There Is No Cat

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Monday, February 24, 2003

Dos Caballos Viejos

I picked up a truly wonderful album this weekend. It's another in a series of collaborations between Ry Cooder and a group of Cuban musicians. Specifically, this time Ry recorded an album with Manuel Galbán, who used to be part of an incredible Cuban doo-wop group called Los Zafiros (The Sapphires). The album is called Mambo Sinuendo. Galbán turns out to be a fantastic guitarist, too, and the album the two of them have turned out has really turned my head. I loved the Buena Vista Social Club album, which I bought the week it came out (in fact, I almost bought it as an import a month before it came out in this country, but decided to wait for the domestic release so I wouldn't have to pay so much), and the first Rubén González album. The film about the BVSC was pretty darned interesting too. I liked a lot of the other Cuban albums that came in their wake, but the sheer number of them seemed to result in diminishing returns (although Ibrahim Ferrer could sing the Havana phone book and I'd be there).

This new album is rather different from the BVSC albums, though. For starters, Ry takes co-top billing this time, rather than receding into the background the way he did on the other albums. And while the BVSC albums tend to evoke the sounds of the 1940s and early 1950s, this new album is more like the late 50s and early 60s. It's mostly instrumental, with only a couple of songs containing a female chorus. The result is magical. At the moment, the song that's sticking in my head is "Caballo Viejo", or "Old Horse" It looks to me like maybe the song was originally an accordion-based norteño by Valerio Longoria. It looks like Brave Combo (another of our favorite bands) may have covered it on an album celebrating ten years of the Kerrville Folk Festival. Cooder and Galbán transform it into a raunchy organ-driven frenzy; at least that's what it sounds like to me, although the credits don't show any organ playing on the song, just guitar. I've been putting together music for our impending nuptuals, and I've been using mostly instrumental music so that the words of the music don't impinge on people's ability to hold conversations (I don't know, does anyone else have trouble carrying on a conversation when a song is being sung? My ears tend to jump to the song....) You can be sure that a track or three from this album will be included.

I didn't know this, found out from this article in Time that Cooder was slapped with a huge fine for travelling to Cuba for the original BVSC sessions. Damned embargo. He eventually managed, after great efforts, to wrangle a one-year exemption from the embargo, and it's that exemption that enabled this album to be made in Cuba. The exemption has expired, and if Cooder returns to Cuba, he faces possible imprisonment. Maybe Nonesuch should send a complete set of Cooder-related Cuban CDs to every Congresscritter. This music seems like a compelling reason to end the embargo.

Posted at 12:57 AM

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

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Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

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