Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Buena Vista Social Club

  • Buena Vista Social Club [World Circuit, 1997] *
  • At Carnegie Hall [Nonesuch, 2008] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Buena Vista Social Club [World Circuit, 1997]
guitarist-producer intrusive, son worse, music mild, geezers grand ("Chan Chan," "Candela") *

At Carnegie Hall [Nonesuch, 2008]
Recorded July 1, 1998, a 78-minute double-CD proves how stiff and thin this made-up collective's mysteriously canonical 1997 studio album is. How? By kicking off with and obliterating the same three songs in the same order, then moving on to a less striking rendition of the lead track from the much better Introducing . . . Ruben Gonzalez. Together for years by then, they're playing off each other and to a crowd--looser, louder, showier, more excited. Yet even so, chief vocalists Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo never leap the language barrier the way pianist Gonzalez does, and if this be the last hurrah of genuine Cuban son, what are those Cooders doing in the mix, and those rumba horns? For too long in the middle, it's just pleasurable exotica-next-door. But then the climactic "Candela" goes an extra minute-and-a-half for a reason. And then Ferrer and Portuondo get beautiful. B+