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    Afro-Cuban Legends
    Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 106 mins . G . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    Your collection of Buena Vista Social Club merchandise just got bigger! Something of an extension to the already hugely popular documentary, Afro-Cuban Legends actually comes to us as a 2 in 1 package. Half documentary, half concert performance, this disc would be an excellent addition for anyone who can not get enough of this rediscovered culture.

    The first program, entitled The Afro-Cuban All-Stars at the Salon of Dreams, is a 50-minute documentary profiling the famous Sonerto group and their bandleader, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. Back in the mid 1990's, it was Juan who tracked down and enlisted many of these long forgotten musicians, and if it had not been for musician Ry Cooder seeking his help while recording an album in Cuba, then Buena Vista Social Club may never have been made. The documentary is a British production, which extends on much of the material featured within Buena Vista Social Club. Here, the interviews are much more frank than in Wim Wender's documentary, and a lot of the program is spent elaborating on how the group were formed, what traditional styles of music the group perform (Son, Cha-Cha-Cha) and a detailed account of Cuba, pre-revolution, and the artists involved with the scene. Interspersed with The Afro-Cuban All-Stars' open air performance at the Salon of Dreams, this documentary is excellent viewing, and anyone who couldn't get enough of these characters in the Buena Vista Social Club, will find that this secondary visit is indeed a worthwhile one.

    The second program is the live performance of 90-year-old tres player and Trova musician, Compay Segundo at the Olympia in Paris. Apparently a Spanish production, this program is a 50 minute, bare bones, multi-camera affair that is very, very dull to look at, however, the sheer presence of Compay on stage is something that overshadows this problem. The man has a vibrancy about him that you would be hard pressed to find in anybody below 30, let-alone over 90. He cruises through this 10 song set with ease and, especially a treat for anyone familiar with the culture, brings a few well known performers on stage for a little assistance. To the untrained ear, Compay's performance may, at times, seem a little sloppy. However this is more of a trait of the style of music than his ageing abilities.

    The songs are presented as follows:

    1. El camison de Pepa
    2. Es mejor vivir asi
    3. Como La avellaneda
    4. La Juma de ayer
    5. Orgullecida
    6. Una rosa de Francia
    7. Ahora me da pena
    8. Para Vigo me voy
    9. Chan Chan
    10. Guantanamera (This is the song Toyota ripped-off for their Rodeo ad. You know, "One ton Rodeee-Yo")

      Video
      Audio
      Extras
    Contract

    Unlike the film, this documentary was actually shot on film instead of video. The result is excellent, with the magnificent pastel colours of the streets of Cuba looking absolutely superb. As far as I can tell, this is just about a flawless transfer with no obvious problems evident. However, the second part of the program is an entirely different story I'm afraid. It is full-frame and the video quality is certainly sub-standard. There is some fairly frequent artifacting in the backgrounds as well, but assuming the quality of the footage in the first place, this is not really surprising.

    The only audio available is a linear PCM stereo track that, whilst lacking somewhat in body, is a perfectly acceptable representation of the documentary and the concert.

    Now for the groin kick. There are no extras on this disc at all save English, French, German and Spanish subtitles. Although these are only featured in the first program, and it subsequently lacks any translation of the song lyrics whatsoever. The second program is subtitled, quite inexplicably however, over four identical channels all entirely in Spanish. Not having a translation for these lyrics is unforgivable, as many of these songs contain such wonderful lyricisms that should be heard by all. When the performance is without them, we are only experiencing half of what we should be.

    Those of you who can not really appreciate Cuban music will probably not find this to be quite the experience that Buena Vista Social Club was. However, anyone who remains a fan of this culture could not do any wrong in grabbing a copy of this disc, as the live performance of Compay Segundo is reason enough to check it out.


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  •   And I quote...
    "...an excellent addition for anyone who can not get enough of this rediscovered culture."
    - Ben Pollock
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Omni SL-P2000KD
    • TV:
          Palsonic 71cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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