BVSC presents Ibrahim Ferrer is the second album from the series of records by artists who participated in the legendary Buena Vista Social Club sessions, an album which exploded around the world and is now the most succesful release in the world music genre. Apart from achieving enormous success and critical acclaim, the Buena Vista Social Club has managed to introduce Cuban music to the rest of the world and give this music faces and names that people can identify this island's music with. One of the major discoveries on this project was singer Ibrahim Ferrer who prior to this was long retired and was selling lottery tickets and cleaning shoes for a living. Impressed by his voice, producer Cooder had named him the Cuban Nat King Cole. He did not waste any time and grabbed the opportunity to produce this record in the series and the outcome was another joyful and deep dive into Cuban's vast resources of music. Back then, Cooder did not go there by himself as he took his friend, director Wim Wenders, for whom he would score the music for his film at the time End of Violence, whose documentary with the same title also recorded some of the sessions for this record and gave a glimpse behind scene of what was to, ironically, become 72 year old Ferrer's debut album.
The first thing that grabs you on this album is the voice. Ibrahim Ferrer has an eminently likable voice, with just the right amount of smokiness. His voice adds a rich depth and emotion that resonate deeply as songs go by. Despite the variety of styles there is a strong sense of cohesion and completion in the song selection. BVSC had a variety of singers which contributed to its kaleidoscopic nature, but the focus here is certainly only on Ferrer. His voice is like a summer breeze, warmly caressing the simple, poetic lyric, especially when delivering the pensive vocal on the opening "Bruca maniga." The song's poignant nature, the irresistable and endearing melodies including the varying dynamics serve as the perfect introduction into the riches that are awaiting to be discovered here.
Spread on two vinyls, the reissue of BVSC presents Ibrahim Ferrer has that smoky club ambiance that radiates from the songs. It is an exquisitely performed album with a plethora of artists that participated on the first record. It's all incredibly earthy and flows magnificently with no over-the-top production or intrusive instrumentation. It's remarkably relaxed music, where the charm is in its ease of delivery and the songs themselves. The album is a prime example of the alchemy that can happen when a great singer teams with the right band and where the sum is greater than the parts. While mostly staying in the background, Cooder again successfully captures the essence of the songs which date from the pre-Castro era and gives them their specific flavor. Apart from several firecrackers like "Marieta," "Mami Me Gusto," "Cienfuegos tiene su guaguanco" and "Que Bueno Baila" which are arresting with their jovial nature, the prevailing mood on this record is of tenderness and mellifluousness. The intimate duet with singer Omara Portuondo on "Silencio," adorned only by a small band with dueting guitars and whispering drums, is haunted with the slow-burn passion that flows so easily. Portuondo lends this standard a heartwarming grace. This record is the first meeting between guitarists Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban of Los Zafiros fame and they will reprise their chemistry on their duet album Mambo Sinuendo (Nonesuch,2003).
Complete with exhaustive liner notes in the wonderfully produced book sized booklet, the packaging and detail are as wonderful as the music within. Seventeen years after its initial release this record is something that has to be reintroduced again to new audiences. It offers a comforting, old-fashioned approach and invites to a place where music is a pure expression of emotions. Every reissue needs a good story and in a world gone wrong great music as rich as this one always serves as a good story. BVSC presents Ibrahim Ferrer is an album of monumental architecture, artistic caresses, and sensuousness. It's a timeless classic, every second of it.
Track Listing: Bruca Manigua; Herido de Sombras; Marieta; Guateque Campesino;
Mami me gusto; Nuestra Ultima Cita; Cienfueges tiene su Guaguanco;
Silencio; Aquellos Ojos Verdes; Que Bueno Baila Usted; Como Fue.
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