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Orquesta Revé


Reviewed on this page:
Tu Amor Y El Sol - Charanga Con Funky - Orquesta Revé - Elio Revé Y Su Ritmo Changüí - Rumberos Latinoamericanos - La Explosión Del Momento - De Nuevo - ¡Que Cuento Es Ese! - Suave Suave - Mi Salsa Tiene Sandunga - Papá Eleguá - Arriba Las Manos - Changüí En La Casa De Nora - El Changüí Soy Yo - Changüí Homenaje 45 Años - Con La Mano En La Masa - Se Sigue Comentando - Fresquecito - ¿De Qué Estamos Hablando?


Elio Revé was a top Cuban bandleader for a long time. How long? Well, in the late 80s, arranger/pianist Juan Carlos Alfonso left him to form Dan Den. Ten years before that, Germán Velasco and a few others left him to form Orquesta 440. Ten years before that, arranger/bassist Juan Formell and pianist Cesar Pedroso left him to form Los Van Van. And ten years before that, Enrique Lazaga and Revé's whole band left him to form Ritmo Oriental. No one except Miles Davis can match Elio Revé in producing future bandleaders. Despite the changes, right up until his July 1997 death in a traffic accident, Revé continued to pack 'em in with his unvarying changüí rhythm and a top-notch band (three percussionists, bass, piano, violins and usually horns).

Shortly after moving from Guantánamo to Havana in the mid-50s, Revé formed the first version of his Orquesta and recorded several tracks which appeared on singles and compilations. At that point, the sound was fairly standard charanga much like Oriental's first LP. The band remained in this bag until 1968, when Formell arrived as musical director and immediately went with an orchestrated pop sound reminiscent of English-language acts like Petula Clark and Lulu; the resulting hits ("El Martes"; "Fifí, Teté Y Popó") put Revé on the map. Like a cyclone, Formell left as quickly as he'd arrived, and the band went through a prolonged stretch out of the limelight, though they did cut some exciting tracks (mostly collected on their 1974 LP).

In 1982, Revé finally found his sound, combining the bongo-heavy changüí rhythm he'd brought from Guantánamo with expanded instrumentation, great melodic hooks, and an endless assortment of snappy arranging tricks. Over the next decade, he continued to develop this basic theme, creating the albums I think of as classic Revé, while the changing cast of musicians included everyone from Juan Carlos Alfonso to Elio Revé Jr. After the elder Revé's sudden death, his son took over the band, which has adapted to timba and remained at the forefront of Cuban dance music.

As with most Cuban bands from the 70s and 80s, original Orquesta Revé releases are almost impossible to find, so your best bet is probably a compilation. And once again, I've drawn heavily on research by Kevin Moore published on the indispensible timba.com, and there's now an official site with solid information. (DBW)

Personnel:
Every Cuban musician of the last fifty years, it seems like.


Orquesta Revé cut at least two singles in 1958 ("Como Pita El Camión"; "Se Va Pa'l Monte"), and then the band quit to form Ritmo Oriental and Elio Revé entered a quiet period.

Changüí 68 (1968)
An EP, entirely written by new bassist Juan Formell. I have two tracks, and both incorporate pop-rock melodicism: the hit "El Martes" is basically bubblegum in Cuban rhythm, while "Qué Bolá Qué Bolón" is closer to Revé's charanga-powered changüí. (DBW)

Tu Amor Y El Sol (Orquesta Revé "Changüí 68": 1968)
Revé's second EP; like the first, everything was written by Formell. "Fifí, Teté Y Popó" is like "El Martes" but cheesier (it's hard not to picture dancers in white go-go boots); the breathless title track is similar. "Tú Ya No Existes," though, is a find: moody and melancholy, showing that Formell was ready to use his composing and arranging skills beyond facile hitmaking. After Formell split, the group put out a few single sides - "El Changüí Esta En La Calle"; "Compay Zenón"; "Changüí Morena"; "Yo Me Voy Para La Zafraa" - which sound more or less like their earlier charanga incarnation. (DBW)

De La Habana A Lima Con La Orquesta Revé (1972)
Their first bona fide LP. I'm guessing it contains two contemporaneous singles - "La Batea" backed with "Dominga" and "Todo Es Nuevo" backed with "La Ultima Canción" - though I can't confirm that. (DBW)

Charanga Con Funky (1973)
Title notwithstanding, the band is mostly still in Changüí 68 mode: Europop changes, electric guitar and bass against old-style flute and violin instrumentation, and either chipper ("Muchachita Del Pre") or sappy ("Deseandote") love songs. There are snappy tricks - the voices vs. bass breakdown on "Estoy Loco Por Tí"; the "Twist & Shout" buildup in "Tremendo Vacilón" - and at least a little straightforward changüí ("Chagüí"; the rollicking opener "Mamacita"), but it's not going to blow your mind or anything. Someone's selling a downloadable version they claim is digitally remastered, but is clearly just lifted from an old LP; moreover, they swapped Side 1 and Side 2 so every track is misidentified. Not that I'm ungrateful: I just thought you should know. (DBW)

Selección Cubana (Orquesta Revé/Orquesta de Neno González: 1973)
A split LP with Neno González, encompassing some numbers repeated from Funky ("Tremendo Vacilón") but also what sounds like earlier work ("Chicas De Secundaria"). (DBW)

Orquesta Revé (1974)
From the opening "Samá" (a remake of a 50s tune), Revé finally started to close the book on the Changui 68 era. There are still some pop traces (skating rink organ on my theme song, "Sólo Sé Que Nada Sé"), but they're muted, and better integrated into modern charanga arrangements: "Ya Sé Cantar, Ya Sé Bailar" is as tuneful as it is exciting, and vice versa. Also, the energy level is higher, so the less melodic material doesn't drag ("Oye No Puede Ser") while the best is a blast ("No Lo Corras"; "Sigue Mi Rumbón"). There's some backsliding, though: "Este Camino Largo" - also recorded by Irakere - has an archaic arrangement and a sappy tune to match. After this LP, Revé took a few years off to fight in Angola - try to picture one of today's pop stars doing that. (DBW)

El Ritmo Changüí (1978)
A compilation of previously released material stretching back to the 50s, including several tracks not otherwise attested ("Yo Soy El Changüí"); I'm listing it to avoid (additional) confusion.

Elio Revé Y Su Ritmo Changüí (1982)
This LP captures Revé's timeless blending of modern and traditional, rural and urban, as bongo, tres and trombone are added to the typical charanga lineup - soon dubbed the "charangón." Largely arranged by pianist Manolo Coipel, who also wrote several songs (new trombonist Ignacio Herrera also contributed arrangements), lead vocals are by Félix Baloy, and the band also includes Elio's brother Oderquis on bongo, quito and batá. I don't know who the bass player is, but he seems to be a student of Salvador Cuevas, adding funk slaps and pops to the traditional tumbao vocabulary ("Señores Silencio"). It's high energy fun ("Negra Con Pelo"), even the love songs ("A Mí"), with unstoppable tunes ("Matingo"; "Mi Changüí") and interesting details: the voice-and-percussion breakdown on "Oyan Coro"; the slippery ARP synth on the slow, romantic "Tu Lunar" and "Tú Eres Mi Ilusión." Perhaps there's nothing as striking as the best songs on the following LP, but it's strong top to bottom: it's bizarre that none of these tracks have turned up on the many Revé compilations in circulation. (DBW)

Rumberos Latinoamericanos (1985)
A revamped lineup - led by pianist/arranger Juan Carlos Alfonso and featuring Gonzalo "Pipo" Noroña on bass and Ricardo "Alfonsito" Alfonso on vocals - and the sound is richer and more varied (e.g. the R&B turnaround in "La Boda En Bicicleta"). Another point of interest is the curiously moving "voz de vieja" - in which the male singer croons in an odd high-pitched whine that's supposed to sound like an old woman - which Revé would incorporate for the rest of the decade. Plus, it's a great batch of tunes: "Ruñidera", with tasty piano and tres solos in addition to dramatic tempo shifts and a singalong refrain; the title track, with shoutouts to more Latin American music stars than I can count. Even the lesser tunes have ear-catching details, like the echoey breakdown on "Changüí Campanero" and the forest of strings on "21 De Mayo." Generally the tunes are written by either Revé or Juan Carlos Alfonso plus one vocalist, either Alfonsito (the incredibly catchy "Sé Que Tú Sabes Que Yo Sé") or Héctor Valentín ("Qué Lastima Me Da Contigo Mi Amor"). (DBW)

La Explosión Del Momento (1987)
Not to be confused with the compilation of the same name. The lineup and approach are exactly the same as on the prior disc, but the compositions fall far short. There's only one truly great song, "El Ron Pa' Despue'," with a sly groove and a slithering funk bass line - the rest is passable ("Changüí Clave," with a jazzy, slowed-down middle) to middling ("El Palo De Anon") but rarely if ever striking. Valentín's last LP with the group; he left to join Adalberto Alvarez. (DBW)

De Nuevo (1987)
Not exactly: there are two remakes ("No Me Cojan" and "Changüí Clave") and two re-released recordings ("Changüí Campanero"). Then there's a side-long medley of eight tunes by Cuban vice president Juan Almeida, two of which they'd recorded previously ("Tu Lunar"). I don't know what prompted them to record the material, but it takes them into territory the band rarely visited, with an extended trombone solo early on, and some fast sections recalling Ritmo Oriental (an upbeat remake of "Este Camino Largo"). Also, some of the romantic troubadouring ("Lo Que Dice Un Guajiro") and harmonically complex vamping indicate the direction Alfonso would pursue with Dan Den. That's not a compelling reason to get the disc unless you're a fanatic, but then if you weren't a fanatic you probably wouldn't have read this far. (DBW)

¡Que Cuento Es Ese! (1989)
The last album directed by Juan Carlos Alfonso, who contributed "La Gente No Se Puede Aguantar" and "Más Viejo Que Ayer Má Joven Que Mañana"; Valentín again has several co-writes, and Almeida scores a couple as well (the aptly titled "Aquí Te Traigo Un Merengue Son"). The "voz de vieja" is present and accounted for (Rodolfo Vaillant's "Yo No Quiero Que Seas Celosa," which also has an unforgettable refrain and killer bass solo), as are the rest of Revé's standard operating procedures. Highlights include the title track and "¡Que Te Importa A Tí!" (DBW)

Suave Suave (1990)
Alfonso had left to form Dan Den by this point, replaced by pianist/arranger Antonio Gómez. Most of the tunes are by Revé, though two are by Gómez ("Respétame"), and it's basically in the same style as Que Cuento: voz de vieja, changüí and all. The batch of tunes is superior, particularly the title track and "Anda Y Recógela," with an amusing use of an R&B audience involvement tactic. However, the three CD-only bonus tracks - including the theme song from the 1991 Pan American Games ("Tocopan") - are nothing spectacular. (DBW)

Mi Salsa Tiene Sandunga (1991)
I don't know if this is available on CD, but it's worth looking for thanks to the amazing title track, which contains as many killer riffs as your average Led Zeppelin record. "El Secreto De Mi Charangón" and "Llego El Changúí" are almost as much fun, in the vein of Los Van Van's steady-rolling, smile-inducing songo. However, there's no respite from the changúí - no love songs or experiments - and the similarity of all the tracks may get to you after a while ("Cualquier Cantidad"). Revé wrote half the tunes, the rest come from pros like Lázaro Rizo and Rodolfo Cárdenas ("El Ibiano"). Around this time, Noroña was replaced by Roberto Flores. (DBW)

Papá Eleguá (1993)
Did every Cuban musician really practice santería in the 1990s, or was it just some kind of trend to reference its deities in song? Atypically, though, the title track opens with a brief a capella "Ave Maria" rather than a Yoruba chant. At this point, Gómez left, and arranging duties were split between Flores and new arrival Reyner Ardiles while Elio Revé Jr. joined on piano. In a way the result reminds me of Explosión, in that the usual bases are covered but the compositions aren't top shelf: "Changüí Maria" is an exception, with a cute synchronized horn and string riff. Admittedly, though, the uniform high quality of the presentation - including a snappy Revé Jr. solo on his "Pupú Chan Chan" - does make it easy on the ears. (DBW)

Arriba Las Manos (Elio Revé Y Su Charangon: 1996)
Five Revés for the price of one, with Elio Jr. on piano and Elio Sr., Oderquis, Leonides and Fernando all playing percussion. Noroña also returned to the fold. I don't know if that's why the excitement level is up, but it is, from the opening "En La Calle No hay Casualidad" (with a wonderful twisting bass line from Pipo). The full grab-bag of musical styles is on display - "Esa Mujer" is straight-up romantic salsa - and nothing's run of the mill: Junior's "Carola" has a clever break; "Te La Quitaron" slips in an unexpected trombone solo, while the extended tres exploration on "Changüí Original" is lengthy and worth every second. (DBW)

Changüí En La Casa De Nora (Elio Revé Jr Y Su Charangón: 1999)
After the accidental death of Elio Sr., Elio Jr. put together a new version of the band while Oderquis left to form his own combo. Giovanni Cofiño is on bass while most of the tunes are arranged by Raúl Frómeta. The opening title track - traditional to the max - reassures the listener that there'll be continuity, and Junior makes the message explicit on "Soy Revé." What's more welcome is the high quality of the tunes and arrangements - "Muévete Pa' Qui" is a powerhouse - and though there are plenty of also-rans ("El Trompo"), there are enough indications that the Revé brand was determined to roll on. (DBW)

El Changüí Soy Yo (Oderquis Revé Y Su Changüí: 2002)
Oderquis went out on his own at this point, writing much of the material but otherwise sticking close to his brother's template. "No Habla Mal Del Nadie," by Pedro Luis Calmona, is a blast, and some of the same sense of humor is at play on "Como Se Te Ocurre," which opens with a nod to "The Banana Boat Song." And although many of the lesser songs are predictable, they're still pleasing ("Una Flor Para Tí"; "A Que Vienes"). I'm having a hard time identifying the players, but the bassist has a fine understated touch and melodicism to match. (DBW)

Changüí Homenaje 45 Años (Elio Revé Jr Y Su Charangón: 2003)
A step up, with more style differentiation (the funky "Amor Es Un Día Intercalado")... Upping the contrast makes the standard-issue changüí sound fresher ("Lo Que Tu Esperabas"; the ultra-traditional "Carlito Buey"). Not to mention a better batch of hooks ("Entre La Espada Y La Pared"). Surprisingly, the driving, dancefloor-ready "Uyuyuyi Que Veo" - recorded around the same time - was left off the album. (DBW)

Changüisero De Cepa (Oderquis Revé Y Su Changüí: 2005)
Leonides and Fernando went with their uncle; I'm curious about this one but haven't found a reasonably priced copy. (DBW)

Con La Mano En La Masa (Elio Revé Jr.: 2005)
A professional if unsurprising live album, drawing mostly on 80s and 90s hits ("La Ruñidera") with a couple of new songs (the swaggering "Se Fue De Jonrón"; the bachata "Todo Es Bello En Tí"). None of the songs are transformed or extended, so while it's always fun to hear "Suave Suave" or "Pupú Chan Chan" I'd place this down the list of recommended purchases. (DBW)

Se Sigue Comentando (Elio Revé Jr Y Su Charangón: 2005)
Mostly arranged by Cofiño, who takes the band in a few novel directions: "Mi Vecina" has the sort of hilarious slice of life lyrics Los Van Van is so adept at. "Si Tú Superias Corazón" is a NY salsa love song Marc Anthony would kill for. At times the imitations are transparent ("1999" is a copy of "Te Pone La Cabeza Mala"), but they're always brightly rendered. And there's still room for some changüí dance epics ("A Mi Lo Mismo Me Da"). The best effort yet from Elio Jr.'s version of the band, and nearly as enjoyable as any single album his dad put together. (DBW)

Homenaje 50 Years (Elio Revé Jr. Y Su Charangón: 2006)
A greatest hits; the one new song ended up as the title track of the following release. (DBW)

Fresquecito (Elio Revé Jr Y Su Charangón:: 2007)
If anyone out there cares why I feel let down by so much recent timba, the key is on this disc. Highly anticipated after the title track became a hit single, the full release surpassed expectations among both the timba faithful and the broader public, winning a spate of awards. The professionalism, sincerity and affability of the project are beyond dispute ("La Viuda," by new musical director/bassist Aisar Hernández). However, none of the melodies capture my imagination like the forty-year-old "El Martes" faithfully remade herein, and the bigger issue is that - apart from the pulse-quickening "A Sanochar Boniato" - the charts are too safe, too smooth... I was drawn to timba initially because it combined the adventurous harmonics of jazz with the fiery dynamics of Caribbean dance music - NG's ensemble virtuosity was the cheddar on the cracker - and I don't get much of either anymore. To put it another way, timba's teeth have been filed down so far there's no bite to it. (DBW)

En Concierto (Elio Revé Y Su Charangón: 2007)
A DVD with a cavalcade of superstar guests - Juan Formell and César Pedroso, Alfonso (who leads a medley of 80s smashes), Yumurí, and so on - joining Elito's band. Two bonus clips show a similarly augmented version of Elio's Orquesta Revé with Pedrito Calvo, Issac Delgado, conguero Tata Güines, Calixto Oviedo, Pancho Amat and more. We don't review DVDs, but this is well worth your time and trouble. (DBW)

¿De Qué Estamos Hablando? (Elito Revé Y Su Charangón: 2010)
After the recognition the previous release achieved, this is something of a fan valentine crossed with a history lesson. The continuing recognition of Elio Sr. is heartwarming, with remakes of "Ya Sé Cantar, Ya Sé Bailar" and "La Boda En Bicicleta," plus the new "Elegia A Elio Revé Matos." Guests include vocalists Kola Loka on "Mi Amiga Chichi" and both Chucho Valdés (piano) and Amat (tres) on the well named acoustic throwback "Reclamación Del Changüí." On the new material, songwriting credits are spread out: two each from Hernández ("Open De Door") and Elito (title track), and the group's four lead vocalists each get their turn (though Susel Orietta Gómez Péz, "La China," is most striking). Professional and well intentioned as it all is, it does strike me as a bit underdone, not as exciting as the best work of father or son. (DBW)


Yo sé que tú sabes que no sé.

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