No other country in the world delivers such a widespread blend of ethnic music combined with modern music as Spain and with the so called Rock Andaluz in which rock, pop and progrock bands have incorporated the sound of the flamenco. I have taken the ‘artistic freedom’ to separate the progressive rock formations from the rock and pop bands in order to create my own category named Prog Andaluz.
In a historical view I consider the album Sabicas – A Rock Encounter with Joe Beck from 1966 (see Special Projects) as the first musical encounter between flamenco and progressive music - a few years before Smash (see Chapter 2, bands A-Z). After the release of this album, it took almost ten years until halfway through the Seventies before the Prog Andaluz movement started to blossom, speer headed by the trio Triana (the name is derived from the flamenco era in Sevilla) after the release of their pivotal debut album entitled El Patio in 1975. The music is an exciting musical meeting of two worlds: the wealthy, upper-middle class world with the ‘stiff upper-lip’ mentality in mainly Southern England in which progressive music was considered as an interesting and adventurous way to earn a living and the poor and emotional world of the flamenco musicians in Andalusia in which music was the perfect way to express emotions like in Portugal with the fado and in the USA with the blues. From the second half of the Seventies in Spain many young progrock bands got inspired by Triana their music and soon the Prog Andaluz emerged, let’s take a look at the most interesting bands and albums.
Recommended Bands and Albums A-Z
Between 1979 and 1983 Alameda produced four studio albums. The band split up in 1983 however in 1994 Alameda re-united, releasing another three studio-albums and one live-CD, a registration from their 20th Anniversay concert in 1999.
In 2003 CBS released a two CD compilation featuring all the tracks from their four studio-albums, released between 1979 and 1983. If you are up for Prog Andaluz, then don't miss this excellent compilation, what an exciting encounter between progressive rock and flamenco. The thirty two elaborate compositions sound very pleasant, melodic, harmonic and varied, from the romantic and dreamy to bombastic symphonic rock or swinging jazz rock. The Spanish vocals are outstanding: powerful, emotional and that typical flamenco undertone, (without the usual wailing expression), gives many tracks an extra dimension! Alameda plays very professionally: a splendid, very fluent rhythm - section, tasteful keyboards, (from soaring strings to swinging piano and sensational synthesizer flights), and often exciting guitar work, both electric as flamenco - (along with contributions by flamenco guitar legends Tomatito and Paco De Lucia). If you want to discover the Prog Andaluz then this comprehensive two CD set is a must!
This Spanish four-piece band made two fine albums, the debut-album was entitled Elixer but my favourite is their eponymous second album. The difference between these two CD’s (released by Fonomusic) is that the second sounds more mature and elaborate.
The eight melodic and harmonic compositions (running times between two and ten minutes) are varied and often contain a pleasant emotional extra dimension. The guitar play is sensitive featuring short but powerful soli and some exciting flamenco guitar work. The vocals have a typical Spanish undertone, very warm and expressive. The keyboards sound lush and have a pleasant variety: strings, organ, synthesizers, clavinet along with acoustic and electric piano. The rhythm-section plays dynamically - Spanish people have a natural feeling for rhythm! This CD is a very fine example of the unique Spanish progrock: harmonic, melodic and tasteful compositions above self indulgence.
CAI was a Spanish quintet, they released three very melodic sounding albums entitled Mas Allá De Nuestros Mentes Diminutas (1978), Noche Abierta (1980) and Canción De La Primavera (1981).
A few years ago the second and third albums were released as on a single CD. Don't expect very complex music or typical progrock with lots of solos and shifting moods. Just enjoy wonderful music that blends flamenco, symphonic rock and jazz rock in a very pleasant, melodic and harmonic way featuring excellent Spanish vocals (warm with a bit
of a melancholic undertone), tasteful keyboards (Fender Rhodes electric piano, strings, synthesizers and organ), sensitive electric guitar (at some moments evoking Carlos Santana in his jazz rock era) and an adventurous and dynamic rhythm-section. If you like melodic Seventies progrock, embellished with some flamenco, Cai is for you!
Granada (from Madrid..) was the musical project of multi-instrumentalist Carlos Carcamo: flute, violin, acoustic & electric piano, mellotron, clavicordio, 12-string guitar, percussion and vocals.
The debut-album Hablo De Una Tierra (1975) is their most original album in my opinion and a good example of the original Spanish approach towards progrock. The title track is worth discovering for every Prog Andaluz aficionado because it includes a splendid and very unique duet from the unsurpassed Mellotron (violin-section) and flamenco guitar by guest-musician Manolo Sanlucar, goose bumps!
Once Guadalquivir was the support act of Spanish legend Triana and also for another Spanish rock legend named Miguel Rios.
The music from Guadalquivir is instrumental progressive jazz rock/fusion on a high level, it reminds of Return To Forever: tight, powerful, excellent soli and dynamic and pleasant compositions. I’m delighted about the guitar players, one of them sounds like an Andalusian Carlos Santana! If you want to discover the music of Guadalquivir, start with their first eponymous album.
This excellent Spanish four piece band delivered outstanding, very melodic instrumental music in the realm of the jazz rock, along with some fusion, on their four studio albums and one live record, released between 1975 and 1979.
On their album Coses Nostres (1976) you will be carried away by the seven dynamic compositions with lots of interesting musical ideas. My highlight is the song La Flamenca Electrica that sounds like Prog Andaluz: first soaring keyboards and strong clavinet runs, then a swinging rhythm with strong Andalusian undertones featuring spectacular work on guitar and keyboards.
The Spanish progrock quartet Imán Califato Independiente has its origins at a convention, given by the meditation guru Maja-raj-ji, in the mid Seventies. Like genuine hippies, the musicians lived together in one house in El Puerto De Sta Maria and eventually they founded Iman. In 1978 they made a debut album, entitled Iman Califato Independiente, two years later followed by this second album entitled Camino Del Aguila. Iman also appeared on the Spanish compilation albums Rock Andalus (94) and the two CD set Duende Electrico (1997).
The music on their two albums sounds like “jazz rock meets Prog Andaluz” (with the emphasis on jazz rock) delivering wonderful, very varied vintage keyboards (piano, synthesizers, string-ensemble, harpsichord, organ) and exciting interplay and duels between guitar, (in some songs he sounds like the Spanish twin-brother of Carlos Santana) and keyboards. Almost every composition has more or less compelling Morish undertones and one track is even entitled Tarantos Del Califato Independiente (this title points at a strong rhythm in the flamenco music). In my opinion Iman represents a very exciting fusion of Prog Andaluz and jazz rock.
In general this popular band (that still makes music) is considered as a Heavy Prog version of the legendary Triana since they disbanded in 1983. Although I am delighted about their captivating and dynamic eponymous debut album (1979), my favourite studio-album is En El-Hakim (1989), in my opinion their most mature, varied and symphonic effort.
The opener Al Hakim ... Otro Lugar has that typical Moorish climate, strong and expressive Spanish vocals and pleasant synthesizer flights (in the vein of Mark Kelly). The ballad Otono has become one of the ‘crowd-pleasers’: a slow rhythm featuring emotional vocals, tender piano play, bluesy guitar riffs and some fiery and howling electric guitar. Next is Velocidad, a simple but catchy up-tempo rock song delivering some fine synthesizer runs. On La Guitarra guest musician Vicente Amigo (nowadays one of the leading new flamenco guitarists) enters the scene with a compelling acoustic guitar intro, then quick runs, accompanied by expressive vocals, (this is the flamenco spirit) and later a fiery electric guitar and sensational synthesizer flights. What an exciting contrast with the acoustic flamenco guitar play! It’s blues time in El Destino but Medina Azahara adds an extra dimension by blending expressive flamenco guitar, moving mouth-organ, wailing Spanish vocals and harder-edged electric guitar, what an emotional experience, goose bumps! Dejame Vivir (heavy electric guitar solo) and Tal Como Es (swinging piano solo) are two simple up-tempo rock songs in the vein of Velocidad, tasteful but predictable. The final track Desde Cordoba features again the excellent Vicente Amigo on flamenco guitar, this time he delivers exciting duels with Paco Ventura’s hard-edged electric guitar, again goose bumps!
In 2007 Medina Azahara released the CD Se Abre La Puerta, it contains seven Triana covers along with one Cai cover and three own compositions - all firmly rooted in the Prog Andaluz tradition featuring a powerful and tight rhythm section, heavy guitar work (lots of fiery solos and propulsive guitar riffs) and an excellent singer. Who turns out to be a perfect blend of the traditional flamenco singer and the archetypical rock singer, what emotion and what a power! The seven Triana covers are very pleasantly coloured: warm flamenco guitar, heavy guitar riffs, bombastic organ and a flashy synthesizer solo in Abre La Puerta; tender piano and sensitive electric guitar in Una Noche De Amor; great melancholic vocals, wonderful keyboard layers and howling guitar in Hijos Del Agobio; a very compelling atmosphere in Dialogo; a Paco De Lucia inspired flamenco guitar, lush organ and biting electric guitar in Luminosa Manana; a jazzy piano intro and powerful Hammond organ waves in Tu Frialdad; lots of surprising musical ideas in El Lago, from roaring Hammond organ and 'slap bass' to even rap singing - very original! The version of Cai's composition Amanecer En El Puerto sounds dynamic with beautiful vocals and the three Medina Azahara tracks Hacia Ti (dynamic ballad), Paseando Por La Mezquita (the ultimate blend of flamenco and hard rock) and El Soldado (swirling Hammond organ solo) showcase their pleasant, melodic and harder-edged Prog Andaluz sound. They are very popular in Spain but they deserve wider attention, what captivating music!
Mezquita made two albums: Recuerdos De Mi Tierra (1979) and Califas Del Rock (1981) - the first one is highly acclaimed while their second effort is considered as a poor successor.
Recuerdos De Mi Tierra is one of my favourite Prog Andaluz albums because of the obvious Morish undertones (like early Triana), often evoked by the sultry sounding synthesizers. This highly acclaimed album contains six inventive tracks featuring excellent, often expressive Spanish vocals, powerful guitar work and a very tasteful keyboard colouring, from swinging piano and lush organ waves, to fat synthesizer flights. A trademark of Mezquita their music is the exciting interplay between electric guitar and synthesizer, frequently blended with emotional flamenco guitar runs. If you listen to Mezquita, you will be stunned by their dynamic and compelling progressive blend of several styles, from Sixties rock to jazz rock. I am carried away to Prog Andaluz Heaven, what a pity that Mezquita turned out to be a one-shot-band!
DIEGO DE MORON
Diego De Moron is a Flamenco guitarist who decided to broaden his musical horizon, the result is a captivating eponymous album, released in 1977.
On this record flamenco guitarist Diego De Moron is accompanied by members from the known Spanish progrock bands Triana and Granada, a very promising combination! Don’t expect music like Triana, Cai or Mediana Azahara, this music is less symphonic, the focus is on the art of the flamenco guitar. But if you are up to flamenco and progressive rock, Diego De Moron delivers wonderful and often very exciting music. The album contains eight tracks, four with contributions from members from Triana and four with members from Granada. Diego plays the typical flamenco rhythms like Bulerias, Alegrias, Tarantas and Tangos, embellished with typical flamenco guitar techniques like picados (quick runs), tremolo (a trembling sound) and rasgueado (quick downward strokes with the fingers nails). At some moments you hear soaring strings and synthesizers, a very compelling musical experience! The highlight is the most symphonic track entitled Despertar, (almost eight minutes), featuring two members from Granada on keyboards: a lush synthesizer intro, followed by warm flamenco guitar play, handclapping (palmas) and a beautiful string sound with a fine rhythm section (drums/bass). Another good composition is Suenos Rotos featuring the Media Granaina (where Robby Krieger from The Doors based his guitar play on, during Spanish Caravan): the intro has lush synthesizers and the climate is very moving because of the intricate flamenco guitar play. An album to discover for the Prog Andaluz aficionados.
In general this popular band is considered as one of the pioneers in blending rock music with flamenco and their eclectic sound contains elements of Sixties rock, psychedelia, ethnic music and Rock Andalus. Smash released one EP and two albums between 1970 and 1972, disbanded and then reunited in 1978 to make the highly acclaimed LP Vanguardia Y Pureza Del Flamenco.
On the first half of this third Smash album (1978) you can enjoy the very unique atmosphere that was created by blending flamenco and late Sixties rock music (like CCR, The Kinks and Cream): a catchy rhythm and a flower power climate with wah-wah guitar and cheerful flamenco vocals in El Garrotín; flamenco vocals and soli on electric - and flamenco guitar in Alameda's Blues; a great tension between a flamenco rhythm guitar and wah-wah electric guitar and a fiery electric guitar solo in Ni Recuerdo, Ni Olvido; and a flower power atmosphere with biting - and wah-wah guitar, accompanied by Spanish vocals in Tangos De Ketama. The other half of this album is filled with songs that deliver typical flamenco rhythms (compas) like the Tarantos, Soleares, Fandangos and Bulerias featuring exciting flamenco guitar, the distinctive, often wailing flamenco vocals and some 'palmas' (handclapping). In a few tracks guitar player Gualberto (he has delivered a lot of solo albums between 1975 and 1998) plays flamenco on the Indian sitar, very special to hear! I am sure that this music is not every proghead’s ‘cup of tea’ but those who love flamenco music will have a good time.
Triana (founded in Sevilla) is the most legendary and pivotal progressive rock band in Spain. Their debut-album El Patio (1975) remains their most acclaimed effort. It is an exciting blend of flamenco and progressive rock and paved the way to the flamenco-inspired progressive rock in Spain, culminating in bands like Azahar, Cai, Alameda, Qualdaquivir, Mezquita and Medina Azahara.
The opener on El Patio is the long composition Abre La Puerta, it starts with choir-Mellotron, piano and flamenco guitar (tremolo-technique). Then the typical sensitive and skill full flamenco guitar blends with piano and soft synthesizer chords. A fluent and tight rhythm-section carries the music to a powerful acceleration with the typical flamenco vocals, expressive and a bit wailing. The rest of this song contains lots of shifting moods that range from mellow, with flamenco guitar and choir-Mellotron, to propulsive with powerful drums and howling electric guitar - very moving. Most of the other six compositions are in the vein of Abre La Puerta: beautiful shifting climates with typical flamenco elements like palmas (handclapping), rasgueado (quick downward strikes across all strings) and picados (quick runs on the guitar with two fingers), along with tasteful keyboards (organ, synthesizers, Mellotron and piano) and fine electric guitar play. The final two tracks are splendid compositions: beautiful interplay between the flamenco – and electric guitar and a bombastic finale with rasgueado, organ and electric guitar in En El Lago and powerful drums and a howling and biting electric guitar in Recuerdos De Una Noche.
I consider El Patio as Triana's best and most compelling effort, but their second Hijos Del Agobio (1977) and third album Sombra Y Luz (1979) are in the vein of El Patio and worth checking out. Unfortunately, from their fourth release Encuentros (1981), the progrock elements had almost disappeared and Triana's sound became a bit too polished and predictable - although they sold millions with this pop-rock-flamenco formula in the Eighties! In 1983 singer/keyboard player Jesus De La Rosa died in a car-accident and soon Triana called it a day. But the fans kept on buying Traina albums and the many compilations that were released sold very well, without any doubt Triana is the most popular Spanish band ever.
One of the most interesting Triana compilations is Se De Un Lugar, released in a double-fold-out-digi-pack version. It contains two discs with twenty four tracks (many from their best three albums) and for the first time a DVD. That DVD is a 55 minute documentary with footage from several TV music programs like Mundo Pop, Ahora, Popgrama (beautiful scene in a Morish palace) and Aplauso (from ’74 until ’81). Most of the thirteen songs are interrupted by commentary from the band members, people who worked with Triana and who are influenced by Triana, like a musician from Ketama, the known ‘new flamenco movement’. This DVD (thirteen songs, most are long excerpts) gives a good impression of the innovative and exciting sound of Triana: propulsive flamenco solo – and rhythm guitar, howling electric guitar (great double-neck guitar), warm string-ensemble, distinctive Fender Rhodes piano, slow Moog synthesizer runs, lots of Banks-like organ play and great Andalusian vocals (expressive and a bit wailing). Some songs from the later period sound a bit polished (like Corre) but in general this DVD shows a stunning and very talented band that delivers music that has a perfect balance between the emotions and skills performed within electric and acoustic music. If you are up to discovering the wonderful world of flamenco, then this historical document is a splendid Christmas gift. Feliz Navidad y un prospero ano nuevo para todos los aficionados de Triana, el grupo numero uno!
Vega is a guitar player who made two interesting albums for the Prog Andaluz aficionados.
On his debut LP entitled Andaluza (1978) guitar player Tomas Vega delivers a pleasant progressive blend of several styles, with omnipresent flamenco guitar work, perfroming sensitively and with exciting duels with a fiery electric guitar. The atmosphere changes from dreamy, with tender piano or romantic strings, to swinging rhythms with powerful and flowing electric guitar (evoking Triana, Mezquita and Iceberg) and an adventurous rhythm-section. My highlights are Zona Rosa (the first and final part sounds romantic with warm flamenco guitar and tender acoustic piano runs, in between are a swinging rhythm and splendid flamenco guitar work, great electric guitar overdubs, propulsive conga percussion and a dynamic rhythm-section); Origen (this song delivers the most obvious Morish atmosphere: a mid-tempo with an adventurous rhythm-section, exciting flamenco guitar and fiery electric guitar) and Lamentos (the final song delivers great interplay, sensational electric guitar overdubs and alternates between mellow with romantic piano and sensitive flamenco guitar and swinging with fiery electric guitar and Morish undertones).
On his second album entitled Jara (1979) the sound is different, more dynamic and varied with a wider range of keyboards: a swinging rhythm with a strong duel between flamenco – and electric guitar, then the music becomes very dynamic and exciting with a great soli on piano, flamenco – and electric guitar and even the Moog synthesizer. The climate sounds as a blend of flamenco and jazz rock in Jara; a swinging rhythm featuring splendid jazz/flamenco inspired acoustic guitar runs and sensational soli on a jazzy sounding piano and Moog synthesizer in Monterubio; an Andalusian atmosphere, lots of great soli on piano, synthesizer and fiery electric guitar, supported by conga, it sounds like a blend of Carlos Santana and Al Di Meola (Elegant Gypsy-era) in Hornada; and splendid work from the rhythm-section, great electric guitar overdubs and powerful work on the saxophone in Castuera, excellent work!
Two essential Prog Andaluz albums by guitar player Vega who often sounds like a deadringer of Paco De Lucia.
Compliation CD's (Various Artists)
This CD compilation is a perfect introduction, it contains sixteen tracks from five known Prog Andaluz bands: Alameda, Medina Azahara, Iman, Cai and Guadalquivir.
The lion’s share is by Alameda (six songs). In general they sound a bit sentimental featuring romantic violins, tender piano, flamenco guitar and at some moments tear jerking vocals. One of the best compositions on this CD is also by Alameda, it’s titled Amanecer En El Puerto: it contains beautiful, omnipresent keyboards and strong, moving vocals. Another good track from Alameda is Al Caer with its sultry, typical Morish atmosphere.
A very well known band is Medina Azahara, the successor of the legendary Triana, but with a harder-edge and less flamenco inspired. On their three contributions La Esquina Del Viento, Paseando Por La Mezquita (great guitar riff that blends hardrock and flamenco) and Andalucia they deliver an enthusiastic approach with catchy rhythms, Mark Kelly-like synthesizer flights, powerful, often emotional vocals and pleasant variation.
From Iman we got also three songs: the beautiful acoustic Ninos (from their debut-CD released by Musea), Tarantos (wonderful floating guitar sound) and Cancion De La Oruga (very warm and pleasant climate).
One of the finest blends of flamenco and progrock is from Cai on the track Noche Abierta: a wide range of keyboards and exciting flamenco guitar work. Their other song Sone Contigo delivers strong, melancholic vocals and sensitive electric guitar.
Finally there is Quadalquivir with their powerful and dynamic jazz rock-oriented progrock sound. The interplay is great, the keyboard runs are impressive and the guitar play is excellent, here is the Andalusian Carlos Santana! This compilation is essential Spanish progrock, what a masterpiece!
DUENDE ELECTRICO (2CD)
This 2-CD set is another perfect introduction to the wonderful and exciting world of the Spanish progressive rock, loaded with great progrock ideas! The Spanish word 'duende' is used in the art of the flamenco, it points at the extraordinary moments when a flamenco artist has total communion with the audience. These moments are rare but very special, often accompanied by "ole's". On this 2-CD set you will find lots of duende between flamenco and progrock, I compare it with the unique and compelling blend of folk and progrock from Los Jaivas!
On CD1 there is a lot of variety from bands and musicians, the songs are recorded between 1975 and 1994. Smash delivers a powerful blend of rock, blues, flamenco and Sixties (Stones, Yardbirds) featuring fiery electric guitar and typical Spanish vocals. Iceberg, Iman and Gualdalquivir make strong and captivating symphonic jazz
rock with a Morish undertone and great interplay between guitar and keyboards, supported by a dynamic rhythm-section. Gualberto plays a flamenco guitar piece entitled Tarantos Para Jimi Hendrix, it sounds as an exciting blend of rock and flamenco featuring violins and electric - and acoustic guitar. Another good track is Al Andalus from Spanish rock legend Miguel Rios: it contains a typical Morish atmosphere, distinctive vocals from Miguel Rios and a swinging and catchy rhythm. Of course Spanish most pivotal progrock band Triana is included, they play Quiero Contarte featuring wonderful melancholic vocals and compelling progrock. The track Aires De La Alameda from Alameda contains strong Spanish vocals and wonderful piano, it's typical Prog Andaluz just like the final song Hablo De Una Tierra featuring a very moving duet from the violin-Mellotron and flamenco guitar, unique!
CD2 contains songs from bands and musicians that are recorded between 1986 and 1996. Medina Azahara plays heavy progressive with echoes from Marillion, the track Paseando Por La Mezquita is their most Morish/flamenco inspired and sounds powerful and moving. Pata Negra (featuring the Amador brothers) plays an exciting blend of rock, blues and flamenco on acoustic guitars. Raimundo Amador is also included with the band Arrajatabla, they deliver another exciting blend of progrock and flamenco with excellent electric guitar work. A known new band is Ketama with their strong blend of pop, rock and flamenco featuring typical Spanish vocals. A fine surprise is the music from (again) Raimundo Amador in Ay Que Gustino Pa Mis Orejas, he plays an unique mix of Bob Marley inspired reggae (with organ and typical rhythm-guitar) and flamenco, very swinging! Another known new band is Manteca, included with the track Tarila: a fusion-like mix of flamenco guitar and jazzy piano and saxophone. The final song is from Diego De Moron, he is joined by members from GRANADA, the composition Despertar (a 'rondena') delivers a great blend of flamenco guitar and lush keyboards.
HIJOS DEL AGOBIO Y DEL DOLOR (2-CD + DVD)
After the great compilations Rock Andalus (CD) and Duende Electrico (2-CD), here is a new and excellent doorway to the captivating and often exciting Spanish progressive rock: a box set entitled Hijos Del Agobio Y Del Dolor (subtitle: Pioneros Y Origines Del Rock Andaluz) featuring a 2-CD and a docu-DVD.
On CD 1 and 2 you will find many legendary bands like Triana, Medina Azahara, Qualdalquivir, Mezquita, Azahar, Alameda, Iman and Cai. These bands, spearheaded by Triana, blended several styles like symphonic rock, hard rock, jazz rock and rock with flamenco, the ethnic music from Andalusia (Southern Spain): the one moment you will be carried away by a virtuosic flamenco guitar intro, palmas (handclapping) or wailing, expressive vocals, the other moment you will be stunned by howling electric guitar, Hammond and Mellotron waves or quick synthesizer flights, a very exciting experience! Also featured are interesting groups that are more mixing flamenco with blues and rock like Miguel Rios (intricate Morish atmosphere) and All & Nothing (flamenco with swinging piano and fiery guitar) or bands with strong flamenco overtones like Camaron De La Isla (pleasant flamenco guitar work but also a flashy synthesizer solo) and Vega (accessible and catchy flamenco-pop). The band The Storm is more in the vein of Rare Bird and Procol Harum delivering a Hammond organ drenched sound.
CD-2 is more focussed on special sounding bands like Tabletom (swinging mix of flute, saxophone and piano) and Gualberto (wonderful blend of flamenco, raw electric guitar and vintage keyboards like the string-ensemble), the bluesy Cuarto Menguante and the Sixties band Tarantos (1969) delivering a pleasant mix of pop, rock and flamenco. My highlight is the track Nuevo Dia by Lole Y Manuel featuring moving female vocals, wailing cello, some Mellotron and great flamenco guitar work, an exciting, very compelling song!
The DVD is a documentary about the development of the Spanish progressive rock between the late Sixties and early Seventies, focussed on the known band Smash. Their guitar player Gualberto tells his story along many other legendary or known early Spanish progressive rock musicians. The documentary also contains stories about the Underground scene, the drugs, the gypsies and the blend of flamenco and fusion. Unfortunately there is little live footage from bands, only some shots from Gong and Smash but no Cai, Triana or Azahar. Nonetheless, this documentary (in Spanish, not subtitled) is a warm and pleasant view on an unique progrock scene. If you want to discover the exciting Spanish progrock scene, this box set is a must!
SABICAS – Rock Encounter With Joe Beck
In my eternal quest to Prog Andaluz music, I stumbled upon this unique and very interesting musical project from 1966, probably the first musical encounter between flamenco and rock music! In those days Joe Beck was a respected composer and rock guitarist, he had played in symphonic orchestras and performed with the top names in rock and jazz (from Tim Hardin to Steve Gadd). After making the album Middle Eastern Rock with Oud player John Berberian, Joe’s producer Harvey Cowen suggested Joe to do the same with flamenco and rock. He succeeded to recruit flamenco guitar legend Sabicas (1912-1990, thanks to Sabicas his brother Diego because he wanted Sabicas to scout the musical boundaries. Now Joe decided to assemble the best New York era musicians: drummer Donald McDonald (in The Satyrs he had jammed with Frank Zappa, Ritchie Havens and Jimi Hendrix), 20 year old bass player Tony Levin (introduced to jazz and rock by Steve Gadd, later he joined Peter Gabriel his band and King Crimson, playing on the distinctive Stick) and keyboardplayer Warren Bernhardt (he has accompanied singers like Donald Fagen, Carly Simon, Art Garfunkel, Ritchie Havens and Liza Minelli), wow, what an awesome line-up!
- Inca Song (5:15) : The first and final part deliver the jaw-dropping art of the flamenco guitar, from twanging and rhythm to speedy runs (‘picados’), very exciting! Halfway an accellaration featuring a powerful rhythm-section, howling electric guitar and an organ solo. This is the typical 1966-1969 Sixties rock sound and it’s captivating to hear the blend of passionate flamenco guitarwork and raw rock.
- Joe's Tune (3:49) : This track contains a Morish atmosphere with flamenco guitar, jazzy piano and again howling electric guitar, culminating in an exciting duel between wah-wah drenched electric guitar and speedy flamenco guitar runs.
- Zapateado (9:36) : This word means ‘tapping with the shoes’, it’s all about speed and control in a cheerful climate. The first part contains pure flamenco with guitar and ‘zapateado’, the second part sounds like Jimi Hendrix inspired rock, two different worlds but very enthralling!
- Zambra (4:02) : The ‘zambra’ is the most Morish influenced flamenco rhythm and Sabicas is a master in playing the ‘zambra’ (my recommendation: the DVD Sabicas: King Of The Flamenco). You can also enjoy the ‘tremolo technique’ (imagine the guitar piece Recuerdos De La Alhambra by F. Tarrega), wonderful! Then rock with organ and fiery guitar, very powerful with that warm undertone of The Sixties.
- Handclaps (0:31) : In the flamenco it is named ‘palmas’, a very distinctive part of the flamenco.
- Flamenco Rock (7:25) : Halfway this album the bands starts to rock, in a bluesy climate we can enjoy a blend of Hammond organ, howling electric guitar and exciting flamenco guitar (from picados to tremolo), this is great Prog Andaluz!
- Bulerias (7:25) : This track contains vocals in the flamenco tradition (very emotional), it fits perfectly with the compelling work on Hammond organ and sensitive electric guitar, the blend of flamenco and rock sounds like early Triana, goose bumps!
- Farruca (4:45) : The first part contains the art of the flamenco guitar (beautiful tremolo), then a slow rhythm with swirling Hammond organ, powerful drums and bass and Paco De Lucia-like flamenco guitar runs, again goose bumps, what a hot session!
The circumstances in the recording studio were not easy: it was hard to communicate between the Spanish guitarist and the English musicians and it’s still very difficult to amplify an acoustic guitar and also quickly overshadowed rock instruments like the drums, bass, guitar and organ. Sabicas was not really satisfied about the result (“I did it for my brother”).
Juan Martin is a flamenco player who wanted to broaden his musical horizon and moved to England, he wrote books about the flamenco guitar technique and played together with rock musicians. The album Picasso Portraits is one of his many musical projects and in my opinion his best.
On this record Juan Martin has invited an impressive list of guest musicians: drummer Ian Mosley (Trace and Marillion), bass player John Gustafson (Quatermass and Roxy Music), Simon Phillips (one of the best session drummers) and keyboardist Tony Hymas (both on the splendid Jeff Beck albums Wired and There And Back). The result is an exciting meeting between the world of the flamenco guitar and the progressive rock, this is one of my favourite LP’s and recently released as a digitally remastered CD version. You can enjoy lots of captivating music: great interplay between the quick flamenco guitar runs and a dynamic rhythm-section, embellished by the typical flamenco handclapping in Harlequin, a sensitive duet from the flamenco guitar and the Memorymoog synthesizer and halfway there is a sensational break featuring sweeping drums, spectacular synthesizer sounds and rattling castanet's followed by a mid-tempo with splendid runs on the guitar and a fine colouring by the keyboards in Desire Caught By The Tail, a swinging and catchy rhythm with a funky bass, powerful drums and exciting rasgueado play (quick downward strokes from the nails on the guitar strings) in Three Musicians, an exciting blend of typical flamenco elements (based a ‘bulerias’, one of the more complex flamenco rhythms) and the technical sound of the progrock: handclapping and quick flamenco runs blended with a funky bass and pitchbend-driven Moog flights in The Aficionado. My highlights are two very special sounding compositions. First Girls Of Algiers (based upon a ‘zambra mora’, the most Arabian-influenced flamenco rhythms): it starts with swelling keyboards, drums and bass, then great interplay between the flamenco guitar, keyboards and rhythm-section, its sounds very dynamic. The tension between the spectacular Moog flights from Hymas and the quick runs on the flamenco guitar delivers a captivating climate, in the end there is a magnificent duel). Second The Picador: a cheerful climate – malaguenas - with catchy and powerful interplay from the flamenco guitar, rhythm-section and keyboards featuring sensational Moog runs, halfway the music slows down and then goes faster and faster until an abundant atmosphere.
This album is not just another smooth rumba-drenched blend of flamenco and rock but an exciting and often sparkling meeting of the flamenco guitar and the progressive rock, highly recommended!
New Spanish Progrock Bands And The 'Prog Andaluz Factor'
I discovered this new Spanish band while surfing on a Spanish website. The very positive review about their debut CD entitled El Profeta (2004) seduced me to order it, and what a discovery it was! Bijou is an instrumental five piece band that plays progrock that sounds like ‘neo-symphonic rock’.
The seven compositions on the album (with a running time of more than one hour) are absolutely marvellous: lush and varied keyboards (from sparkling piano to bombastic orchestrations), very moving duo-guitar work (many sensitive and howling soli, harder-edged riffs or twanging guitars), a splendid and energetic rhythm-section and lots of shifting moods, accelerations and great soli on keyboards and guitar. The highlight on El Profeta for me is the epic titletrack (in three parts, almost 25 minutes) in which they manage to create a very captivating Morish climate, featuring keyboards that sounds like the flamenco guitar in the piece "Zambra mora", one of the most Arabian inspired flamenco rhythms. I hope Bijou will not turn into an one-shot-band and deliver more exciting Prog Andaluz moments!
This is a new Spanish seven-piece formation that is rooted in 2001 when six members met at The Spanish School Of Popular Music in Madrid. ElBicho released their eponymous debut album in 2003, followed by ElBicho II in 2005 and ElBicho VII in 2007. ElBicho also released three singles entitled De Los Malos and Locura (both in 2003) and Los Rokipankis (2007).
Their music is an adventurous blend of Seventies Classic Rock/Prog (from Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd and King Crimson) and flamenco in the vein of Camaron and Paco De Lucia (Jorge Pardo and Carlos Benavente of the Paco De Lucia sextet collaborated with the release of their first album). This is certainly one of the most adventurous and unique Spanish progrock bands in the last decade. Their music can be discovered by visiting the band's official website.
Senogul is an instrumental band from Asturias that was rooted in 2002. It took three years before they released a self-produced the mini CD entitled Tránsitos, it contains six new compositions played live in the studio. In 2007 Senogul released an eponymous second album featuring 12 compositions including new versions of all five tracks from the debut album entitled Transitos.
The music sounds on one hand very melodic and in general accessible and on the other hand varied and elaborate. My highlights are the two compositions in which Senogul blends several styles and we can enjoy lots of shifting moods: first Tango Mango that sounds as a hybrid of tango, symphonic prog, avant-garde, classical and jazz delivering both synthesizer – and guitar soli as sparkling play on accordion and harpsichord and second La Mulatta Electrica, loaded with tension and exciting musical ideas, from Al Di Meola-like symphonic jazz rock (fiery guitar and a propulsive rhythm-section) to Prog Andaluz (including palmas/handclapping and jealous/cheerful shouts) with swinging piano and moving electric guitar runs, how captivating!
The prime mover of this promising new Spanish progrock band is Luis Massot (vocals, bass and ‘laud’). In the late Eighties and early Nineties he was a member of Elikat (described as ‘melodic metal’ and ‘neo classical hard rock’), this band released a demo (1987), an EP entitled Caught In Love (1989) and the album Electrikat (1991). Then he joined Mr. Cheese in London where the idea to blend rock and an ethnic Spanish sound resulted in the foundation of a new group named Ziryab. A few months later and after many concerts, the band was signed under the new name Taifa by the Spanish label Avispa Records that also hosts the popular Spanish Rock Andaluz band Medina Azahara. Their singer Manuel Martinez produced the first Taifa album Más Allá Del Sur in 1999. The self-produced video clip Guitarra - Espejo De Mi Alma was warmly received by the media and the public. Then Taifa did numerous gigs in Mallorca, Andalusia and the rest of Spain and they joined the Al-Lama festival in Oued Laou (Tetuan-Morocco). In 2004 the demo CD Fe (3 tracks) was released, four years later followed by the second studio-album entitled Alhambra. The trio Taifa recorded it in Mallorca, Andalusia and Morocco and invited guest musicians with different musical and cultural backgrounds who used a wide range of ethnic instruments. Taifa also released a video clip entitled Las Torres De Babel, filmed in the north of Morocco, you can watch it on the Taifa website, to me it looks very professional.
On the new album Alhambra (10 songs, 42 minutes) Taifa is scouting the borders between heavy metal, Rock Andaluz and ethnic music. Although at some moments the climates are a bit similar, in general Taifa their music sounds as an exciting musical encounter of two different worlds: metal featuring a thunderous rhythm-section, heavy guitar riffs and blistering and biting guitar solos with spectacular use of the wah-wah pedal and the art of the flamenco with sparkling guitar runs (reminding me of Vicente Amigo his splendid work on Medina Azahara their album En El-Hakim), expressive vocals with that typical wailing undertone (to me often evoking Medina Azahara and in the more mellow parts Alameda) and some palmas and cajon. An extra dimension in Taifa their progressive musical stew is the use of keyboards, samples and ethnic instruments like the Andalusian violin. This instrument turns out to be a wonderful combination with the flamenco guitar and a great contrast with the heavy metal guitar and powerful drums in many songs. And I love the captivating duel between the violin and a fiery electric guitar in Mendigos De Una Ilusión. I am also very pleased with the sultry sound of the laud (a 12-string Spanish lute) in the intro of the song Fe. My highlights are the tracks Nunca Es Tarde (from mellow with warm vocals and tender piano, to compelling with heavy guitar work), La Casa Del Olvido (sensational blend of heavy metal climates and the sound of the flamenco guitar and violin) and Por Un Trocito De Cielo (to me it sounds like “Alameda meets Metallica” with emotional vocal parts).
If you are up to heavy metal atmospheres and a strong touch of flamenco with emotional Spanish vocals (often in the vein of Medina Azahara’s singer Manual Martinez), this adventurous progressive music will appeal to you. I am very curious as to the development of this promising new Spanish formation, a big hand for Taifa!
Zaguán was founded in 1997, they started as a Triana cover band. Not surprisingly if you listen to the singer who sounds like the second coming of Jesus De La Rosa, the Triana keyboard player/singer who tragically died in a car accident in 1983. If I compare Zaguán their own compositions to Triana I analyse that Zaguán sound less symphonic (short compositions and a small range of keyboards) and more folky because of the more omnipresent flamenco guitar.
The eleven songs on this second CD Testigo Del Tiempo (2005) (their debut album Zaguán was released in 2002) are a very melodic and tasteful progressive blend of rock, folk and symphonic featuring strong and expressive vocals (but not that typical wailing of the flamenco singers), some fiery and howling electric guitar and fluent Hammond organ soli and lots of exciting flamenco guitar runs. If you like Rock Andalus, especially Triana, this great Spanish prog folk band is worth to check out, what a moving experience!