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Reviews Album cover: Juan Carlos Viera / Design: Pepe Menéndez Album cover: Juan Carlos Viera / Design: Pepe Menéndez

Almost everything Amaury / Amaury Pérez Vidal

An album presentation should be a cultural event. Unfortunately, for many reasons, this is not always the case. That is why it is to celebrate what happened recently in the National Museum of Fine Arts, with the purpose of making known the phonographic compilation Almost all Amaury, dedicated to the singer-songwriter Amaury Pérez Vidal and produced by Artex's Bis Music label. 

The phonographic production in which a total compendium is made or as comprehensive as possible of the work of an interpreter, composer or group is very scarce in Cuban discography, despite the cultural and historical value that this type of material possesses. Among those few examples we should mention the collection 30 years of Music which, containing seven albums and two DVDs by José María Vitier, was published by the Fundación Autor de la Sgae in 2006; the so-called mastered, about the work of Benny Moré; or, more recently, the one published by Bis Music regarding all the work of Pablo Milanés, an excellent material that has passed between us practically without pain or glory (so as not to lose the habit) and that, in my opinion, should be relaunched during 2023, to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Cuban singer-songwriter.

Due to the above, it seems to me of great value that Bis Music has once again faced a challenge of this nature, this time with the production of a phonographic project in the style of Almost all Amaury, at the suggestion of the singer-songwriter. In this box or case, which includes six CDs and a documented booklet-cover, 96 songs by Amaury Pérez Vidal are collected, a wide selection of his more than 300 compositions. Without any discussion, he is one of the good Cuban singer-songwriters since, before turning 19, he entered a studio for the first time to record a piece of his. The material now compiled is organized by decades, from the early 1970s to the present.

In general, among the work of any musician, a great album usually shines, a kind of consecration work due to the accumulation of artistic merits it possesses. As I have written on previous occasions, in my opinion, Amaury is one of the very few lucky ones in Cuba who in his career has not one, but two phonograms at that level. I mean Marti in Amaury. Poems of José Martí sung by Amaury Pérez (Egrem, 1978), produced by Mike Porcel, and the one titled waters, with Ricardo Eddy Martínez (edit) as producer. These two albums are part of Almost all Amaury, a compilation that somehow strikes me as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Nueva Trova Movement, of which the singer-songwriter was one of its youngest founders in December 1972. It is curious how, despite his scandalous expulsion of the movement due to the ideological limitations that filled our events in the 70s, with the passing of time he himself became one of the symbols of that ideo-aesthetic current.

A thorough audition of the six discs in the box that Bis Music has released allows certain ideas to be corroborated and others to be discovered. Thus, listening to the 96 songs compiled here confirms the positive evaluation I have of the composer Amaury, a maker of pieces with a total conjunction between melody, text and harmony. 

With this production, one also becomes aware of the number of his songs that have enjoyed enormous popularity in the last 50 years, without making concessions for the sake of reaching the favor of the public. This is especially significant because the texts of Amaury's compositions are usually long and complex to decode for those who are not trained in literary matters. However, they have caught on among listeners, something that I believe has been helped by Pérez Vidal's mastery of the secrets of the ballad, that popular genre and of which he is a true connoisseur.

While I listen to some cuts of Almost all Amaury I cannot avoid meditating on the polysemic character that an artistic work has when it is made from authentic creative talent. It happens to me with some Amaury themes collected here, which at the time enjoyed multiple readings. Thus, it is worth noting that in the 1980s, when Cuban society was even more dogmatic than today, songs by Pérez Vidal not written with such intention became battle hymns by the then non-tolerated LGBTIQ+ community.

Another positive balance that this compilation throws is that it shows the good sense that Amaury has had during his career to choose the people in charge of making the orchestrations or the arrangements of his repertoire. From Mike Porcel and edit, going through equally relevant names such as Lucía Huergo, Manuel González Loyola, José (Pepe) Novás, Fernando Rodríguez (Arch), Beatriz Corona and many others until reaching his current musical right-hand man, Juan Manuel Ceruto. The list of orchestrators is first class and, what is more important for me: they have been able to capture the essence of Pérez Vidal's musical proposal as a singer-songwriter, something that does not always happen with arrangers.

Since no human work is perfect, in Almost all Amaury, beyond its extraordinary value, there are aspects that at least leave me unsatisfied. Among them I would point out the fact that pieces that were re-recorded are included here, with excellent orchestrations and perhaps even with a better artistic result than in the original proposal; however, given the historical value of this type of material when it comes to understanding the evolution of a creator and performer, I consider that it is the original version of each song that should be included, however imperfect it may be. 

This happens, for example, with that classic which is remember april, that for its documentary importanceI would have preferred it to appear in its first take, the one from the 70s, and not the one chosen and that comes from a recording closer in time.

Likewise, I miss the fact that in the section on Amaury's collaborations with other figures we do not find anything of what he did at the time with the once very popular and today almost forgotten Mirtha Medina. Likewise, and although it is due to the obstacles that came with the pandemic as explained by Pérez Vidal himself in the presentation at the National Museum of Fine Arts, it is unfortunate that in Almost all Amaury does not include a sample of his songs, written in the 1970s commissioned by the UJC and arranged by Frank Fernández, for the galas on April 4, when the aforementioned political organization took those shows seriously and propitiated memorable artistic galas. For what they represented for my generation, in the compilation I feel the absence of topics like you walk what you walk, Who knows more, Long live free Puerto Rico.

In an exegesis, thanks to proposals such as the one that appears in Almost all Amaury one can, from another perspective, formulate analyzes that transcend the protagonist of the work. In this way, the compilation highlights some of the problems of Cuban record companies. In the selection of songs it becomes remarkable  especially in the one that corresponds to recordings from the 2000s that, despite their aesthetic values, they did not receive even elementary promotion, neither from the record companies that released them nor from the media. We even noticed that, as happens with other creators, Amaury has records that, after being ready for circulation, were never specified as supports by the parent company.

Apart from the above remarks, which in no way cloud the importance of this work, the presentation of Almost all Amaury in Fine Arts, which was attended by a good number of his friends, had the added value of allowing us to listen to a mini recital with some of the best-known songs by the creator of remember april and encounters. I don't remember how many years I haven't seen a performance by Pérez Vidal, who hasn't appeared as a singer-songwriter on Cuban stages for a long time.

This is, then, a compilation work that you have to try to have at home and enjoy it piece by piece in order to appreciate in its proper dimension the importance of Amaury Pérez Vidal as a song-maker for Cuban music. Its realization is one of those proposals for which one has to resort to the word again, according to Cintio Vitier, more important in Spanish: Thank you!

Joaquín Borges-Triana More posts

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  1. Amaury Pérez says:

    Thank you very much Joaquin!!

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