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Worn-out record Design: Jennifer Ancizar from the cover of Nubes. Design: Jennifer Ancizar from the cover of Nubes.


When recently I was talking about Santiago Feliú with some friends, I told them that gradually, surprising and sadly, I have stopped liking him. There are songs of him that once broke my soul and now I no longer swallow. With Carlos Varela it has been happening more or less the other way around. My relationship with him has been this: ignorance / discovery-shock-adolescent love / boredom / forgetfulness / rebirth.

I burned it at the age we all did, but so much so that I got bored very quickly. Perhaps it was because I found Sabina's nonchalance, heresy, wooden face, the complete opposite of what El Gnome is: a serious, mournful, Irish Catholic guy with shadows, who is serious, who has a hard time sarcasm . So I should have said: "it's over there and not over here". Or maybe it was the silly habit —but natural for the pubescent snob that I was— of getting as far away as I could from what most people listened to, a habit that gave me a lot, but took just as much from me. There is an age when you are not ready to see the coolest guy in the classroom singing Like an angel and say that you like it too. No way! He'll have some poison to make that illiterate imbecile laugh. Therefore, I pass. Life doesn't give you those primitive definitions later, that's why adolescence is the most beautiful age.

Every time I listen to this album, time returns me to Varela just out of the shower, smelly and talcum, especially the lyricist, and this word goes without synonyms.

It is a mistake to think that singer-songwriters have to be poets. Although, what the hell is being a poet, right? But I say this thinking that perhaps I went with the rag in the past when looking for more elaborate images in Carlitos like those of Silvio, or as elegant, as erudite impostor as those of Sabina, assuming that the troubadours had to be necessarily great illusionists of words who also knew how to sing and play the guitar. There are, of course, but it is not a condition sine qua non to categorize as a singer-songwriter. When you don't ask Varela to be Leonard Cohen, then you realize that as a lyricist he is at a very high level. Tell me obvious and old fool, but I'll repeat that the song is not a poem set to music. the author of Habáname he is not a great poet (at least taking as a reference only the lyrical side of his themes, because when you come to see the guy he is so crack he has some really good poems in his drawer), but he doesn't need to, because he's an extraordinary songwriter, first class.

If you were born with a special sensor to capture tunes from the air, process them, harmonize them, join them with others and turn them into indelible melodic lines (and you have improved it along the way), then you can allow yourself a little lyrical laziness. In this genre, whoever dominates the melodic terrain with the mastery that Varela does has more than half the battle won; you would have to be very stupid to spoil a song.

Let us observe this fragment of the letter of walls and doors: "What good is the moon if you don't have the night / What good is a windmill if there are no Quixotes left". That, put like this, is a failure, a postcard with a background of roses that you must send to 10 contacts; however, the subject does not rot because of that. You realize, you know that there are better places on the album, but you let it go, because the set has other strengths. The poetic reverse is not of a sufficient entity to destroy the piece in its entirety, as it happens to other songs out there, which have very successful melodic constructions but the lyrics are horrible. Perhaps the most obvious example of Carlos Varela as an average poet and excellent lyricist is the unparalleled A word. Take away the music, publish the lyrics in a dumb, white notebook, and you'll have a poem, not horrible, but worse than the ones my eighth-grade Spanish-Literature teacher used to make, even though it seemed like a beast to me at the time. Now, it is enough for The Gnome to open his mouth for those same images to reach other resonances. It's just that song lyrics aren't supposed to cross the communication bridge alone. The poems do, because the poems are raw language, but the lyrics, in principle, are only part of the team, although some shoulder it, like Maradona in '86.

Also readSelling it all. Design: Jennifer Ancízar.

selling it all

Carlos M. Merida02.06.2021

I don't know who produced this record, but they did it really well. It has a perfect conceptual balance. Removing Clouds and Lucas and Lucia (not for nothing but because they have a different kind of gear), it seems that the album is not such a thing, but the same great song that has been dosed for purely mechanical reasons. Instead of opening with the theme-title —either by force of habit, or because it has more hook than the rest—, the production prefers to break the ice with one that better translates the temperature of the phonogram, its emotional accent. Beyond, the opening, and also gray afternoon, the next track, they talk about a woman who left and a man who misses her. That is, a little more, a little less, the tone of these 12 pieces. Distance, flight, exile, absence. From Havana, from bed or from life, but distance, flight, exile, absence. The humor on the plate is almost entirely a consequence of her leaving town and he remembering when there are gray afternoons. That's why it's not crazy to assume that the songs (at least for the most part) were born before the decision to make an acoustic album, and not the other way around. I can't imagine Carlitos singing “… and she went four moons further into my soul” with the band behind him.

The arrangements that are heard here classify as one of the most lucid works (thus, without a tilde in the u, although it still works with it) that the most popular Los Topos has done in his career; one of the best guitars that have been played in the recording history of Cuban trova (I couldn't find the credits anywhere, but I assume that he fixed his instrument himself). The viola occupies an active role in the dramaturgy of the songs. You have a voice and you have a vote. It is not just a neutral supplier of harmonies. He gets into the conversation. This is noted in soul drought and I barely open my eyes, to say two examples. Varela was so turned on in those years, he had the moropo so rowdy, that he allowed himself to give us parallel melodic lines in minimal spaces. He sang one and played another, which he also hummed sometimes.

When the album came out in 2000 he was only 37 years old, but he was already a consecrated man, and one could mistakenly think that he had no need (that vain need of restless artists) to prove anything. However, he comes and appears with this, which is one of the greatest Cuban songs of all time (so as not to send me running and say something outrageous), with which he precisely paid for his retirement. That's why one, after Seven has not been the same, of tolerating that he made soup with William Tell's sons before the disenchantment It is not the end, from the drought that came later, he still asks if there is a physical edition of his latest work the silent scream, even before hearing it digitally, and even though he doesn't expect to get much out of it.

I go with Clouds, the first Varela song I heard. Canticle of deed sub-17, sketch of the apprentice viol players, they should make a bronze plaque in the place where the statue of Salvador Allende is on G Street, as they did with the score of the National Anthem in Céspedes Park in Bayamo. It is a theme, in the end, optimistic. Right now everything is cloudy, very cloudy, the sky is a uniform gray mass. It will pass, but know, as The Gnome knew, that when that happens, when the celestial returns, we will still have some of those nimbostratus inside for quite a while longer, and that should not be a problem, as long as we know how to accommodate them well and continue the fight .

Avatar photo Carlos M. Merida hearer. Collector without space. Lawyer. Afraid of bees and hurricane winds. More posts

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  1. Yoander says:

    More than nimbostratus I think there will be some cumulonimbus with lightning included.

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