Best timba albums of 2005 Pt II
Fidel Morales y Proyecto Nega: Salsa Son Timba
So I know I said Tirso would be next, but instead, I'm turning my attention to this under-rated album that was, without a doubt, one of my favourites of 2005. It's probably no coincidence that Tirso features on this album, but more about that later.
Morales, a Cuban drummer who, according to the sleeve notes, has lived in Panama for the last 12 years, assembled a star-studded cast to perform a mix of original and traditional songs - and the results are spectacular. Bamboleo's Tanja Pantoja (pictured below) gives one of her best performances on Atrévete. A kicking salsa Cubana number, Pantoja shows her strengths without giving into the temptation to bellow (a welcome change). Mamina, featuring Doña Teresa "Teté" Caturla is one the album's most infectious songs: a joyful souped-up son that'll having you dancing in the loungeroom. And the kitchen. And any other place you happen to be when it is played. She mimes terribly in the video clip on the bonus DVD; but boy can she sing.
How many more versions of El Chan Chan do you think you can stomach? Well make room for one more, because this one is a killer. The bulk of it is slow, very modern son (y'know, synthesizers an' that) with a rap by José Luis "Papo" Borges (pictured below) and a lovely vocal by Pedrito Calvo. At 2:29 - bom-bom-bom - it speeds up, and Pedrito ad-libs his way to the close. It's a very, very fine piece of work from all involved. A great interpretation.
Angel Bonne chips in with a classy under-stated performance (perhaps Tanja took a leaf out of his book this time?) on the old , Qué Manera de Quererte, Que Manera, and Klimax's Juan Carlos Hechavarria shines on Remedio de Amor, an seemingly unassuming song that sneaks up on you, casts it spell and sends you swinging.
The star in this galaxy of stars, is Tirso, who eclipses the field on Yo Seré Para Tí. Ay, que cancion! I've played it repeatedly and never tire of it. It swings - no news there - so do other tracks here; it moves - again, so what? But then it explodes - each bloque taking it higher and higher. Great musicianship, sure, but the song - especially in that latter part - belongs to Tirso and the coristas. Oh, OK, and los metales punctuating those wonderful guias, which never cease to blow me away; along with the rhythmic coro: a ti no te calcula nadie. Love it. Listen to a snip.
The CD's intro and outro serve their purpose - the only song that leaves me cold is Pare Cochero - no reflection on El Indio, who takes the lead. But that hokey hook is enough to drive me mad.
Great backing from Alex Abreu on trumpet, Manolito Simonet on tres, Klimax's Yusef Diaz on keyboards, among others.
Timba? Well, bits. Son? Kinda. Salsa? I guess so. Add a bit of jazz, rumba, charanga ... Whatever the genre, pretty much every track on this album rocks. Buy it. (Comes with a DVD containing the video of Mamina and a brief making-of doco.)
9.5 out of 10
Copyright © Gabriel Wilder 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Friday, March 24, 2006
Michel Maza: El Loco de la Mata de Coco (Album: Que Hablen, los Habladores)
Martin was right. This song swings like a gate. Turns out when I put the album into itunes, I left this one out. D'oh!
Earth, Wind & Fire: I Can't Let Go (Album: I Am)
Damn it's good! Killer groove; unforgettable melody.
Sur Caribe: Añoranza por la Conga (Album: Credenciales)
WTF is this? It sounds like some Euro techno geek heard a bit of a Cuban music, thought, "this is cool"; laid down some Santiaguero rhythms, then got the Berlin Philharmonic to play over the top. Freaky, compelling stuff.
Meli'sa Morgan: Fool's Paradise (1986, 12")
I know nothing of this song, except it rocks my world. Killer rumbling rhythm with sweet-as harmonies. Great mix of the mechanical and the human.
Fania All Stars: Juan Pachanga (Daylight) (Album: Rhythm Machine)
I first heard this song when I saw Ruben Blades play in Brooklyn's Prospect Park in 2001. I was blown away - by the man and the song. I went downtown to the record store that used to be across the road from what used to be the World Trade Centre and bought the album. A Boricuan friend of mine said, after I'd told him I'd bought it: oh that's a terrible album. Maybe, but it has one great song on it: this one. Great vocal from Ruben; it's a cool mix of, I dunno, salsa, and jazz and pop. And I love the way it's all energy at the beginning then the vibes come in and it just fades away to nothing - but it takes forever to do it. A dancer's nightmare.
Hysear Don Walker: Children of the Night (Album: Complete Expressions)
Not as great as the enigmatically named Poo-jo (what the?); but I already thrashed that song to death and this has all the same great ingredients: dreamy keyboards, jazz-funk rhythms, and an ethereal soulful mood.
Posted by Yemaya at 11:20 pm
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Tirso in Oz!Yep, Tirso Duarte will be on the east coast next month. Unfortunately not with his Havana band, doing songs from his latest album (review still coming, promise); but with the Afro Cuban All Stars, with which he will sing (I'm guessing) and maybe play a little. He will at the very least, I imagine, do Adivinador, the song he wrote for the band's album Step Forward. The ACAS have been here before, but will be well worth seeing for Tirso alone - it's not often we get such a talented Cubano playing our shores. (I'm gonna try and get an interview with him, so I'll post whatever morsels I get from him here.)
Here's Tirso (left) with my friend, Papa, in Alamar in 2003.
You can see them at Easter time at the Enmore, the Great Escape Festival, or, if you're feeling like a getaway, the Byron Blues and Roots fest. Better get your arse into gear if you wanna go to that one though - think they've sold a lotta tix.
Something else for Sydneysiders: Cuban dancer Fraudy, who I've raved about, is giving dance classes for Salsa Republic, while their resident casinero Ricardo recovers from a car accident. He's giving classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Go to their web site for more. Here is a clip of me dancing with Fraudy at a class not long ago, to PFG's Y Ahora Que, by special request of timba guru Kevin Moore.
Meanwhile, Martin Karakas, who doesn't like Tirso's album much (but then, he gets to see him play on a regular basis in Havana, which is a still better option) has a post at MisterBryans' blog on that old chestnut "What is timba?"
Go and read it, go on!
Copyright © Gabriel Wilder
Posted by Yemaya at 4:36 pm
Monday, March 13, 2006
So, all right: my critique of Martin's critique at timba.com was a little negative (I agreed with him for not liking Charanga Habanera's El Ciclon, and disagreed with him for liking Paulito's Un Poquito). Time to redress the balance: some kickass timba came out in 2005/06.
I intended to address all my favourites in one post; but it'll take a month to get all my thoughts together, so I'm doing it bit by bit. Just to be perverse, I'm starting with one of the most recent (still not available to buy I don't think; but should be out soonish).
Manolito y su Trabuco
Hablando en Serio
or, as I like to describe it:
The bass! The brass!
According to the man himself, Señor Simonet (that's him above, artfully snapped by Cristian Muñoz); the version of this album floating around is not the finished product; but I fail to see how it could be better than it already is. A welcome surprise after Locos por mi Habana (the title track of that album is one of my all-time favourites, but the rest failed to impress); it harks back to the originality and swing of Se Rompieron los Termometros. Though it doesn't seem to have quite as many gems as Rompieron; it actually contains something more exciting for diehard timberos: some innovations which bode very well for the group's future and perhaps even the future of timba itself.
While some groups are harking back to old-school timba (Charanga Habanera, Rebambarama) or "cintura timba" as Martin calls it (great term!); Pupy, and now Manolito, seem to be taking the genre in another direction - one that doesn't rely on hip-hop and reggaeton beats; but is original and fresh. Witness the title cut: the bass and bloques alone are astonishing, but it's no geek's only party - the groove is solid and the coros melodic and dynamic. Unlike some timba classics which make you suffer through sappy cuerpos before the pay-off; this one kicks in after a mere 20 seconds. The mambo at 2:33 and the ensuing coro "Tu amor es pura malicia, me enreda, me atrapa, me asfixia" signal that greater things are to come. From 3:35 a series of bloques and stuttering basslines build the tensions to the climatic finale. A tour de force to rival their brilliant take on the classic Ven Siroco Ven.
The intro to La Raspadura has an ominous '60s spy theme sound to it (Pupy did something similar on Los Tres Gordos - does that make it a trend?) before it kicks in: "Ya la orquesta comenzó/y viene dura/y la gente comienza a llegar". It's a hard, swinging number giving new recruit Mayami a chance to show off his repartero skills, and with a great coro (featuring Calunga, if I'm not mistaken) that ups the ante, putting the pedal to the metal for a great party number. OK, so I finished that somewhat generically, but I can't listen to everything as obsessively as I listened to the title cut (not enough hours in the day). Take my word for it: it kicks arse.
Calunga returns for a starring role on El Cantor, which he shares with Amaray and El Indio. It's a more traditional number than the other two, but I always love to get me a little Calunga action; so this is a favourite. Nice strings. Classic Manolito.
The opener, Comunicate is a great dance track with hypnotic string tumbaos, funky rhythm tracks and a classic performance from Amaray, who is clearly having some relationship troubles (either that, or he just thought it made a good lyrical theme.) A dance floor classic.
The rest of the songs are solid Manolito: enjoyable, high quality salsa Cubana with few surprises.
Overall it's a cracker: 9 out of 10.
Next week: Tirso Duarte's second solo album has polarised timba fans. I'll give you my 2 cents (hint: worth more than 2 cents!)
Copyright © Gabriel Wilder 2006
Posted by Yemaya at 8:46 pm
Friday, March 10, 2006
Catch up post. Nothing genius-like to offer really. Except maybe a link to Martin Karakas' favourite timba albums of '05 list. Some interesting opinions there - some with which I entirely agree; and some which made me think the balmy tropical Havana air had fnally gone to Martin's head.
Frinstance, he renamed Charanga Habanera's El Ciclon de la Habana "El LLoviznazo [drizzle] de la Habana" - in my opinion an entirely accurate summing up of Calzado's most recent underwhelming effort (oh, for the Tremendo Delirio glory days!) then rated Paulito's Un Poquito de To' a top timba listen. To paraphrase Rod 'El Clave Doc": "only if you take it off and put something else on."
Still, enjoyable to read as always - great to have these regular reports coming in from someone on the scene.
In Sydney, summer is coming to an end - though it's still hot - my headaches have returned; which means yoga religiously; about 4 analagesics a day; and meditation whenever I can be arsed (obviously more often would be better.) The headaches mean I'm spending less time at the Mac than I normally would; hence the lack of missives. Though I did spend some time trawling through the fab retro album covers at www.317x.com (that's one of theirs above); and they have inspired me to scan some of mine; though that inspiration hasn't actually translated to action just yet (but I'm sure that's just around the corner).
I'm learning son with the fabulous Fraudy (see previous post); the main stumbling block being that I don't like the actual music very much. If anyone has a favourite son, can you email me and let me know its name. If I tell you that one of my most hated songs ever is Son de la Loma, that should give you an idea of what not to suggest.
Here's another fab album cover.
Posted by Yemaya at 10:27 pm