Santiago Martínez / Carlos Puebla / Pedro Sosa

La Bodeguita del Medio

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Recorded at the world-famous La Bodeguita del Medio restaurant in downtown Havana in March 1957, mere months before the Cuban Revolution, this pioneering album was for years one of the few readily available (in the U.S., anyway) albums of traditional Cuban son before the Buena Vista Social Club albums made the style newly popular. Carlos Puebla, Santiago Martinez, and Pedro Sosa are all gifted singers and musicians (Puebla and Martinez play guitar while Sosa adds percussion), and these 16 tracks are, in the grand folk tradition, tunes that deal either obliquely or explicitly with Cuba's political turmoil. For the record, Puebla and the others were committed socialists and supporters of Fidel Castro. However, one hardly must agree with the artists' political sensibilities to admire the album; these Spanish-language songs are refreshingly free of pedantry and stridency, and the lyrics of songs like "Sinfonia Submarina" and the spirited "Sun Sun Damba E" are actually rather clever and playful. The digitally remastered sound adds life to these intimate live recordings; it almost sounds as if you're in the restaurant with them at times. La Bodeguita del Medio is an intriguing musical snapsnot of pre-revolutionary Havana.

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