Silvio Rodríguez

Cuba: Rabo de Nube (Tail of a Tornado)

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Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodríguez established himself as one of the pioneers of the nueva trova in the early '70s alongside Pablo Milanés, Eduardo Ramos, Noel Nicola, and Sara González, fellow members of the state-sponsored Grupo de Experimentación Sonora. Dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, 1979's Rabo de Nube shows continuity with Rodríguez's previous albums, its melodic folk-pop arrangements accompanying poignant, poetic lyrics sung in a fragile tenor. Simpler acoustic compositions like the title track (subsequently covered by the Pretenders on Viva el Amor) and the catchy "Fábula de los Tres Hermanos" are especially strong. However, only "Que Ya Viví, Que Te Vas" and "Con Diez Años de Menos" rise to the high standards set by earlier Rodríguez classics, such as "Playa Girón" and "Sueño con Serpientes" from his 1975 debut Días y Flores. Unfortunately, Rabo de Nube foregrounds the inconsistencies that have occasionally marred Rodríguez's work. It's not simply a case of the hit-and-miss nature of the tracks -- the misses being those numbers like "Te Amaré y Después" and "Imagínate" that find Rodríguez bogged down in saccharine territory -- at times, he manages to combine his best and worst tendencies within the same song, much to the frustration of the listener. Whereas the more effective numbers are almost wholly acoustic or strike a subtle, effective balance between acoustic and electronic instrumentation, elsewhere, potentially brilliant tracks end up sounding immediately dated and clumsy, owing to the ill-advised and unnecessary introduction of synthesizers. "Testamento," for instance, builds to a stirring, strum-along climax, only to be derailed by a campy sci-fi soundtrack synth; similar problems undermine the otherwise excellent "Vamos a Andar." Its flaws notwithstanding, Rabo de Nube still attests to Rodríguez's considerable talent and does little to diminish his status as one of Cuba's premier singer/songwriters.

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