The third release in the Rhythms del Mundo series of charity compilations, Classics once again finds an Afro-Cuban band reworking a full album's worth of star-studded contemporary pop/rock. In this case, the reworked songs are all cover versions of well-known hits from yesteryear (i.e., "classics"). Most of the 19 tracks are comprised of previously released vocal material to which the Rhythms del Mundo band adds new music in an Afro-Cuban style. There is some previously unreleased material here as well, most notably the album's lead single, a version of the Eagles' "Hotel California" by the Killers. Among the previously released material, there are several songs that are familiar: Sam Cooke's "Cupid" by Amy Winehouse, the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" by Cat Power, the Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk" by the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" by Rodrigo & Gabriela. Because of the familiarity of the original versions of these songs, they're among the most curious inclusions on Classics. The vocals are clearly the same, the music is definitely not, and the cross-cultural mix of the two is a bit dizzying. The version of "Purple Haze" is unique in that it retains not the vocals but rather the guitar of Jimi Hendrix, to which the band adds new music. The other previously released material is more obscure. For example, the Temptations' "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Kaiser Chiefs is drawn from another charity album, the independently released 2006 compilation Help!: A Day in the Life. Best of all, there are a couple songs performed in Spanish by Cuban vocalists: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Augusto Enriquez and Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" by Aquila Rose and Idana Valdes. On the downside, Classics lacks the Cuban star power of vocalists Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo. These two Buena Vista Social Club affiliates were a major selling point of the first album in the series, Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba (2006).
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier