One of revolutionary Cuba's greatest folk/pop songwriters, Silvio Rodriguez started his career in the late 1960s as a member of a state-sponsored song collective, along with other nueva trova artists such as Pablo Milanes and Sara Gonzales. Rodriguez was by far and away the best of the group. On his early acoustic-oriented albums, his ability to interweave complex melodies, expressive vocals and lightning fast guitar is nothing short of dazzling. His songs are both poetic and poppy and some, such as "Sueno Con Serpientes," have become standards in the modern Latin American pop/folk repertoire.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez later embraced the jazz-tinged pop pretentions of fellow nueva trova legend, Pablo Milanes, and his later work suffers from baroque, leaden arrangements. Stick with the early albums, though, and you'll be quite happy.
Various Artists "Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 1"
Various Artists "Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 2"
Various Artists "Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 3"
Various Artists "Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 4"
Rodriguez started out in the late '60s in a music collective which included the vastly-overrated Pablo Milanes. They were a little clumsy -- obviously groping to get a handle on non-Cuban idioms, with mild traces of North American pop-rock and jazz curling around the edges. Underwhelming, but it hints at things to come. Apparently there were four LPs that came out by this late-'60s/early-'70s workshop/collective (though I've only seen two of them). Of the artists involved, Silvio was definitely the best. His simple, compelling songs stand out from all the others, though these discs also include some of Pablo Milanes' better moments.
Silvio Rodriguez "Dias y Flores" (Egrem, 1975/Hannibal-Rykodisc, 1988)
His first solo record. Because of the mainstream release in the US and Europe, this is probably his best-known album. I don't think it's his best (by a longshot), but it's certainly in the top three. Highlights include the somber, haunting "Sueno Con Serpientes" (which has been covered by Milton Nascimento, among others...) and the heartfelt acoustic anthem, "Playa Giron." Recommended -- most of the tracks on here I don't find to be very gripping musically, but this is undeniably a fine album.
Silvio Rodriguez "Al Final De Este Viaje" (1978)
Acoustic versions of early songs, written from 1968 to 1970, but recorded after Silvio had established himself as an independent artist.
Silvio Rodriguez "Mujeres" (Polygram, 1978)
This is his masterpiece. Features upbeat acoustic numbers such as "Hoy No Quiero Estar Lejos de la Casa Y El Arbol," which may be my favorite song of his, as well as the similarly peppy "Rio," and "Cierta Historia de Amor." These tracks are balanced with several more evocative, poetic pieces such as the title track and the wrenching "Y Nada Mas". This is the work of a master musician at the peak of his craft, comparable, say, to Bill Withers' first couple of albums, or Stevie Wonder's early '70s output. HIGHLY recommended.
Silvio Rodriguez "Rabo De Nube" (Areito, 1979)
Next to Mujeres, this is probably his best album... Features the compelling "Vamos Andar," and the eminently hummable "Fabula De Los Tres Hermanos," a political fable in fairy tale format, as well as several more romantic songs, with some almost embarassingly goopy arrangements. But we're talking "guilty pleasures" here, not run in terror... A great record, well worth tracking down.
Silvio Rodriguez "Unicorno" (1982)
Silvio Rodriguez "Causas y Azares" (1986)
Silvio Rodriguez & Roy Brown "Arboles" (1987)
A fairly leaden collaboration with Puerto Rican acoustic nueva cancion singer Roy Brown. This has its moments, but is nowhere near as great as the best of either of these artists' solo work.
Silvio Rodriguez "O Melancholia" (1988)
Silvio Rodriguez "En Chile" (1991)
Silvio Rodriguez "Silvio" (1992)
Silvio Rodriguez "Rodriguez" (1994)
Silvio Rodriguez "Dominguez" (1996)
Silvio Rodriguez "Descartes" (1998)
Silvio Rodriguez & Rey Guerra "Mariposas" (Fonomusic, 1999)
A nice return to his acoustic roots, with plenty of lovely guitar work and gentle vocals. The songs aren't necessarily as anthemic or powerful as his best early stuff, but pretty dern close. If you're a Silvio fan who's lost track of him during his crossover years, this is a good record to check out, just to reaffirm your faith. Recommended from a Slipcue reader to me, and from me, to you.
Silvio Rodriguez & Grupo Sintesis "El Hombre Extrano"
A slick pairing of Silvio with contemporary latin fusion band, Sintesis.
Silvio Rodriguez & Luis Eduardo Aute "Mano A Mano"
Silvio Rodriguez "En Vivo En Argentina" (2001)
Silvio Rodriguez "Expedicion" (2002)
Silvio explores his more poetic side on this flowery, ornately orchestrated set of romantic songs. Backing him are a slew of classical musicians, creating lavish arrangements for a trio of older songs and an album's worth of newer material. Silvio's fluid guitar is largely absent from the mix, but his vocals are as soft and inviting as ever... And is it just me, or is his diction super-super clearly enunciated on this album? Guess he really wants us to pay attention this time! An interesting album which I thought I wouldn't like, but wound up listening to all the way through time and time again.
Silvio Rodriguez "Canciones Urgentes: The Best of Silvio Rodriguez" (Luaka Bop, 1991)
A nice domestically-released retrospective which leaves out a lot of my personal favorites, but is still worth tracking down... Probably the best, or at least easiest to find, introduction to Silvio's work.
Silvio Rodriguez "Triptico, Volume 1" (Areito, 1984)
Silvio Rodriguez "Triptico, Volume 2" (Areito, 1984)
Silvio Rodriguez "Triptico, Volume 3" (Areito, 1984)
A retrospective series which favors Silvio's later works, in the early 1980s. Volume One has some nice acoustically-oriented tracks, but is about half acoustic-jazz oriented, and not very compelling. The other two discs go even farther in that direction, and (in my opinion) can be skipped altogether.
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