Recommended new CD's

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Aug 30 09:46:21 MDT 1999

(I just ordered "Los Zafiros" from, along with these 2)

Caetano Veloso Livro (Nonesuch)

By Nancy Ann Lee

Caetano Veloso (b. 1942) was one of the primary architects (along with
Gilberto Gil) of Tropicalismo, a cultural movement that began in 1968 to
incorporate non-Brazilian musical styles with traditional Brazilian music.
Since then, Veloso has toured widely and amassed an impressive discography.

Originally released in Brazil in 1997, Livro draws inspiration from
Veloso's autobiography, Verdade Tropical, published the same year. An album
of his life reflections, it's a gorgeous, percussive-laden MPB project that
engages from start to finish with its energy and polished sound. On sundry
beat-driven tracks, you'll hear an array of musicians. But, it's the
perceptive percussionists from Bahia -- Marcio Victor, Du, Jo, Gustavo de
Dalva, Leo Bit, Leonardo, and Boghan -- who add substantially to the
album's success.

Highlights abound as sotto-voce Veloso balances the cutting-edge with
tradition, especially evident in the poetry of his title track, a cadent,
contrapuntal ditty about the value of books. The remaining songs are
flavorful, harmonious, rhythmic, and intimate. Some elegant tracks are
enhanced with string orchestra arrangements. Others, such as the
techno-inspired "Doideca" and the touching rap tune, "O Navio Negreiro (The
Slave Ship)," are ultra-hip, contemporary ventures. Livro is an alluring
listen, artfully packaged with a 44-page booklet containing
English-translated lyrics.


A New York Cowboy in Cuban Airspace

By Tom Pryor

Guitarist-singer-songwriter-producer Ned Sublette may be one of New York
City's best-kept secrets. Since the late '70s the Texas transplant has been
a subtle, but influential presence on the musical landscape of the city.
He's worked with downtown, avant-garde artists (John Cage, La Monte Young,
and Glenn Branca). He's co-produced the long running Afropop Worldwide
radio program (heard on Public Radio International). He even runs the
QBADISC label -- one of the most respected U.S. distributors of
contemporary Cuban music and a godsend for otherwise unheard Cuban artists.

But for all of Sublette's legendary projects, the one thing he's never
found the time to do is to record and release an album of his own music.
Until now.

Cowboy Rumba may seem like an odd debut project for Sublette -- setting
Texas-style cowboy fare to Cuban and Latin rhythms almost seems like a
high-concept in-joke. But Sublette isn't motivated by cheap irony; he's
motivated by a deep love of Latin music and a gift for storytelling.

"The point isn't to represent for cowboys. It's to play the music I like
the most … I followed my ears and got pulled into the Caribbean. I always
say this record isn't an idea - it's who I am, and for the last 15 years
I've been a salsero in NewYork."

"The music biz tends to segregate us into market segments," he says. "This
reinforces the idea that you must stay in your tribe and not go hang out
where those other people are. But our lives are more complex than that.
That's the beauty of New York for me -- that everybody's in everybody's
face all the time. I would hope that the idea you can hang with somebody
who's not supposed to be your tribe is more than a novelty.

"The point isn't to represent for cowboys. It's to play the music I like
the most … I followed my ears and got pulled into the Caribbean. I always
say this record isn't an idea -- it's who I am, and for the last 15 years
I've been a salsero in New York." The result of this musical honesty is a
deeply personal document that succeeds despite its unlikely musical pairing.

Cowboy Rumba more than succeeds; mostly it, well, rocks. Sublette assembled
some of the biggest talents in contemporary Latin music (Yomo Toro, NG La
Banda, Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Joe Torres, and others), as well as
longtime friend Lloyd Maines (on pedal steel and Dobro) to accompany him
here, and the authenticity is unmistakable. Tracks like "Feelin' No Pain"
and "Cheater's Motel" reinvigorate tired country music themes (drinking and
infidelity) with driving rhythms and brilliant horn arrangements. The
result is revelatory.

Sublette's deep, Texas baritone is perfectly suited to the material;
although he's fluent in Spanish the lyrics are sung mostly in English. This
makes outstanding songs like "Something to Lose" (featuring Puerto Rico's
Yomo Toro) and the title track more accessible, and, hopefully, more
enjoyable, to a wider audience. For many, though, the real treats may be
the familiar songs reconfigured Latin-style.

The opening track is the old cowboy classic "Ghost Riders in the Sky," with
a Merengue twist. It's a great track, a lot of fun, and has garnered the
most airplay on Spanish-language radio in New York, Miami, and the
Dominican Republic. After spending most of his professional life as a
producer, this is particularly satisfying for Sublette: "I may have a hit
single," he says. "It's very exciting for me. I've seen [breakout] radio
singles happen to friends but never experienced it myself."

The other cover here is Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," arranged as a
stripped-down, hard-rocking Rumba with Cuba's Los Munequitos de Matanzas;
and the spirit of Buddy Holly looms large over this project. Like Holly,
Sublette is originally from Lubbock, Texas; and, in the liner notes, he
makes this connection explicit: "Buddy was a natural born seeker. When he
died he was living on Fifth Avenue just above Washington Square, married to
his Maria Elena, on the verge of something … [He] would have gotten hip-hop
… He would really dig NG La Banda."

"Now the Cuban music heritage, back before the embargo of Cuba, was part of
the American musical vocabulary," Sublette says. " … We hear Cuban-style
rhythm in Buddy's music. This is basic American music, a basic repository
of rhythm and style. I know almost intuitively that Buddy was feeling it."

Is this blend of country-western lyricism and Latin rhythm the "something"
that Buddy Holly was on the verge of? Would he have gotten it? Dug it?
Sublette thinks so, and on Cowboy Rumba, he makes a pretty convincing

Louis Proyect


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