Reviewed on this page:
Dias y Flores - Mujeres - Rabo De Nube -
Unicornio - Triptico - Causas y Azares -
Arboles - O Melancolía - En Chile -
Silvio - Rodríguez - Domínguez -
Descartes - Mariposas - Expedición -
Cita Con Ángeles - Érase Que Se Era - Segunda Cita
One of the two giants (the other being Pablo Milanes) of Cuban "Nueva
Trova," a highly political folk music influenced by the South
American "Nueva Canción" or "New Song" movement, and by rock
artists like Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Rodríguez' thin but
expressive tenor sings songs with poetic, often obscure lyrics and
beautiful, atypical melodies. Originally using simple acoustic
backing, Rodriguez expanded during the Eighties to more
sophisticated arrangements borrowing from classical music, reggae,
pop and traditional Cuban rhythms. More recently he has returned to
minimal guitar-based arrangements. (DBW)
There's a cool web
site with lyrics (all in Spanish).
Dias Y Flores (1975)
Several brilliant songs ("Playa Girón," "Sueño Con
Serpientes," "Como Esperando Abril") but the arrangements are run-
of-the-mill folk-rock, and he doesn't show much of quirky melodic
sense so prevalent in his later work. (DBW)
Al Final De Este Viaje... (1978)
Songs written between 1968 and 1970, including one of his best known compositions, "Ojalá."
Basically guitar-and-voice arrangements, and he doesn't yet have
the technique (instrumentally or vocally) to keep things
interesting, especially because the melodies (outside of a couple
of great compositions like "Rio") aren't particularly original.
Rabo De Nube (1980)
A small improvement on all fronts, with more intriguing
compositions ("Te Amaré," "Que Ya Viví Que Te Vas") and a
broader instrumental palette, although an extremely prominent
synthesizer threatens to drown the otherwise outstanding
Many of his best-loved songs ("La Maza," "Por Quien Merece Amor,"
title track) and a new attention to production values make this
record a huge leap forward. (DBW)
This three-record set is the best place to start, if you can find
it. Everything is here: from moving unaccompanied acoustic songs
("Tu Fantasma") to rousing full-band arrangements ("Camino A
Camagüey," "Yo Soy Como Soy"), even groovy studio tricks
("Domingo Rojo") - everything abounding with lilting melodies,
careful soulful performances, and lyrical themes that are deep even
for him ("Llover Sobre Mojado," "Canción de Invierno").
Causas y Azares (1986)
Recorded with the multi-faceted fusion group Afrocuba, the album has consistently
startling arrangements ("Canción En Harapos") and more than its share of fantastic
compositions ("Canto Arena," "Sueño De Una Noche De Verano"). (DBW)
Arboles (Ray Brown/Silvio Rodríguez: 1987)
Basically an album by Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Roy Brown with backing by Afrocuba; Silvio only contributes two songs, one of which turned up on O Melancolia in almost identical
form ("Con Un Poco De Amor"). Rodríguez may contribute some more vocals: it's hard to tell from my cassette, particularly because Brown's high, thin voice sounds a lot like Silvio's
anyway. I'm not impressed with Brown's tunes or delivery, but Afrocuba's backing is so good it doesn't matter much: they range smoothly from neoclassical strings to fiery salsa on "Ohé
the constantly shifting arrangement of "Si Tengo Un Hermano" is a delight, and the bass lines are particularly inventive. And the horns quoting Puerto Rican independence anthem "Que Bonita Bandera" in
the fade of "Negrito Bonito" is a nice touch. (DBW)
O Melancolía (1988)
Again working with Afrocuba, Silvio stretches out with some very
long songs that either hit (the hilarious "El Extraño Caso
De Las Damas De Africa") or barely miss ("En El Jardín De La
Noche," though beautiful, doesn't have enough ideas to justify its
12-minute running time). He covers a wider stylistic range than
ever before, flirting with reggae ("Amigo Mayor") and classical
music ("Entre El Espanto Y La Ternura," the title song), but his
sharp wit and good taste keep things from getting too diffuse.
In 1989, Rodríguez contributed an album worth of lyrics to the Sintesis record
El Hombre Extraño, and sang the title track.
En Chile (1991)
Just after Gen. Pinochet stepped down as dictator of Chile, Silvio
- who had been in Chile shortly before the 1973 coup - returned
to play a concert, backed by the phenomenal Cuban dance/jazz band
Irakere. The track list is heavily made up of tunes from the previous two albums, plus some of his
biggest hits ("Unicornio," "Santiago De Chile") and new material (the anthemic concluding "Venga La Esperanza"),
all of which sparkles in new full-band arrangements.
A compilation of mostly previously released tracks, with a few new ones:
"Llegue Por San Antonio De Los Baños" with Los Van Van; "Supón."
Starting off another trilogy, one disc for each of his names.
Every track here is vocals and acoustic guitars (one instrumental
is only acoustic guitars), but the album never falls into a rut
because of Rodríguez' extraordinary dramatic sense ("El Necio") and
emotional range (from the probing "Quien Fuera" to the lighthearted - for Rodriguez - "Y Mariana").
He's also developed into an excellent acoustic guitarist ("Compañera"),
and the lyrics - some touching on Cuba's Special Period, most dealing with more general topics ("Trova De Edgardo,"
about Edgar Allan Poe) - are superb.
Recorded in the same stripped-down style as Silvio, only
more subdued, more morose, less tuneful. The best songs here (the anthemic "Escaramujo," the touching portait of urban
prostitution "Flores Nocturnas," "Casiopea") are incredibly good; there are also more of the intense, intelligent
discourses he seems to come up with so effortlessly: "El Problema," "Canción De Navidad," "La Vida."
Part of a triptych with the preceding and following albums.
Another low-key album like the previous one; this is named for his mother, and she adds backing vocals on the final
track, "El Viento Eres Tú." His sister Anabell López adds lovely harmonies to the beautiful "Si Seco Un
Llanto"; otherwise, all instruments and voices are by Silvio once again. There's a strong nostalgic feel here, more
traditional and less-forward looking than any of his other work. I've listened to this several times and most of it
hasn't sunk in yet - it's certainly no disappointment for his fans, with plenty of cryptic poetry ("Ala de
Colibrí," "Caballo Mistico" recalls "Unicornio Azúl") and complex melody - but it's so focused I don't
think it's a particularly good introduction to his work. (DBW)
Did you know that Silvio's hairline hasn't moved in thirty years? It receded high up his head when he was fairly young,
but then just stopped. I don't get it.
A collection of outtakes from the previous three albums, but they sure don't sound like also-rans... maybe they didn't fit the individual
album concepts, or something. Three songs were written way back in 1969: "La Costa Está En...," "Las Ruinas" and
"Por Todo Espacio, Por Todo Tiempo."
"En Busca De Un Sueño" is a classic Rodríguez introspective quest, and "Vida Y Otras Cuestiones" is up the
Most songs are unaccompanied vocal and guitar, with a few exceptions:
"Lo De Má" has some strikingly Dylanesque harmonica; the hypnotic "Rosanna" has two guitars, harmonica, and some percussion.
Yet another gentle acoustic album, this time with Rey Guerra the primary guitarist; Niurka González adds some flute
and Jorge Alexander is on bass. Guerra is outstanding, playing what amounts to lead and accompaniment simultaneously ("Quien Tiene Viejo El
Corazón"), and maybe it's me but I find both the lyrics ("Tu Sonria Ha Cambiado") and the melodies ("Olivia") more accessible than either
Domínguez or Expedición, and despite the low-key approach and unvarying instrumentation it never drags.
A bare-bones remake of "Días Y Flores" exemplifies the album's strength: the songs and the singer sound better without the window
dressing of the 1975 folk-rock version.
This time Rodríguez orchestrated his compositions: fifteen violins, six violas, five cellos, two double basses, trumpets, French horns,
a clarinet, an oboe, a flute (González), piano, harp, guitar, tres, and three percussionists. There's nothing wrong with the players,
and the recording sounds great, but the strings tend to obfuscate the melodies rather than accentuate them ("Totí"). The expansive
arrangement of "Sortilegio" is a welcome exception.
Though I don't consider the record in his first rank, there's fine stuff here, including one of his patented exhaustive explorations of a
single metaphor, "Fronteras" - one of three tracks featuring backing vocals from Anabell López.
Cita Con Ángeles (2003)
Mostly acoustic again, with only González (flute and clarinet) supporting Rodríguez on most songs.
The title track, though, builds to a full band, including such luminaries as Chucho Valdés
and Juan Formell, as it relates its sad catalog of political assassinations.
Though Silvio's reputation is based on his intense, moody musings,
I love it when he's robust and playful, as on the opening "Mi Casa Ha Sido Tomada Por Las Flores"... a couple more tunes like that would have livened up this earnest, sharply recorded but less than eye-opening effort. But as you'd expect, the lyrics provide plenty of food for thought: "Sinuhé" concerns the ancient Egyptian/Syrian figure and is also a comment on the war in Iraq, though I can't quite puzzle it out; there are also more love songs than usual ("Quiero Cantarte Un Beso"; "Letra De Piel").
Érase Que Se Era (2006)
Something of an archival project, two discs of songs Rodríguez wrote before Dias Y Flores but never recorded ("Fusil Contra Fusil," originally censored by the Cuban government). Many were written during his service aboard the fishing boat Playa Girón, and as usual for Rodríguez, touch on a variety of subjects political ("Oda A Mi Generación") and personal ("El Papalote," about a childhood mentor). The best tunes are extraordinarily powerful ("M´s De Una Vez"), but a long string of less memorable numbers ("Nunca He Cereído Que Alguien Me Odia") weaken the project.
The arrangements are in the same mold as Cita Con Ángeles, with González providing the primary accompaniment to Silvio's acoustic guitar, and only a couple of numbers featuring a full band (Pancho Amat Y Su Grupo on "Todo El Mundo Tiene Su Moncada") or unexpected instruments (electric guitar on "Cuántas Veces Al Día")
Segunda Cita (2010)
The title indicates the album is a continuation of Cita Con Angeles, but there's a serious departure on the instrumentation front: nearly every song is built around piano (by Roberto Caracés), often backed by a full rhythm section including master bassist Feliciano Arango.
Rodríguez has consistently crafted music that was as affecting and smart as his lyrics, but not this time: the songs are merely pleasant ("Toma"; "Sea Señora"), never challenging, which undercuts the message of songs like "Carta A Violeta Parra" (a shoutout to the composer of Nueva Canción landmark "Gracias A La Vida").
Though in the past he'd created gripping tracks with as little as a voice and a guitar, or as much as a full orchestra, the in-between combo here generally churns out a milquetoast sort of sort rock - Carcarés in particular uses a very gentle tone close to Vince Guaraldi at his most mild-mannered ("Dibujo En El Agua II").
Even the voice-and-guitar opus magnum "Trobador Antiguo" grows dull at seven minutes, thanks to its "Angel Of The Morning" chord progression.
Estoy buscando melodía...