Bearing the trademark of the most successful world music, phenomenon of the era - now certified platinum - comes the solo debut of Cuban singer Omara Protuondo. A key artist in the original Buena Vista sessions, Omara was among the most talked-about discoveries to emerge from the project, and has since - in her touring with Ibrahim Ferrer -established a name for herself as a performer to recon with. On an album noteworthy as the first reunion of the original Buena Vista musicians since the landmark sessions, Omara performs ballads and uptempo numbers with full big band support, by an ensemble studded with master players, including Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, Compay Segundo, and Eliades Ochoa. The alluring nostalgia of these romantic numbers, produced in Havana by Nick Gold, captures a lost era of music that has been resurrected by a new generation of music fans.
While she came to global prominence as the female singer on the Buena Vista Social Club album and in the film, Omara Portuondo has a career that--like the other participants--stretches back many years. She puts her experience to good use on this record, sounding for all the world like a Cuban Billie Holiday, smoky and quietly tragic, with a history of lost love. The lush arrangements, which often sound transplanted straight from 1950s Havana, frame her voice exquisitely while guests such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, and Rubén GonzÃ¡lez add their inimitable talents to the mix. Her reading of "The Man I Love" ("El Hombre Que Yo Ame") is also a microcosm of the disc--slightly jazzy, with a yearning vocal that's emotive without ever being overwrought. There's little doubt that Portuondo is a world-class singer, and this is the ideal showcase for her extraordinary talents. --Chris Nickson