Various Artists

Viva Cuba Libre!

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The Buena Vista Social Club's album and film of the same title have certainly stoked the American public's appetite for Cuban music, and this wonderful 14-song compilation builds off the momentum created by that Ry Cooder project. The music itself is incredible from start to finish, featuring some of the most prominent artists in the Cuban son style, including the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Compay Segundo, and Ibrahim Ferrer. And the packaging is equally moving, with a booklet featuring 100 full-color photos of Cuban life taken by acclaimed Italian photographer Stefano Biliotti. Together, the songs and images serve to immerse the listener in the ambience of Cuba, from the rolling fields and sunny climate evoked by Carlos Puebla's pastoral ballad "Hasta Siempre" to the lively celebratory atmosphere of Vieja Trova Santiaguera's take on the classic "Guajira Guantanamera." A colorful glimpse of old Havana at its purest, Viva Cuba Libre! is a magical, transcendent collection with the power to transport the listener straight into the heart of Cuban culture.

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