Zucchero ‘La sesion Cubana’ (Universal) 4/5

Singer Zucchero is a household name in Italy for his brand of pop-infused music, but for this latest project he has gone down a different route with a distinctly pan-Latin flavour and it is largely a successful fusion. The sessions, co-produced by Zucchero and Don Was, were recorded in Havana
and feature some top Cuban session musicians including pecussionists Changuito and Horacio ‘el negro’ Hernandez with long-time Santana conguero Paul Rekov appearing one one track. There is a definite nod to Santana on the uptempo opener ‘Nena’, delivered in Spanish and English, which is instantly catchy and the obvious contender for a single and a slow burning rendition of the evergreen quasi-Cuban anthem ‘Guantanamera (guajira)’ that is sung here in Italian. Another Santana soundalike number surfaces on ‘Baila (sexy thing’) which actually sounds pretty convincing, while the slightly rockier ‘L’Orlo’ includes Rekow laying down some heavyweight percussion. The major surprise on the album is the inclusion of a reworking in a Latin vein of a 1980s UK pop hit ‘Everybody’s got to learn sometime’ which works amazingly well in this new setting and full marks to Zucchero for attempting it and avoding the pitfall in general of another post-Buena Vistas re-enactment. More diversity in approach can be found in ‘Cuba libre’ which has acoustic guitar and something of a Manu Chao flavour with mariachi-style trumpets. With vocals in Italian, Spanish and the odd English-language song, Zucchero is reaching out to a wider international audience and the pan-Latin American sound is further explored in a duet with Brazilian pop-samba singer Djavan. Tim Stenhouse

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