Cuba Classics 1

Once again Global Talent Scout David Byrne has used his Luaka Bop label to introduce us to a musician who’s already a star in his native land, in this case Cuba. Byrne’s musical anthropology may or may not be considered culture-slumming — and obnoxious as hell — but his projects consistently pony up the goods. The first release in Byrne’s new series of ”Cuban Classics” is Cuba Classics 1, a greatest-hits package culled from six albums by Silvio Rodriguez, the singer-songwriter who became popular in Havana during the late ’60s. Rodriguez is virtually unknown in this country, thanks to the general embargo against Cuban culture — a tragedy for an artist whose music and words sidestep politics in favor of a gentle, sad surrealism. Early songs show Rodriguez’s guitar-strumming folkie side, while later cuts prove that he’s equally adept at complex jazz-pop. The lyrics are the proof in the pudding: The English translations in the liner notes catch the thoughtful, knotty flavor of Rodriguez’s imagery, but the Spanish originals have a quicksilver beauty that’s simply magical. A-

Cuba Classics 1
  • Music