Buena Vista Social Club: Chan Chan (Live at Carnegie Hall)


Chan Chan


Buena Vista Social Club


Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall (World Circuit / Nonesuch 514415)

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Juan de Marcos González (bandleader, background vocals,güiro), Amadito Valdés (timbales), Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez (bass), Compay Segundo (guitar, vocals), Alberto ‘Virgilio’ Valdes (maracas, vocals), Ry Cooder (guitar), Octavio Calderón (trumpet), Eliades Ochoa (guitar, vocals), Joachim Cooder (drums, percussion), Terry Domech (congas), Roberto Garcia (percussion), Benito Suarez Magana (guitar), Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal (trumpet)


Composed by Compay Segundo (aka Francisco Repilado)


Recorded: Carnegie Hall, New York, July 1, 1998


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The late 1990s success of the Cuban ensemble known as the Buena Vista Social Club was remarkable from several different angles. The wide crossover success in the United States of any band not singing in English is always a cause of surprise. But even rarer is a hit album by a group of senior citizens. Add to it the global political implications of overnight stars traveling from Havana to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall, and you have all the ingredients of a made-for-TV movie.

Certainly there was more than a little hype involved in the popularity of this band. After all, these musicians had been largely forgotten even in their native land, before becoming international stars of World Music. Yet this ensemble delivered the goods onstage, as they demonstrated at their July 1, 1998 Carnegie Hall concert, finally made available on CD ten years after the event. "Chan Chan" captures a world-weary, bittersweet temperament that most fans would hardly associate with Cuban music. But these musicians had seen many ups and downs in their long careers, and something of the wisdom of the tribal elder is distilled in this song composed by the late Compay Segundo. Alas, many of the other stars of this band have now departed, but this record still makes for compelling listening long after the hype has faded.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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