It's hard to believe that it took Nick Gold and his World Circuit team to plunder the vaults for unreleased Buena Vista Social Club recordings. This loose-knit group of all-but-forgotten all-star musicians from pre-Revolutionary Havana was assembled by Juan de Marcos González and American guitarist Ry Cooder -- and supported by a cast of players they influenced -- to record its self-titled 1997 album that went platinum in the wake of Wim Wenders' 1999 film of the same name. Its members subsequently recorded solo and together, and various versions of the group have continued to tour internationally, but some of its foundational members have since passed on -- singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo, pianist Rubén González, bassist Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, and bassist Miguel "Angá" Díaz. Lost and Found compiles unreleased vault tracks from the original 1996 EGREM studios sessions, live tracks, and rehearsal sessions from subsequent albums. But this music is anything but a hodgepodge, half-baked assortment. It is assembled with care and attention to the group's legacy. For starters, opener "Bruca Manigua" is one of three excellent live tracks to feature Ferrer on his 2000 tour in support of his debut album, backed by a killer large band. "Macusa" is a vocal duet between Eliades Ochoa and Segundo from the 1996 sessions. The pair delivered the album's standout hit, "Chan Chan." Omara Portuondo's gorgeous reading of the Cuban standard "Lágrimas Negras" could have easily made the cut on the 1997 album; that it didn't is a head scratcher. Likewise, "Tiene Sabor" is sultry and steamy; it's all roiling passion underscored by a saucy female backing chorus and a sizzling violin solo. (This may be the album's finest track.) "Black Chicken 37," a duet between Díaz and Cachaito (playing arco), reveals the improvisational power in Afro-Cuban jazz. Two solo tracks by Ochoa, the guitar instrumental "Quiéreme Mucho" and the bolero "Pedacito de Papel," are haunting in their intimacy. They were recorded after-hours during the album sessions. González is also represented handsomely and poignantly: first by his last ever recorded solo on "Bodas de Oro," a swinging danzón from a session led by trombonist Jesús "Aguaje" Ramos; by the elegant live piano solo "Como Siento Yo"; as well as by his informal scat singing on set closer "Rubén Sings!" Lost and Found is better served as a companion volume to the painstakingly curated Buena Vista Social Club album than as a general listener's introduction to the various musicians. That said, for anyone who ever wished there was more music in the can, this all-killer, no-filler program is indispensable.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek