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La Explosion Del Momento!

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Album Review

Orquestra Reve, led by Elio Reve (also a founding member of Ritmo Oriental and Los Van Van), is a full orchestra with strings, brass, piano, and, of course, glorious percussion. They play that Cuban dance music known as son, specifically son-changui, which is a faster form. It is a very theatrical and sophisticated style; imagine salsa as played by a Cuban Henry Mancini and you'll get the general flavor. Although son-changui is a traditional style, the group borrows stylistic touches from bossa nova, disco, jazz, funk, and even classical.

The inevitable question will be asked: How does this group compare to Buena Vista Social Club? Well, Buena Vista is a group for late-night slow dancing in a romantic out-of-the-way little night club. Orquestra Reve could be the house band at the Copacabana. To put it another way, Buena Vista tends to be slower and more atmospheric, even "deep" if that word can apply to dance music. Orquestra Reve is fast and happy and very well-arranged and satisfying — but not deep.

One thing that, depending on your tastes, may cause you either to like Orquestra Reve or to find them annoying is the group's collection of vocal mannerisms: theatrical laughs, squeaks, strange singing known as "voz de vieja (voice of the old woman)" that is more commonly found in some rural Mexican bands, and general carrying-on. They also like blowing a whistle now and then, a disco-era gambit that doesn't quite go with the strings. It's hard to tell whether these eccentricities make Orquestra Reve more like or less like "lounge music."

Orquestra Reve can be described with reasonable accuracy as "big-band pre-salsa music." It can also be described as a lot of fun. Worth a listen for all fans of Caribbean music, present and potential.

Biography

Formed: 1930 in Cuba

Genre: Salsa and Tropical

Years Active: '80s

Named for its charismatic leader, Elio Reve, Orquesta Reve mixes urban son with a very distinctive regional son variant (changui) that is indigenous to the Guantanamo region at the very eastern tip of Cuba. Changui uses percussion originally designed for religious ceremonies, which no doubt gives the music an added power and seriousness. Reve not only plays fine music, he also writes hard-hitting lyrics that address Cuban social...
Full bio

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La Explosion Del Momento!, Orquesta Revé
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Contemporaries