Once or twice in a generation, a figure turns up in music whose influence extends beyond the production of records or performance, expanding to become an actual cultural touchstone, coloring the way people think and feel. In American vocal music, Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams and James Brown did that. But perhaps no one has shaped the range of a country’s collective musical perspective as thoroughly as Cuba’s Benny MorÃ©. This can’t be attributed solely to MorÃ©’s unequalled voice — though that’s a significant factor. It is more a question of the authenticity of his vast body of work — his unique ability to invest each tune with a kind of existential resonance reverberating straight to the heart of a nation. Cuba, Cubaneando isn’t simply an album. It is a cultural inventory, a close reading of the pulse (or, more correctly, the pulses) of times and places. It should be said that, because of its vastness, it resists simple review. Can there be any easy terms for assessing 92 pieces of music? The best way to listen to Cuba, Cubaneando is to get lost in it, to transplant yourself to pre-revolutionary Cuba, to go from the stage shows in glossy casinos to the cane fields of Santa Isabelle, to dig into “Manzanillo,” the most irresistible Cha Cha Cha ever written, to get chills from the politically charged “En el Tiempo de la Colonia,” or have your heart broken with “Oh, Vida.” There are no throwaways, no weaknesses, not even any slackening from tune to tune. Cuba, Cubaneando presents the most comprehensive collection yet assembled of Cuba’s greatest vocalist. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
By Wondering Sound Staff on 12.11.14 in Features
Five music critics discuss the best, worst, and most significant moments in Latin music this year.
By Michaelangelo Matos on 12.08.14 in Reviews
For all the quality mining of African oldies over three and a half decades, it's not as if the coffers have been exhausted. Far from it, especially judging from this nonstop display of one of the great bands of the Congo...
By Claire Lobenfeld on 11.29.14 in News
Spice, Jamaica's queen of dancehall, is gearing up to release her debut EP So Mi Like It. With her contribution to Vybz Kartel's "Rampin Shop," another bananas collab between the two called "Conjugal Visit" and her most...
By John Schaefer on 11.24.14 in Reviews
In this 50th-anniversary romp through Terry Riley's In C, a brilliant ensemble of Malian musicians (mostly playing traditional instruments) joins forces with Damon Albarn, the globetrotting frontman of Blur and Gorillaz;...