Today’s disco discovery: Never in a million years did I think I would become besotted by a Julio Iglesias song. But this one is fantastic. “Guantanamera” is one of my top-ten all-time favorite melodies and I could enjoy just about anyone’s version of it (any number of Nana Mouskouri’s Spanish and French versions are particularly transfixing).
I am fortunate to have a great version of the song by guitarist Gabor Szabo recorded in 1967 for his Impulse album Wind, Sky & Diamonds. Aside from the stirring performance he provides, Szabo performs a recitation during "Guantanamera" that details the powerful meaning behind the moving song:
"Jose Marti of Cuba was born in 1853. At the age of 17 he was exiled and spent most of his life away from his home. When he was 42, he finally returned to Cuba and within a year was killed in an aborted uprising. And this is one of his last poems: I’m a truthful man/And before dying I want to share this poem of my soul/My verses are light green/but also flaming crimson/My verses are like a wounded fawn/seeking refuge. For the poor people of this earth/I want to share my fate."
Julio Iglesias performed this wonderful, up-tempo rendition of “Guantanamera” (oddly, the poster does not allow embedding) on his 1976 album America. The spectacular arrangement (love those flutes and the guitars) is by keyboardist Rafael Ferro, who was Iglesias’ musical director for many years, right up through those American hits the singer had the following decade. It's got a sort of Tom Jones Vegas quality to it. But that's part of the appeal. It's really a well-crafted performance.
Here, too, is a brilliant and magnificently funky remix of the song, updating the groove a bit. It’s every bit as astonishing as the original, even more exciting and, as far as I know, only available on YouTube:
As of this writing, you can still download the album here.