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Record Rack

Familiar but Fresh Delights From an Ageless Artist

February 17, 2001|ERNESTO LECHNER

*** 1/2 COMPAY SEGUNDO

"Las Flores de la Vida"

Nonesuch

Because Compay Segundo has already released an album with a three-clarinet lineup, and because the volume of Buena Vista Social Club-related releases makes it hard to keep up with all of them, one could easily assume that his latest collection would be more of the same.

But nothing could be further from the truth. As is the case with the other members of the Cuban collective, four years of touring and recording have done wonders for the singer, born Francisco Repilado some 93 years ago. "Las Flores de la Vida" finds him in a buoyant spirit, celebrating the serendipitous wonders of life in the title track--a new tune he composed on a flight between Germany and Italy, just like a rock star.

Compay's sound is still anchored on his weathered voice, his own armonico (a cross between a guitar and a Cuban tres) and the clarinet, an instrument he played in his youth. The clarinet embellishes these rustic melodies with nostalgic echoes of Italian folklore, but the repertoire is quintessentially Cuban. He performs "Bilongo," "Longina" and "Guantanamera" with an exuberance that makes you forget you've heard these standards a thousand times before.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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