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In July, VMP Essentials members will receive an the exclusive first U.S. vinyl reissue of Buena Vista Social Club, the Grammy award-winning self-titled debut from the group Buena Vista Social Club. Featuring new lacquers cut by original mastering engineer Bernie Grundman, and pressed on 180g brick red vinyl, the album belongs in every record collection. You can listen to a podcast interview with Ry Cooder about the album's creation, and everything else around it, here. Below, you can read why we picked this as our Essentials Record of the Month.
Andrew Winistorfer Editorial Director: This is an interesting record that I think people of a certain age — I mean my age, and older — really remember. It was literally everywhere: It sold millions of copies, which is crazy to think about because this is an album of traditional Cuban music, and it was everywhere. My parents in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, owned a copy.
It’s this record where Ry Cooder was in Cuba, and wanted to make a record that paid homage to all these old Cuban sounds, and he ended up hiring the people who made Cuban music in the ’50s to make a new album in the ’90s. It was all these older performers who were getting a second career. And this album was inescapable: It was on the soundtrack at grocery stores, you could buy it at Starbucks; it was so huge. It’s just impossible to imagine something like that happening again, and that album, more than any other, is responsible for World Music becoming a category.
This Cuban album that nobody had any context for was this huge phenomenon and, suddenly, you had people that were open to listening to Brazilian music and African music. All these bands that were big internationally from the ’70s through the ’90s were given a whole new career in America because of this World Music boom that happened largely because of this record. This record had a Wim Wenders documentary that was nominated for an Oscar. It was this mammoth thing that seems so crazy it happened 25 years after the fact; it feels like a distant fever dream that this record was this huge.
It came out on vinyl in the U.S., and it’s been out-of-print here since it came out. We got to work with World Circuit, the label that put this out, to make this reissue happen. Our Head of A&R, Alex Berenson, grew up with this record playing at like every BBQ she went to as a kid, and has been internally pushing this one up a hill for the better part of two years. Some records at VMP end up as certain staffers’ passion projects, and this was definitely one for her. So make sure you sign up and buy this bad boy.
It’s on a really red color vinyl, and we did everything packaging-wise to make this the definitive version of this record. This is the type of record we like doing that’s different and pays homage to these moments, like Jorge Ben last year; the type of record you wouldn’t expect from a record club that gave you White Stripes a few months ago. We love doing left-field records, and this is the big one for this year: It’s an honor to do this huge moment from the mid-’90s. The record was cut with new lacquers by Bernie Grundman: If you hear his name, you know it’s gonna sound good, so this record does. And the art print is this really amazing homage to the original album art. This is maybe my favorite art print we’ve ever done.