Juan Formell y los Van Van (1969)

Juan Formell y los Van Van
Egrem CD 0126
Coleccion Juan Formell Y Los Van Van – Vol. I
Released: 1969
Reissue: 1995

Originally released in 1969 as Areito LDA-3320, “Música de Cuba” credited to Orquesta Los Van Van

1 El Penoso
2 Yuya Martínez
3 Marilú
4 La Bola de Humo
5 La Campana Del Amor
6 La Lucha
7 Laura Chancleta
8 Soy Yo El Que Te Busca
9 La Compota
10 Chiquita di Sí
11 Frácase
12 Los Momis

Los Van Van is practically an institution in Cuba and has continued going strong even after the passing of Juan Formell. Somewhat surprisingly for the politics of the day, this early debut album is much more engaged with the psychedelic pop and rock sounds coming from the imperialist babylons of the U.S. and England, at least moreso than were Latin groups in and around Latin New York and the diasporas of Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. In that sense Los Van Van could  maybe be compared to the Tropicália movement in Brazil, freely taking and digesting elements from across the musical spectrum while making something new, or artists in Mexico or the U.S. borderlands unafraid to mix things up.  There’s some interesting and charming music here, but the album is an anomolous curiosity in the long discography of Juan Formell, and sounds more dated because of its paisley and baroque embellishments – there are times where they almost sound like a Cuban version of The Left Banke.  There might be some nascent seeds of the future sound of the group here – the prominence of the violins for one, a transplant from the charanga style – but the rhythmic foundation that would become the genre of “songo”, which Juan Formell and his group invented in the 1970’s, has not yet been developed on this record.  It would be about four years before they would release another album, and that one is when Los Van Van truly springs forth like Athena from the head of Zeus.  This debut gets kind of “samey” sounding early on and I have the urge to turn it off before it finishes playing out – which is not an urge I ever get when listening to any of their other efforts.  But one man’s trash is another man’s YMMV etc. etc.  you get the picture.

I plan to have more posts about this important group soon, when I expect (and hope) to be set straight about certain facts or details about which I am ignorant.  I have never claimed expertise on this blog, just reasonably good taste.  Meanwhile, away from the music, everyone is on pins and needles in my country waiting for election results.  Because of the embargo, these records were never readily available here (and this mid-90s CD series was done in Canada), which is is really too bad.  Considering that watching the television might drive me mildly insane tonight,  I might play through a few more albums by Juan Formell y los Van Van instead,  so that I can keep dreaming of a socialist utopia.*

(*this is irony, or dark humor. Sort of)

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One Comment

  1. Good vibes! Greetings from the netherlands! 🙂

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