Omara Portuondo - Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo
Have you ever seen in the movies one of those romantic scenes where a record is put on and a couple embraces, immediately entranced by sensual Latin sounds as they dance around the living room? If you'd like to replicate that mood, here's your chance. Recorded a decade ago in Havana, Portuondo works here with a band made up of Buena Vista Social Club all-stars, turning up the heat from the get-go with opening cut "Donde Estabas Tu?," a slinky dance number with an upbeat groove that belies the fact that the lyrics recount the cancellation of a party and dissatisfaction with the errant hombre who caused it (all lyrics are in Spanish but the enclosed booklet translates). Translations aside, it is a pure joy here to listen to Portuondo's singing and the consummate musicianship, either while dancing or wishing you were. Pressed on 180-gram vinyl and remastered from the original analogue tapes.
Guillermo Portabales - El Carretero
Here's a 16-song compilation of Portabales' work, originally released in 1996 and released here on vinyl for the first time ever. A highly-influential Cuban singer and guitarist, Portabales is renowned throughout Latin American and in West Africa, where acts like Orchestra Baobab have covered his songs. This is not party music; sure there are lively dance numbers like "Cumbiamba" and "Oye Mi Son," but mostly what's on offer here is far more personal as Portabales sings with a tone that conveys a yearning that's palpable whether you understand Spanish or not. Portabales' guitar work is sublime in its intricacy, and El Carretero makes for a great listen when in a reflective mood. Portables died in 1970 when he got hit by a car after a performance. Remastered and on 180-gram vinyl and with an insert with lyrics and credits.
Ali Farka Toure - Savane
This late Malian artist was known as "the king of the desert blues singers" and he lives up to the nickname here with cuts like "Yer Bounda Fara" which sounds like something that could easily have come to life in the Mississippi Delta, as well as with trippy cuts like the psychedelic stew of "Erdi." "Beto" is a bit of a mash-up of American and West African-style blues, with the added benefit of a forlorn sax wail and velvety smooth female background vocals. Toure's guitar work shines throughout, but especially on "Savane" where he's accompanied by two sidemen playing ngoni. "Machengoidi" is a delightful mix of African and Middle Eastern sounds, with a little bit of R&B mixed in, and performed at a slower pace that makes for a mesmerizing experience. Fans of Malian blues will really like the C side of this collection as its four songs, including "Soko Thinka" and "Banga," are West African psychedelia at its best. Savane is a 2-LP set with music on three sides, packaged in a deluxe gatefold jacket and with an enclosed booklet with lyrics and translations from dialect.
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