"La Chica Mas Sexy de Cuba", as anointed by her onstage beau, Ibrahim Ferrer, has finally released her own solo effort. Solo only in so many words, as many musicians from the original Buena Vista Social Club appear, only this time they are playing her song. Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, Cachaito Lopez, Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo are all here as well as many other accomplished musicians who make this truly a dream band.
The album features Portuondo’s signature, velvety voice backed by a traditional big band that plays heartfelt boleros and habaneros along with toe-tapping mambos. Portuondo’s career began in the early fifties and this album harks back to her musical roots. This music has made a comeback not only in the US but throughout the world and its popularity has exploded into something no one could have foreseen. Good, because now Portuondo can be the Cuban Diva. A true Diva, not a "VH-1 Diva" (sorry Shania, Mariah and Cristina), which means depth, style, and class.
The opening track, "La Sitiera", sets the pace of rhythm for the rest of the album. The bongos and brass on "Donde estabas tu?" will take you back in time if you were around then, and let you imagine if you weren’t. In either case, it’s a welcome mambo.
"Mariposita de primavera", writen by Miguel Matamoros, is a haunting habanera cradled by Portuondo’s yearning, while the classic "Canta lo sentimental" reminds us that Cuban love songs only work when Cubans sing them. Pio Leyva joins her on vocals on "Ella y yo" a bolero written by Oscar Hernandez and together they create a fragile sentimentality.
She covers "No Me Llores Mas" a rousing, highly danceable take, with her hepcat partner, Ibrahim Ferrer. A quite moving version of George Gershwin’s "The man I love" in Spanish is a highlight. My favorite track, though, is "Veinte Anos" a melancholy habanera whose longing could only be conveyed by Portuondo’s seasoned voice.
Especially thrilling about this album is the time taken to create just the right mood. Every note captures Portuondo’s regal voice. Truly a fine album and a delectable treat for fans of Cuban music.