Why is Buena Vista Social Club on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
An album that makes you think about music as a lifelong lifeline.
Some stats & info about Buena Vista Social Club
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Latin Music, Jazz, Latin Jazz, Cuban Music, Mambo, Bolero, Cha-Cha
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
- All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
- When was Buena Vista Social Club released?
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #964 out of 1,000
Buena Vista Social Club on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.
What does Buena Vista Social Club mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
The term “transporting” can be a little cheesy when it comes to art (and maybe anything outside of the Star Trek-y realm?) but who cares: this album is transporting. It takes you… well, someplace. You can hear history, of long lives lead by people who have seen some things but who kept loving usic and playing through it. Music can be that meaningful at times, you know?
Whether you’re a teenager listening to Black Flag or The Clash and banging on the walls because no one understands you, or listening to “World Leader Pretend” by R.E.M. a hundred times in a row because the line, “This is my mistake, let me make it good” just hits the depths of your heart in a way that is at once indescribable and endlessly describable, music can be a lifeline.
I guess what I’m saying is that this album makes you think about music as a lifelong lifeline, and specifically one here by many of the musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club that spanned from pre-Castro, pre-revolution Cuba through decades of living on a Communist island some mere 90 miles south of Florida and the richest country in the world.
The background of the “social club” is worth noting:
Buena Vista Social Club is an ensemble of Cuban musicians established in 1996. The project was organized by World Circuit executive Nick Gold, produced by American guitarist Ry Cooder and directed by Juan de Marcos González. They named the group after the homonymous members’ club in the Buenavista quarter of Havana, a popular music venue in the 1940s. To showcase the popular styles of the time, such as son, bolero and danzón, they recruited a dozen veteran musicians, many of whom had been retired for many years.
My favorite song on the album is “Chan Chan,” but there’s really a dozen different entry points that could in theory get you going.
And if that’s not enough, check out the trailer from the popular documentary of the same name, which helped open U.S. audiences up to the amazing musical history and culture of the Cuban people.
Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Buena Vista Social Club
I’m a big fan of writer Nelson DeMille, and it just so happened that I read a novel of his recently called The Cuban Affair. It’s not one of his best, yet it’s a highly readable thriller that involves espionage a lot of pretty fascinating background on the modern history of Cuba and its plight under decades of communist rule. It’s also got a lot of pulpy action and a not completely believable but nonetheless fun high stakes romance between two of its main characters.
If I had to pick a favorite DeMille novel, it’s a close call but I’ll go with The Charm School, a spy thriller written during the height of the cold war. Similarly to The Cuban Affair, it combines a pretty high concept plot with lots of really intriguing and compelling real world modern history – the Soviet Union’s in this case.