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Blondie - Vivir En La Habana

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 23 / 8 / 2021

Blondie - Vivir En La Habana
Label: BMG
Format: LP


Excellent new live album recorded in Cuba from Blondie who late in their career continue to push boundaries

Blondie always took chances. They were one of the more imaginative acts to emerge in the 1970s from the famous New York punk club CBGB. But, though singer Debbie Harry's new wave credentials were impeccable, the band she fronted quickly outgrew the limitations of three-chord rock and pop. They topped the UK charts with disco single 'Heart Of Glass' and enjoyed hits with classic reggae cover 'The Tide Is High' plus the innovative “Rapture” which was one of the first hit singles ever to mix rap and rock. They also included avant garde jazz and traditional blues numbers in their live shows – always wanting to perform something different and challenging. So, it is no surprise to find Blondie are still taking chances. Debbie Harry is in magnificent voice at age 76 and she effortlessly fronts the band's new album, 'Vivir En La Habana' which was made in Cuba and puts a delightful Latin spin on some of Blondie's biggest hits. The record has been billed by some in the USA as a “long EP” but it is actually a 40-minute live album with several of its tracks expanded into lengthy medleys. Blondie were invited to Havana by the Cuban Government's Ministry of Culture and they stayed for what Harry has described as “four joyous nights” rehearsing with local jazz-fusion band Sintesis and then playing two sell-out concerts with them at the Teatro Mella. Blondie's short visit to Cuba will feature in a film by director Rob Roth who uses the new album as a soundtrack. Several Blondie songs lend themselves well to the Latin/Cuban treatment. Harry is joined by a brass section plus Sintesis singers Ele Valdes and Maria del Carmen Avila on a new version of 'The Tide Is High' which suddenly becomes a feel-good Caribbean fiesta reminiscent of Jamaican artist John Holt's original version of the song. Originally sung in Spanish, 'Wipe Off My Sweat' also suits its new Cuban setting with Clem Burke's powerful drumming bolstered by Latin percussion with flamenco guitars. Interestingly, the ever-delightful 'Heart of Glass' includes a diversion into Donna Summer's huge euro-disco hit 'I Feel Love' which works really well. Other medleys on 'Vivir En La Habana' include tributes to some of New York's greatest pop acts with excerpts from house trio Deee-Lite's 'Groove Is In The Heart' and 1960s girl group The Shangri-Las's 'Train From Kansas City' plus a sizzling take on the Beastie Boys' '(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)'. However Blondie's new wave roots aren't forgotten. There's also a rousing version of their 1979 release, “Dreaming”. Blondie plan to tour the UK in the autumn this year - and their live performances are sure to include some of the new Cuban flavoured versions of their classic hits. Blondie's determination to keep pushing boundaries is admirable - yet they never lose their identity and they are proud of their punk origins whilst remaining the embodiment of downtown New York cool.

Track Listing:-
1 Tide Is High (Live from Havana, 2019)
2 Long Time (Live from Havana, 2019)
3 Wipe Off My Sweat (Live from Havana, 2019)
4 Heart of Glass (Live from Havana, 2019)
5 Rapture (Live from Havana, 2019)
6 Dreaming (Live from Havana, 2019)

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