Compay Segundo ‘Nueva Antologia: 20 Aniversario’ 2CD (Warner Spain) 4/5

It is in fact twenty years exactly since the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon first branched out and conquered the world and in Spain in it was singer-songwriter  Compay Segundo who scored first with his recordings of classic Cuban country music that he made in Madrid. This double CD brings together those recordings, adding a few extra bonus cuts for good measure. Naturally, ‘Chan Chan’, was the song that set the whole enterprise catapulting into orbit and it remains a fabulously lyrical song that is instantly infectious and immediately captured the attention of a wider public that was in search of authenticity and found it in the form of septuagenarians who had long been forgotten in their native land. The rest is equally compelling and includes the tasty, ‘Sabroso’, the evocative, ‘La bella cubana’ (‘The beautiful Cuban woman’) and a nod to the songwriting tradition with, ‘La trova’. Four previously unreleased songs include a lovely take on a song that is not Segundo’s, but is a worthy contender in, ‘Lágrimas negras’.

Bilingual notes in English and Spanish explain how the whole phenomenon started and for this writer it was a concert at the Jazz Café in Camden, crammed with the who’s who of London Latin music personalities. So many were the musicians that the extended brass section had to park on the downward stairs adjoining the main stage. Compay Segundo would follow in due course and at one point around 2000, it seemed as though there was never-ending stream of musical personalities linked to the collective. Many of these have now passed away and a moment in time has been lost. The music remains omnipresent.

Tim Stenhouse