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  • Writer's pictureBarney Townsend

Buena Vista Social Club - Nick Gold Interview & Signed Ry Cooder Giveaway

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the recording of Buena Vista Social Club, producer Ry Cooder and World Circuit's Nick Gold have gone back to the original tapes and into the archive to produce a range of Deluxe Remaster formats, featuring previously unheard tracks from the original 1996 recording sessions. World Circuit label head and Executive Producer Nick Gold was a first-hand witness of the Buena Vista Social Club recording sessions and has kindly agreed to answer our questions about the experience. We've also got an exclusive prize giveaway to win a Buena Vista Social Club Deluxe Bookpack + T-shirt and a Test Pressing signed by Ry Cooder!

TM: Buena Vista Social Club has sold over 8million copies and receives millions of streams every year. It was a record that transformed the lives and careers of everyone involved and immeasurably boosted the profile of Cuban music worldwide. With 25 years to reflect on its success, can you pinpoint what was it about this release that was so accessible to everyday music listeners?

Nick Gold: It's a wonderful record. A unique ensemble of amazing talent brought together for the first time. Incredibly sympathetic and vibrant performances captured ‘as if you are in the room’ amongst the musicians - like a brilliant prototype ‘surround sound' experience.

The songs were suggested by the artists themselves from a long lifetime’s experience of an extraordinarily rich tradition. Like a collection of mini Desert Island Discs.

"Great groove, great melodies, beautiful playing beautifully recorded. And it sounds as fresh and accessible today as when it was recorded."

TM: On the subject of the world at large adopting the culture and sound of Cuban music, you've been quoted as saying: “I thought if you love something, there’s a chance that someone else will too." But, in honesty, was the unprecedented success of the original recording something that took you by surprise?

Yes. We knew while we were recording that something very beautiful was going down but we couldn’t have predicted the level of success. We presented it as well as we could (we were a tiny company at the time) and initially, it was a word of mouth thing. It captured peoples’ imagination and when the musicians started to tour people just loved them.

Then came the film and that pushed it to another level. So the level of success took me by surprise but it didn’t surprise me that people were drawn to it. It’s a very beautiful, very accessible record.

TM: The umbrella term ‘world music’ is one that you’ve expressed discomfort with in the past - how would you prefer that music-lovers categorise music like BVSC and the output of World Circuit?

"However the musicians categorise it."

TM: For you, what are the most compelling additions to the original recordings that fans will find on the bonus content?

I think that all the previously unreleased recordings included here are wonderful. They were chosen from a wealth of material. We recorded more songs than we felt could comfortably sit on a single album.

A lot of care went into the original album; selecting the songs and sequencing so as to represent the artists and styles we’d recorded within an album format. We had to leave some great stuff out and even then the original is quite long.

Now we have some songs that didn’t make the original cut but not for reasons of quality. Such as 'Vicenta' which is a Buena Vista classic.

We were recording on analogue 2” tape which isn’t limitless so we had to make choices as we went along too. But we also had a stereo DAT recorder going throughout the sessions and this captured rehearsals, auditions of songs and the musicians just enjoying themselves. And because we were recording with ambient microphones in a beautiful sounding room these stereo recordings sound really good even though we couldn’t do any mixing. But you really wouldn’t want to change a thing about them anyway. You get another dimension of what was happening over that amazing week; the duets of Eliades Ochoa and Company Segundo suggesting song after song, glimpses of Ruben Gonzalez’s never-ending improvisations, skeletal early versions of Buena Vista favourites and alternate takes with atmospheric studio chat.

TM: Footage of one of the album’s most famous tracks ‘El Cuarto De Tula’, notably showcasing Barbarito Torres’ one-take solo from the album, note for note, in real-time, has been unearthed as part of the BVSC 25th Anniversary festivities - what are your memories of this astonishing act of virtuosity from the time? Did you know that particular take was something special or was it business as usual for these incredible players?

Oh, everyone knew that was special at the time. Including Barbarito! A previous attempt had fallen down, both at the end of the laúd solo and with the harmony vocals in the coda. But that take has a marvellous energy (I think it’s the largest ensemble on the record) and the solo is spectacular. But Barbarito is an incredible player so we were thrilled rather than surprised. I saw him in 1986 as part of Celina Gonzalez’s band and I knew we had to get him for the Buena Vista sessions.

Comprising 2LP + 2CD Deluxe Book Pack, 2CD Casebook, 2LP Gatefold Vinyl and Digital Formats these definite Buena Vista Social Club editions are timed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album’s recording, available now on the Buena Vista Social Club Store. They contain the original album as remastered by GRAMMY Winning engineer Bernie Grundman, as well as a host of previously unheard tracks from the original 1996 session tapes, including the recently shared ‘La Pluma’, and ‘Vicenta’.

Enter our exclusive giveaway to be in with a chance of winning a Buena Vista Social Club Deluxe Bookpack + T-shirt and Test Pressing signed by Ry Cooder!

The winner will be chosen on Monday 20th September.

N.B: If the competition entry module below does not load, enter the giveaway directly HERE.

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