Alternative and modern rock faves reinterpreted with and by the Buena Vista Social Club sounds like God's gift to public radio, back of course when public radio played music. But these iPod classics reinvented as Afro-Cuban two-steps are more often than not revelations too. Ibrahim Ferrer and his Social Club pals pull Coldplay's "Clocks" off its U2 high horse and transform it into an epic folk ballad, and Chris Martin sounds more passionate than pretentious. Same for Jack Johnson's "Better Together" and Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved," which become dirt floor ballads in new hands. Sting turns in an appropriately moving and hushed "Fragilidad." The Arctic Monkeys' "Dancing Shoes," meanwhile, loses none of its original bite; the Buena Vista-ing comes with dancing piano, horn stabs and hot percussion that give the track a hard swing. The real stars here are the BVSC members themselves. Omara Portuonodo gives "Killing Me Softly" new gravity in a post-Katrina world, and El Lele de Los Van Van recontextualizes Radiohead's original as a Gulf Coast plea. Finally, Ferrer's version of "As Time Goes By," his last recording before his 2005 passing, has an elegiac quality up there with Johnny Cash's American V: A Hundred Highways. The novelty of this music will get you to listen. The craft and true emotion will keep it on your playlist.
Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.