Personnel includes: Compay Segundo [Francisco Repilado] (vocals, guitar, armonico); Benito Suarez (vocals, guitar); Julio Fernandez, Hugo Garzon (vocals, maracas); Khaled (vocals, synthesizer, percussion); Omara Portuondo, Silvio Rodriguez, Pio Leyva, Basilio Repilado, Martirio, Santiago Auseron (vocals); Raimundo Amador (flamenco guitar); Salvador Repilado (contrabass).
Although Compay Segundo will ever be remembered as one of the great characters of Buena Vista Social Club, that was only one tiny part of his career. Gracias Compay: The Definitive Collection captures some of the great songs from the second wind of his career, when he'd become an international star again. Inevitably, there's his signature song, "Chan Chan," in not one but two versions, but it's simply one of many diamonds here, like "Saludo A Chango," where he duets with rai star Khalèd, and comes out ahead with his laid-back style. That style, however, was typical of the music of Santiago, and it permeated everything Segundo did. The harmonies on the chorus, the singing lines on the tres (or at times on Segundo's own armonico, a cross between a tres and a guitar), and the stripped-down backing of bass and percussion -- his music was just redolent of the area, and it can be heard in his very affecting "Guantanamera," or the recent "Oui Parle Francais." A witty, eloquent writer, he composed more than his share of classics in a long career, and many of them are here, songs like "Saradonga," given definitive performances. And that helps this album really live up to its name. ~ Chris Nickson