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Prog Andaluz #1

Under the Specials banner, DPRP.net published a lot of articles that were not album or concert reviews: interviews and general articles on anything prog. In 2008/2009, Erik Neuteboom wrote a series of articles. As with the re-publication of Erik's DVD Special, his Prog Andaluz article was very popular at the time.

In preparation of a sequel Erik wrote (which will be published soon), we are now re-publishing his original 2009 article in three parts. This could be the start of an exploration mission for many readers.

Introduction

Erik Neuteboom 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 prog-rock 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 with Joe Beck - Rock Encounter from the late 1960s as the first musical encounter between flamenco and progressive music - a few years before Smash.

After the release of this album, it took almost ten years until halfway through the Seventies, before the Prog Andaluz movement really started to blossom. This was 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. There is the wealthy, upper-middle class world with the "stiff upper-lip" mentality found in mainly Southern England, in which progressive music was considered as an interesting and adventurous way to earn a living. And on the other hand there is the poor and emotional world of the flamenco musicians in Andalusia, whose music was the perfect way to express emotions, the same as fado in Portugal and the blues in the USA.

From the second half of the seventies, in Spain, many young prog-rock bands got inspired by Triana's music. Soon, the Prog Andaluz movement emerged.

Let me guide you through the most interesting bands and albums. Let me start with some recommended bands and albums from A to Z.

Erik Neuteboom


Alameda

Between 1979 and 1983, Alameda produced four studio albums. The band split up in 1983, but re-united in 1994, releasing another three studio albums and one live CD: a registration from their 20th anniversary concert in 1999.

In 2003, CBS released a 2CD compilation featuring all the tracks from their first four studio-albums. 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 and emotional. That typical flamenco undertone (without the usual wailing expression, though) 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 and flamenco (along with contributions by flamenco guitar legends Tomatito and Paco De Lucia).

If you want to discover the Prog Andaluz then this comprehensive 2CD set is a must!

(1979) (1980) (1981) (1983)


Azahar

This Spanish four-piece band made two fine albums. Their 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 compositions and arrangements 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 solos 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 second CD is a very fine example of the unique Spanish type of prog-rock: harmonic, melodic and tasteful compositions above self-indulgence.

These two albums also featured in Menno's Collectors Corner #4!


Cai

Cai was a Spanish quintet who released three very melodic-sounding albums, entitled Mas allá de nuestros mentes diminutas (1978), Noche abierta (1980), and Canción de la primavera (1981) before they disbanded. (One reunion CD was released in 2010.) A few years ago (1995), the second and third albums were released on a single CD.

Don't expect very complex music or typical prog-rock 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. It features 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 prog-rock, embellished with some flamenco, Cai is for you!


Granada

Granada (read their entry in The Spanish Progressive Rock Encyclopedia) hailed from Madrid. It was the musical project of multi-instrumentalist Carlos Carcamo. He plays flute, violin, acoustic and 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 typical, original Spanish approach towards prog-rock. The title track is worth discovering for every Prog Andaluz aficionado because it includes a splendid and unique duet from the unsurpassed Mellotron (violin section) and flamenco guitar by guest-musician Manolo Sanlucar. Goose bumps!

(1975) (1976) (1978)


Guadalquivir

Once, Guadalquivir were the support act of Spanish legend Triana, and also for another Spanish rock legend named Miguel Rios. In their first era (1978 - 1983), they released three albums.

Guadalquivir played instrumental progressive jazz-rock/fusion on a high level. It reminds me of Return To Forever: tight, powerful, excellent solos and dynamic, 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.

(1978) (1980) (1983)


Iceberg

Iceberg were an excellent Spanish four-piece who delivered outstanding, very melodic, instrumental music in the realm of jazz-rock, along with some fusion. They released four studio albums and one live record, released between 1975 and 1979.

On their album Coses nostres from 1976 you will be carried away by the seven dynamic compositions that have lots of interesting musical ideas. My highlight is the song La flamenca electrica, which is a perfect example of Prog Andaluz: first soaring keyboards and strong clavinet runs, then a swinging rhythm with strong Andalusian undertones featuring spectacular work on guitar and keyboards.

(1975) (1976) (1977) (1978) (1978)


Iman

The Spanish prog-rock quartet Imán, Califato Independiente has its origins at a convention, given by the meditation guru Maja-raj-ji, in the mid 1970s. Like genuine hippies, the musicians lived together in one house in El Puerto De Sta Maria, where Iman was founded.

In 1978, an eponymous debut album was released, followed two years later by Camino del Aguila. Iman also appeared on the Spanish compilation albums Rock Andalus (1994) and the 2CD set Duende electrico (1997).

The music on their two albums sounds like jazz-rock meets Prog Andaluz, with the emphasis on jazz rock. There are wonderful, varied vintage keyboards (piano, synthesizers, string-ensemble, harpsichord, organ) and exciting interplay and duels between guitar and keyboards. In some songs the guitarist sounds like the Spanish twin-brother of Carlos Santana!

Almost every composition has more or less compelling Moorish undertones and one track is even entitled Tarantos del califato independiente (the title points at a strong rhythm in flamenco music). In my opinion, Iman represents a very exciting fusion of Prog Andaluz and jazz rock.

(1978) (1980)

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