Various Artists

Si Para Usted: The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Vol. 2

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The original Si Para Usted lived up to its subtitle; it was one of the funkiest compilations of 2007, documenting a largely hidden wave of raw groove bubbling all over, but rarely reaching beyond, the island of Cuba in the '60s and '70s. This second volume more than lives up to the legacy of its predecessor. Indeed, the sound quality is even better this time around -- the tracks are remastered from the original tapes, where some of Vol. 1 sounded sourced from vinyl. What's astonishing here -- though it shouldn't be -- is how irresistible these tracks are. From the lilting lounge groove of los Brito's "El 4-5-6," which opens the disc, to the acid-rock funk of los Caneyes' "Suspirando por el Chikichaka" that follows, and throughout this hour-plus of music, the rhythms never cease to be gloriously ass-shaking and complex, easily the equal of anything being put out by Fania Records in the U.S. at the time, or anything being played on U.S. radio. The near-chaos that ensues when the organ solo kicks in on los Rápidos' "Safari Salvaje," not to mention the lush, Isaac Hayes-style orchestration of Juan Pablo Torres' "Y Aparecío el Trombón," or the psychedelic weirdness of Mirtha y Raúl's "El Sueño de Andría," make it almost impossible to believe these tracks were recorded under the auspices of an oppressive Communist-controlled record industry, but they were. The thick booklet tells the story of artists' lives under the Castro regime, from censorship that kept particular musicians off state television for years for seemingly arbitrary reasons, to haphazard distribution based not on sales, but on equality -- records went wherever the bureaucracy decided they should go, with no thought to whether the public in that part of Cuba wanted that particular single or album. The digital era has brought about a wholesale reinvestigation of otherwise forgotten music, and compilations like this one are a fantastic argument for continued crate-digging.

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