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and the rest were masters of the art. Then in 1959 Castro liberated - or invaded, as you like it - Cuba and virtually isolated it from the rest of the world. And while outside the music became MTV-ized and globalized to the point where the music produced in Sweden is indistinguishable from that made in California, the guys in Cuba continued to do what they did best: they played son, danzon and bolero - all until Ry Cooder discovered them in 1997 and turned them into a success that vastly overshadowed his own musical efforts.

Actually, getting them together required some detective work, as some of them have already given up their musical careers. Hardly surprising: Ruben Gonzales is 80, and Compay Segundo is 92. Buena Vista Social Club - named after an actual club in Havana, demolished already for decades - provides an anthological overview of styles played 50 years ago, and the sound you might recognize on your father's (or grandfather's) LP's. Well, almost - Ry Cooder felt the urge to put some peronal touch on the whole thing, in form of slide guitar (cf. "Orgullecida"). I wish he could resist the temptation. Still, it's a very beautiful and romantic record, one that makes you ask your sweetheart for a dance.

CD comes with a 48-page booklet, which includes bilangual (Spanish/English) lyrics and some accompanying text. If you like this record, you might also want to check the solo albums that followed. There is also a pseudo-documentary movie by the same name, directed by Wim Wenders. And, go and check whether Afro-Cuban All Stars are touring somewhere near you.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2000
I have no words to describe how brilliant this recording is. Buena Vista Social Club bring alive the music that has sustained Cuba as far back as the 1920s. Listening to the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo and Omara Portuondo paint a picture of a vibrant and soulful Cuba from the not too distant past. Needless to say, all musicians on this album have such incredible talent, that it is difficult to believe that we've missed out on such a musical extravagance for over 50 years. I have not come across a singer that can deliver such heartfelt passion in their music like Ibrahim Ferrer (83) and Compay Segundo (93), but the person that moved me the most on this recording was the 77 year old pianist Ruben Gonzalez. You just have to listen to PUEBLO NUEVO and MURMULLO to realise this man's incredible talent. It is hard to believe that Ruben virtually had given up playing due to arthritis in his hands, and that he has no piano at home.
It is amazing to think that none of the musicians received recognition at the height of their careers, and seeing their current living conditions is a humbling experience. Nonetheless, I am happy that they achieved fame at last. All songs on this album are masterpieces. This recording is worth ten times its price, and it is one of my most treasured CDs in my music collection. It is a nostalgic, yet brilliant piece of Cuba.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2000
After years of neglect, some of the greatest musicians of Cuban music were brought together by Ry Cooder and Juan de Marcos to create magic. This album is a rare treat to fans of Cuban music, specifically, and for fans of great music of all varieties. These songs, performed by by a variety of greats such as Ruben Gonzalez (one of the great son pianists: son is the name for the uniquely Cuban rhythm), Compay Segundo (who is currently 93), and Ibrahim Ferrer, are poetic in verse and hypnotic in rhythm. How can you listen to Chan Chan without feeling yourself floating along the avenues of Havana or the streets of Santa Clara.
My mother, who like my father was born in Cuba (from Pinar de Rios, a town near Havana), had heard some of these great musicians many years ago in their youth. How wonderful that they are here again to give the world the beautiful music of Cuba.
Please do your soul a favor and purchase this album. And don't stop there. Many of the band members have formed as the Afro-Cuban All Stars and there are also wonderful albums of Ibrahim Ferrer and Reuben Gonzalez. Absolutely perfect!
Just sit back and sail away on the sounds of Reuben Gonzalez' piano in "Murmullo" (and yes, that is a Hawaiian riff in the song) or dance the night away with your loved one as you croon along with Ferrer in "Dos Gardenias" or marvel at Eliades Ochoa's guitar in El Cuarto de Tula.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2000
I was told of this CD from a friend, not knowing the history of the "group" or the music other than the album had recently won a grammy and that Ry Cooder had alot to do with the fact that these guys were playing together. I was skeptical st first but I am open to all sorts of music. I first played the album while driving in my car with my wife and a friend and we instantly realized we had a hit a goldmine! I was so impressed with this album, I told everyone who cared and they loved it, I also saw the Buena Vista Social Club movie which gave me a rich insight into the history behind the musicians and the music I was listening to. GREAT ALBUM!
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