The collections of sons on the Buena Vista Social Club emitted such stark beauty that Americans went nuts, buying millions of copies of traditional Cuban folk music. But the initial quake was nothing compared to the avalanche of material pouring through the filter thereafter. The highlight to Ry Cooder's epic was certainly vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, who has become a household name in Latin music. Singing since the 1940s, Ferrer has plenty of history, which makes for a perfect first release from Escondida's "Cuban Essentials" series. Unlike the melancholic mastery of Buena Vista, this collection of Afro-driven dance tracks captures the vibrancy of Cuba's sonic pastime. Crooning alongside Orquesta de Chepin and Benny Moré, Ferrer helped usher in the polón rhythm in the '50s and never looked back. Ay, Candela explores this upbeat style and others: The horn-led "De Camino a la Vereda," for one, plays off the congas and guitar with educated grace. When Ferrer rerecorded this 1963 song for '97's smash, the vocal depth remained but the dance-floor luster was lost. Ay, Candela is an important testament in what became Cuba's biggest international gospel to date.
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