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The world could use a little enchantment, ambiance and vintage Caribbean swagger right about now, and they’re delivered in abundance by the late Cuban crooner and Buena Vista Social Club alum Ibrahim Ferrer. The reissue of Buenos Hermanos, Ferrer’s late-life solo masterpiece, is just what the doctor ordered in these decidedly dystopian times. First released in 2003, during the sonero’s fabled second act, the new and improved version, re-imagined by producer Ry Cooder, is an exquisitely remastered and remixed second coming.
The collection of boleros and danceable confections includes four previously unearthed tracks culled from the vaults of the iconic Egrem Studios in Havana, where the album was originally recorded. Lauded the world over as an essential album that charted a new course within the island’s fecund musical traditions, the reissue rounds out the original’s bold aesthetic with new layers of sentimental nuances conjuring the elegance and grace embodied in Ferrer’s effortless vibrato.
New tracks include the wistfully bewitching “Mujer,” written by legendary Mexican composer Agustín Lara; and “Ojos Malvados,” a smoldering torch song written by Cristina Saladrigas — one of the few women who stood out in the early days of Cuban trova — and featuring the supple surf-guitar sound of Manuel Galbán, formerly of the 1960s Cuban doo-wop group Los Zafiros. Each expands on the romantic pathos of previously released songs such as “Mil Congojas” and “Perfume de Gardenias.” The newly included “Me Voy Pa’ Sibanicú” is a jubilant guaracha that pairs well with album opener “Boquiñeñe,” a swinging, big band number that rides on a lean horn section, soaring chorus and percolating percussion. "Ven Conmigo, Guajira,” also newly released, is a retro, country vamp that has Ferrer’s velvety vocals improvising over a steady chorus and blaring brass. The world is coming apart at the seams, but at least Ferrer is back, lulling us into the kind of devastating mood many of us long for. — Lissette Corsa