Various Artists

Bridge to Havana

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Bridge to Havana is the recorded result of a U.S. Treasury Department cultural goodwill trip that sent 100 recording artists to Havana to collaborate with Cuba's musicians in writing, recording, and producing new music. Here, vocalists and songwriters such as Gladys Knight, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Peter Frampton, Bonnie Raitt, Mick Fleetwood, Joan Osborne, Montell Jordan, N'Dea Davenport, Ruth Merry, Paddy Maloney, and Evan & Jaron hang with Gerardo Alfonso, Luis de la Cruz, Alberto Tosca, Edesio Alejandro, Carlos Alfonso, Carlos Varela, Santiago Feliú, René Baños, Rey Guerra, Pablo Menendez, Manolito Simonet, Augusto Enriquez, and scores of others. This is a mixed bag to be sure, all of it is slick, but most of it is inspired. The standout tracks include "Just to Be Alone With You," with Osborne fronting a band featuring Simonet, Horacio Hernández, and Jose Marie Vitier. Her sultry, poetic, soulful croon fits deep into the modern son groove. It's the rawest cut here, and it doesn't sound like an American pop tune with Cuban musicians. Jordan's "Everybody's Watching Us" fuses soul and son, and Chapman's "Not So Close Not So Far" features Varela's and Santiago Feliú's gorgeous lead vocals in Spanish meeting her English vocal entwined in an earthy song of union, hope, and determination. The Osborne and Chapman tracks are almost worth the purchase price alone.

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