Eliades Ochoa seems like the lone cowboy of the Buena Vista Social Club. Photographer Anton Corbjin captured that quality for the cd cover. He has been annointed as the keeper of Cuban guajira music, the godfather of Guajira & Roll, if you will. On his first U.S. release, he covers 15 songs of different periods in Cuban musical history. Son, guaracha, bolero, it’s all here, along with Ry Cooder, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and Charlie Musslewhite.
"Pintate los labios Maria" (" Put on some lipstick Maria") will not ingratiate any feminists but it’s still a contagious song with a Mexican brass band sound. David Hidalgo adds his Los Lobos guitar licks to "Que humanidad" while Ry Cooder guest stars with his guitar on "La Comparsa". The title track, "Sublime Ilusion", is a tender bolero that is both refined and restrained by Ochoa’s gentle voice. Ochoa also covers a Gardel tango, "Volver", giving it a Cuban identity. Listening to Ochoa’s sublime vocals and guitar on "Mi Magdalena" will make you weep or turn you into a pillar of salt for being so devoid of sentimentality.
One of the benefits of these releases by Cuban musicians is the exchange that is now possible. Legendary Charlie Musselwhite comes in with his bluesman harmonica on "Teje que Teje", giving it a down home feel. At the same time, Eliades Ochoa y el Cuarteto Patria appear on Musslewhite’s disc Continental Drifter. Blues, rock, tango, guaracha all sound best when top musicians are involved.