So why should English-speaking Americans even bother with this CD? The songs are in Spanish, written and recorded by a Cuban singer/songwriter no one's heard of.
Well, three reasons for tuning in these tunes come quickly to mind:1. David Byrne of the Talking Heads has hung his lofty reputation on this disc. He produced it, publicized it and even wrote the notes. He thinks Silvo Rodriguez is a prophet of his generation.
2. Rodriguez himself has taken Latin America by storm. When he recently performed in Chile, 90,000 screaming "Silvistas" showed up to listen.
3. But the most compelling reason for buying "Canciones Urgentes" has to do with delight. Paul Simon, eat your heart out. Silvo Rodriguez has taken your exotic rhythms and quirky words and done them as an insider, not an outsider.
In short, Rodriguez has gone back in Cuban musical history, back past all the Desi Arnaz "babaloo" baloney, and has resurrected classic Cuban music that speaks to the heart. The lyrics are his own melancholy, populist poetry; the tunes are pumped full of Cuban energy.
Like so many Latin American artists, Rodriguez has learned to "dance with a broken heart."
When something new like this comes along, critics tend to describe it in recognizable terms. So I'll say that Rodriguez's music sounds like a cross between Jose Feliciano and Neil Young, with traces of Bob Dylan and Sergio Mendez around the edges.
As for the lyrics, most deal with the loss of idealism, and the "new world order" of sorrow and wisdom. This, for instance, from "Sueno de Una Noche de Verano" (Midsummer Night's Dream):In the end, the best recommendation I can offer is this: I put "Canciones Urgentes" on the player with the idea of listening to bits and pieces of each cut to see if anything stood out. I played the CD all the way through, start to finish. Then I played it again.
I'll be playing it again tonight.