The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Amer­iCuba Ha­vana Mae­stros Sounds World­wide/ Warner Amer­iCuba is an ad­ven­tur­ous new project that aims to put a Cuban spin on Amer­i­can hits of yes­ter­year while re­tain­ing the in­tegrity of the orig­i­nal vo­cal record­ings. Al­though pos­si­bly unique, the Ha­vana Mae­stros’ al­bum has an un­even and dis­jointed feel. To ac­cen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive, 1960s soul clas­sics fare best in this salsa-fi­ca­tion process. The sub­lime singing of Ben E. King on Stand By Me and Otis Red­ding on (Sit­tin’ on) the Dock of the Bay — songs cov­ered by John Len­non, Bob Dy­lan, Peggy Lee and Wil­lie Nel­son — sounds sur­pris­ingly con­gru­ent sur­rounded by the brass, piano, strings and per­cus­sion of three gen­er­a­tions of cel­e­brated Cuban jazz mu­si­cians. Grammy Award-win­ning pro­duc­ers the Ber­man Brothers even cre­ate a com­pat­i­ble path­way for Red­ding’s fa­mil­iar whis­tled seg­ment. Dionne War­wick’s mega-hit I Say a Lit­tle Prayer has been La­tinised be­fore (by Ser­gio Men­des) but prob­a­bly not as ef­fec­tively as it is here. Con­versely, a slow and schmaltzy big-band take of Frank Si­na­tra’s My Way, in Span­ish, is greatly in­fe­rior to the 80s rum­bain­cul­cated ren­di­tion by the Gipsy Kings. Other more re­cently re­leased songs are sim­i­larly of­fk­il­ter — with the no­table ex­cep­tion of Tightrope, on which the Mae­stros en­hance the snap, crackle and pop of Janelle Monae’s 2010 neosoul re­lease. Rock band Sugar Ray’s 1997 hit Fly and Missy El­liott’s 2001 hit Get Ur Freak On sounded bet­ter in their orig­i­nal bhangra and reg­gae fu­sion set­tings. Left to their own de­vices, on a largely in­stru­men­tal son num­ber, Ritmo Cubano, and the cha-cha ca­denced Ven, the Mae­stros sound like the ul­tra-classy Cuban band sug­gested by their moniker.

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