Due to impossible barriers of race and class, poor black Cuban singers like Antonio Machin could only dream of becoming opera stars. Fortunately, Machin's desire to be a great singer, while not realized at La Scala, would find an outlet in the comfortable and challenging world of Cuban danzons and rumbas popular in the '20s and '30s. Bringing U.S. listeners their first taste of authentic Cuban music with perennials like "El Manisero" (the Peanut Vendor), the masterful sonero would at least realize some facsimile of his operatic dream thanks to a successful New York debut with Don Apiazu's orchestra and subsequent international fame. Machin and Apiazu's studio recordings of "El Manisero," as well as "Amor Sincero," marked the auspicious trip and are included on this fine Tumbao release. Although a handful of additional New York sides with the rawer sounding Sexteto Machin and vocal partner Daniel Sanchez are included as well, the majority of tracks here come from Havana recordings made the year prior to his first stateside trip. They include several more sides with Sexteto Machin, again featuring Daniel Sanchez, in addition to numbers done with Antonio Maria Romeu's stately yet highly enjoyable charanga orchestra (a Cuban alternative to the conjunto combo that featured a sweeter lineup of strings, flutes, piano, and bongos). Like many Tumbao collections of early Cuban music, the sound quality of this Machin disc does suffer a bit because of primitive source recordings, but, thankfully, the rich performances bring their own rewards.
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