Applause is a fitting sound to open a new Buena Vista Social Club record. It starts polite and measured, simmering beneath the opening rise of horn and percussion. Then, when they really roll the sound out, about a minute in, the crescendo of cheers hits a note of pure and grateful elation. It’s easy to enter into the spirit of it, even listening at home. It’s a true pleasure to have them back.
To put your fears at rest: it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t some tossed off cash-in or vanity piece. It’s a wonderful celebration of their legacy. The nature of Lost and Found – a scrapbook of new recordings, old songs and live cuts – means that it’s a little looser and less unified than their classic self-titled 1997 album. But it’s clearly lovingly and guardedly created. It doesn’t bother to pretend that it’s some definitive statement. It’s just another snapshot of their devotion to Cuban jazz.
‘Black Chicken 37’ is a thin and understated percussive piece. ‘Habenera’ is just a melancholic two minute instrumental sketch. And in being so relaxed and whimsical, putting moments like this among its showstoppers, its pacing comes off confident and controlled. It gives us an album which flows like an album, rather than lurching around like a collection of offcuts might.
Its sound is as beautiful as ever too, and the arrangements are captured well on Lost and Found, with a glow of warmth hovering around the instrumentation. If anything, the higher fidelity recordings sometimes round a few of the corners to too much of a shine. Following – almost 20 years later – an iconic record which built its charm on perfectly capturing a particular place, time, and culture, it would have been nicer if the production had been allowed to creak with character a little more. But then, this is another nature of the beast, when you pull together an album from material recorded and written across a number of years.
Indeed, some people may wonder to what extent we should consider this a ‘real’ follow up to the band’s debut. For a start, quite a few of the oldest players have died since, leading to a rotating cast of original performers and new musicians to perform over the intervening years. And many of the performers have put out their own records since, utilising each other as backing musicians and collaborators as well. So what makes this album the ‘real’ follow up to Buena Vista Social Club?
Put frankly: who cares? We shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. This is as real a second Buena Vista Social Club album as we’re ever going to get, and they’ve very much earned their victory lap. When you’ve introduced such a vast audience to the pleasures of Cuban jazz as Buena Vista Social Club have, indulging them in one more trip to the café is more than fair game. It’s just as much an indulgence for us too. And best of all, it’s as masterful as it ever was.
8Russell Warfield's Score