As my fellow farandulero Lionel has reported at Timba Stars, the Havana D'Primera album has been completed. Lionel says it will be called Haciendo historia (Making history) and be on sale in March. I hope there are no delays, as that seems a long time to wait. As he reports, the tracklisting is as follows:
1. Resumen de los 90
2. Ahora que buscas
3. Historia verdadera
4. Mi música
5. Despues de un beso
6. Cuando el rio suena
7. Ony Ony
9. Niña bonita
10. Las cosas de un amigo
Some of these songs have been around for some time, and all but three of them were being played by the band when I saw them in Havana in the middle of last year.
Mi música is probably the best known. It was first recorded when Alexander was with Grupo Danson, and without taking anything away from that version - because it is wonderful - the new one raises the bar even higher. Live, it has been given a new lease of life, with glorious new coros and bloques - a great song has been turned into a tour de force. And even though the new studio version doesn't incorporate all of these changes, it is nevertheless a brilliant update of what was already an exceptional song. Historia verdadera was also on the Grupo Danson album and has been re-recorded: the tropical feel - or "fusión" as they call it in Cuba, is more marked on this version, but it still has the same joyous feel of the original. If you figure out how to dance to it, let me know.
Confiesale, Cuando el río suena and Resumen de los 90 have all been around in demo form and on the band's Myspace page and official web site for some time, although the first two have been re-recorded for the album. I'm surprised about Río, as the video for the old version came out just over a month ago. The new version is much smoother and a little more laidback. It's still a great track, but I think I prefer the demo, with its funkier feel and rocking bombas.
Confiesale sounds wonderful. This is a haunting track with a lovely melody and coros, and is a real grower. I was very underwhelmed when I first heard it as a demo more than a year ago. In fact it took a live performance to get me to love it. Don't repeat my error!
Las cosas de un amigo is an interesting track - very fast with an early rhythm change. It's a lot of fun to dance casino to, although it has a very different feel to a lot of timba - but then so does a lot of Alexander's stuff. This one really kicks arse - more so live, but it's still fun on the record. I was pleased to see it made the cut, I had thought it might be too raucous for the CD.
Ahora que buscas, along with Resumen de los 90 and the pop ballad, Vivencias, is one that wasn't yet in the live set last year. It's reminiscent of Grupo Danson tracks like Solo para ti or Nena - a smooth, melodic salsa start, with almost whispered coros, that slowly builds in strength. At the 3:00 minute mark, the coristas start singing with more urgency, the mambos blare and you have a real dance track on your hands. Good stuff. Looking forward to hearing this one live. Bet there are some nice add-ons that didn't make it to the recording.
Jannier and the coristas read the lyrics of Después de un beso off the back of a Salsa Mayor flyer at the song's live debut at Casa de la Musica, Galiano, in May of last year.The rest of the album falls into either the tropical/fusión or son categories. But as I pointed out earlier - all these tracks bar three (two of which are salsa/timba) were in the set being played at every gig in Havana last year, so the mixed bag is not a grab for a foreign audience. Or if it is, well, it's one that a lot of Cubans surely dig. Normally a tropical/fusión song like Niña bonita or Ony Ony would have me running screaming for the exit, or at least the bar, but Alexander – he has a way with him, and even though, yes, it's true, I did usually go to the bar during Ony Ony, that's mainly because I had to get some water sometime, and I couldn't tear myself away during any of the other songs. Después de un beso is an almost traditonal son that came into being halfway through my trip: it debuted at a Thursday matinee at Casa de la Musica, Galiano, being little more than a cuerpo and a few coros. It's fleshed out here and very bonito it is too.
The pop ballad, Vivencias, is almost unexpected - I say almost, because when Alexander is involved, expect anything. And expect him to pull it off. This starts off just Alexander singing a capella, then joined by minimal percussion and some exceptional keyboard playing.
This is a great album. It captures the joy that Alexander prides himself on bringing to his audience. You could do worse than quote one of his own songs:
"Te traigo el ritmo, te traigo la melodía(From Resumen de los 90)
Te traigo la rumba caramba con el paso de las congas
y un librito de poesía"
Update: I have heard from Alexander who told me that what I have is a rough mix of the album, as they only finished mixing yesterday, so the finished product should sound even better. The artwork is currently being designed and as soon as I have more details I will post them here.