Mox! | Aurora, Colorado United States | 11/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Over 15 years ago, the Silos released their second album, Cuba, to the delight not only of college radio fans, but also the music press in general. In fact, Cuba was instrumental in earning the Silos the honor of being christened Best New American Band by Rolling Stone magazine in 1988. Initially issued and distributed by the New York-based Independent Label Alliance, the album has now been reissued on Dualtone with a variety of enjoyable extras.
To their credit, this New-York-by-way-of-Florida combo always saw things just a little bit differently than their musical peers. This slightly skewed viewpoint was (and still is) due in large part to their leader, Walter Salas-Humara. Born to Cuban exiles, Walter instills his work with a passion and lust for life which would not be out of place in the old country. However, do not be fooled - there are no madcap mambos or choice charangas here (in fact, the titular island is only mentioned once in the course of the album). As paradoxical as this may seem, Cuba is wholly an American masterwork.
Many musicians have come and gone during the existence of the Silos but Cuba features what is considered by many to be their "classic" lineup - Walter (vocals, guitars, drums), his longtime musical conspirator Bob Rupe (guitars, bass, vocals), Mary Rowell (violin, viola) and John Galway (drums, percussion) plus a few session musicians on certain tracks. Lyrical duties are shared, for the most part, by Walter and Bob. These four master musicians join forces to create a unique statement on love, longing and licentiousness. Highlights include:
Tennessee Fire - the song that first brought the band to the attention of many listeners, this hard-driving workout about an ill-fated cross-state car trip features chiming guitars, a frenetic rhythm section and Walter's howling, plaintive vocals ("See you soon, but not like this.../All your letters, photographs, so far out of reach/Leaving you behind...") but is completely upstaged (and rightly so) by Mary's violin which manages to sound both fiercely fiery and heartbreakingly poignant (sometimes in the same note!)
Margaret - a gentle, lilting backing (including a very welcome steel guitar interlude) is the perfect showpiece for this song about a little girl who divides her time between parents who are no longer together. Many champions of Walter's lyrical ability use this piece as support for their cause ("Sundown, and the clouds cover up the stars/One down, but before she closes her eyes/It all comes out, as she speaks all the words she knows...")
Mary's Getting Married - this raucous raveup details the still-fresh, dewy bliss of a soon-to-be-hitched couple. Screams, whoops and shouts easily find their place among the zippy instrumentation - Walter shows here that he's not only a fine guitarist but a darn good drummer too.
Memories - written, sung and driven by Bob, this piece presents love and loneliness from a heartfelt but still very masculine perspective. Walter's intense yet kept-in-check backing vocals provide a fitting counterpoint here.
Just This Morning - over John's martial snare drum patters and a wall of guitar feedback, Walter gives us a simple, yet stunning tune about how much joy the little things in life can bring.
All Falls Away - the only song on the album to even mention Cuba (in the form of a bittersweet realization), this draws on Walter's own experiences as a man separated from his family by distances which are more than merely physical. His one-of-a-kind drumming is in full view once again.
The Dualtone re-release follows the original ten tracks of Cuba with four extra studio songs (the wild Bacchanalian orgies of "Get Back My Name" and "Head Party", the ruminative "Maybe Everything", and "Hook In My Lip" which is so old it not only predates the Silos but also another Florida band with whom Walter was once involved, The Vulgar Boatmen). Also featured are two truly stunning live tracks (the Boatmen's earnest, touching "You and Your Sister" and an extended, decidedly different version of "Tennesse Fire" which replaces the violin with duelling, squalling guitars) recorded in an appreciative Wisconsin bar. The final bonus is the wonderful video for "Tennessee Fire"; however, be forewarned - when I played the video on my PC, it unduly affected the audio performance of the CD thereafter (it started to skip uncontrollably when I tried to play some of the later tracks). But maybe I was just unlucky.
A lot has changed since the original issue of Cuba in 1987. Walter Salas-Humara continues to lead various incarnations of the Silos to this day. Bob Rupe has made his unmistakable presence felt in a number of other indie bands such as Gutterball and Cracker. Mary Rowell is now concertmistress of the orchestra at at Radio City Music Hall. And, sadly, John Galway has gone to that great auditorium in the sky (RIP bro). However, the innovative musical and lyrical artistry presented to the listener on Cuba ensures that this opus will be revered and relished for years to come.
This review is dedicated to the memory of John Galway.
A Bit Overlong--But Still Strong
Brian D. Rubendall | Oakton, VA | 04/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released in 1987, "Cuba" was the album that put country rockers The Silos on the map, predating the emergence of Uncle Tupelo and the alt-country movement by a good three years. Back then the band was led by Bob Rupe in addition to Walter Salas-Humara, though the partnership was dominated by the latter from the beginning (Rupe left after the band's ill fated 1990 major label foray and ended up joining David Lowery in Cracker)."Cuba" starts out strong with the rocking "Tennesee Fire," before moving on to the Rupe sung "She Lives Up the Street." These are followed by two sweet Salas-Humara ballads, "For Always" and "Maragret." Other highlights include the rocking "Just This Morning" and another beautiful ballad "Going Round." On the downside, the album loses steam in the second half, but not so much so that it isn't ultimately a winner. The newly released version adds a couple of live track that were not on the original album.Overall, an excellent debut from an often overlooked band."
FAR AHEAD (YET BEHIND) OF THEIR TIME
Brett D Johnson | TULSA , OK | 03/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"MY TITLE SAYS IT ALL:AHEAD - OF UNCLE TUPELO, JAYHAWKS, ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, LOS LOBOS, SON VOLT, WILCO, VULGAR BOATMEN -- AND THOSE ARE JUST THE DIRECT INFLUENCES. TIME DOES NOT PERMIT THE INDIRECT INFLUENCES.BEHIND - EAGLES, SKYNYRD, GRAM PARSONS, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (SORRY, BUT IT IS TRUE), JOHN HIATT, T-BONE BURNETT, AND MANY OTHERS - I AM JUST RUNNING OUT OF PATIENCE.THE KEY IS - THEY WERE FAR AHEAD OF THE BANDS THEY CAME BEFORE AND EVEN FARTHER AHEAD OF THE BANDS THEY PROCEEDED.THIS IS A BEAUTFUL ALBUM THAT (IN MY OPINION) IS THE BEST "ROAD ALBUM" EVER MADE. THOUGHTFUL, INSPIRING LYRICS THAT BOTH A CEO AND A $ 15.00 AN HOUR UNION MAN CAN RELATE TO. WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN LOVE AND BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR! INCREDIBLE RANGE FROM ROCKER'S LIKE THE CLASSIC "TENNESSEE FIRE" AND "JUST THIS MORNING" TO BEAUTIFUL MELODY'S LIKE THE SARCASTIC "MARGARET" TO HEART-ACHING SONGS THAT TAKE US BACK TO CHILDHOOD LIKE "ALL FALL'S AWAY" AND "MARY'S GETTING MARRIED". IN MY HUMBLE OPINION (ALTHOUGH I HATE RANKING ALBUMS) - THIS IS ONE OF THE TRULY GREAT ALBUMS OF THE LAST 35 YEARS, IT STILL HS A PLACE ON MY TURNTABLE (OOPS! - MY CD PLAYER) AFTER 14 YEARS.P.S ISN'T IT A SHAME THAT DAVID LOWERY DOES NOT LET BOB RUPE UNLEASH ONE OF THE GREAT BARITONE VOICES IN ROCK N' ROLL --- EVER! I MISS THE WALTER/BOB DUO."
Before its time
Brett D Johnson | 07/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"cuba is another classic work by the most underappreciated artists of the last 20 years. the writing and the executio of the material is tremendous. i happened to listen to walter and bob in their early, early days in ft. lauderdale, and these guys never missed a beat. years before bands like uncle tupelo, these guys turned out country/folk/punk tunes way ahead of their time. attending a live show of the silos was an incredible experience as well. i had the pleasure to watch them in the early 90's in chapel hill and these guys were electrocharged. rupe most have busted a half dozen strings during tenn. fire. an incredible performance. if you are ever in s. fla, look for albums/ep's by the bobs (an early incarnation) or a comp. lp, called the land that time forgot.walter certainly was as esteemed in fla. as mitch easter here in nc."
It's not for everyone but definitely for me!
Brett D Johnson | 01/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard this band and their song "All falls away" on a University of Alabama College Radio Station in 1988. If it makes any difference, that song has not left my mind and through research I've found it and am ordering it on Amazon ten years later. The song left a wonderful impression on me and if you like violin trenched folk guitar with a grass root non commercialized feel, you will surely like it too!"