I don’t know if an album that won a Grammy and was number one on the Billboard World Music charts can actually be considered overlooked. So if you are already familiar with this classic, please read no further. If not, and I suspect at least 3 of my four readers are not, go find it. At some point during the 1990s after his Buena Vista Social Club triumphs, Ry Cooder discovered another Cuban style of music, originating from the 1950’s and likely not imported to the US because of the Cuban embargo. One of our great musicologists, Cooder was unfamiliar with the mixture of electric guitar and Cuban rhythms and, having to find out who was responsible for it, discovered Manuel Galban. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable mixture of pop melody, electric guitar snazz and traditional Cuban styles tempered by calypso and other influences that try to capture a (1950’s) futuristic sound. Recorded in Cuba, with Galban and a few other notable Cuban musicians (as well as Cooder’s percussionist son), this album recreates an era when traditional influence and instruments met the new sounds made possible by a Fender Telecaster and Deluxe Reverb amp. It is kind of like a stew with many ingredients, but the sextet fuse the styles so well, it is easy to take in. And for guitar geeks, it is a must have.
Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban
A short film about the album: