Compay Segundo

Guantanamera: The Essential Album

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Compay Segundo (real name: Francisco Repilado) was among the most compelling, vital, and colorful of the personalities introduced to global audiences by Wim Wenders 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club, Wenders' documentary about a group of elderly Cuban musicians who had kept the son, guaracha, and trova traditions alive, though they were virtually unknown outside their country. Three years earlier, at the age of 86, the cigar-chomping, drinking, dancing Segundo had participated in the Ry Cooder/Juan De Marco Gonzalez-led sessions that resulted in the 1997 multi-platinum selling album of the same name. This 20-track collection was released near the tenth anniversary of Segundo's death. (There is a sticker on the outside that claims "Ten Years Without Compay.") This volume is packed with cuts from previously issued sessions that took place between 1995 and 2003 in Cuba and Spain. Highlights include his reading of the title track, from the album Las Flores De La Vida. Other highlights include the stone-killer, uptempo son "El Camisón de Pepa" and the hilarious "La Cleptómana," from a 1995 date that also yielded the "Orgullecida," which showcases Segundo's fine guitar skills as well as his singing. Two cuts from the Buena Vista Social Club album appear, too: the ubiquitous "Chan Chan," the glorious, darkly tinged number that opened that recording, and the bittersweet ballad "¿Y Tú Que Has Hecho?" Certainly everything here is worth investigating for a newcomer, or even for a veteran who simply wants the later "hits." That said, there are other collections that reach further back in Segundo's long career -- dating back to the 1940s -- and showcase him as a songwriter and arranger as well as a singer and guitarist. These include Hasta Siempre Compay, Compay Segundo, Vol. 1, and El Compadre Again.

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