Underground Spanish Prog Albums From The 70s And 80s, Part 2
updates by Andy Read and Jerry van Kooten
Goma — 14 Abril
This interesting one-shot-band is from the wonderful Andalusian city of Seville, the cradle of the flamenco.
Goma featured ex-members from pioneering Spanish prog bands Gong and Smash. A standard progressive quartet with a saxman added. After Goma disbanded the musicians joined Prog Andaluz bands like Gal, Veneno and Iman.
The instrumental music on this, their only album, 14 Abril (four compositions, between 8 and 12 minutes) is a dynamic and powerful blend of rock, jazz, psychedelia, flamenco and experimental (hints from early King Crimson).
There is captivating interplay between guitar, keyboards and saxophone (evoking VDGG) as in the alternating Aqui y ahora (strong breaks and a lush Hammond organ sound) and the exciting Madre Tierra (splendid flamenco guitar work and fiery electric guitar runs).
The album is named after an important date for them, the day they decided to join together. Apparently they also decided to release this album on the precise day one year later. This is a nice piece of Spanish prog-rock history.
The album was released on cassette and on LP in a gatefold sleeve in 1975. It has been reissued a couple of times, including CD in 1995 and in 2004, and should not be too hard to find. Guitarist Manuel Rodríguez Gómez was also in the band called Imán, Califato Independiente.
Granada — Hablo de una tierra
Here's one of most acclaimed Spanish prog-rock bands. Their sound is very eclectic and unlike any other Spanish prog-rock band. Granada's music is very easy available on CD.
Granada was the musical project of multi-instrumentalist Carlos Carcamowho played flute, violin, acoustic and electric piano, Mellotron, clavicordio, 12-string guitar, percussion and vocals. Pretty amazing if you ask me.
On this album, he is supported by a band of Michael Vorteflich (guitar), Antonio Garcia Oteyza (bass), and Juan Bona (drums, percussion, vocals), plus a host of guest musicians.
The debut album Hablo de una tierra is their most original album in my opinion and a good example of the original Spanish approach towards prog-rock. The six compositions sound very diverse (from rock and bluesy to Latin and symphonic) with strong Spanish vocals, powerful guitar (some biting solos), pleasant keyboards (many beautiful Mellotron waves) and Ian Anderson-inspired flute play. The title track includes a splendid and unique duet from the Mellotron and flamenco guitar by guest-musician Manolo Sanlucar. This always gives me goosebumps, and is one of my favourite Mellotron-drenched tracks!
The band released two more albums, Espana Ano (1976) and Valle De Pas (1978), before splitting in 1979. All three albums can be found together on Discografia basica (2003).
Las Grecas — Gipsy Rock
The story of these two singing sisters started as a dream and ended in a tragedy. In the early 70s, flamenco guitar hero Paco De Lucia (in those days he had a hit single with the song Entre Dos Aguas) discovered the talents of Carmela Muñoz Barull and Edelina Muñoz Barrull (aka Tina). They had gypsy blood and one of their godfathers was the legendary flamenco artist Camarón de La Isla.
In 1974, the two young sisters released a debut album entitled Gipsy Rock under the name Las Grecas. It was recorded with some of the best studio musicians around (like Luis Cobo). The pioneering sound is a catchy blend of rock, flamenco and pop and was an instant success. The single Te Estoy Amando Locamente topped the national charts for five weeks!
Las Grecas' popularity was a huge boost to the use of flamenco elements in popular music, the impact of their sound was immense and changed the music-scene in Spain. For sure, they were the key-artists in converting flamenco influences into something cool that can be enjoyed by the wider public. In fact Las Grecas have become part of Spain's popular culture.
Las Grecas released four albums: Gipsy Rock (1974), Mucho mas (1975), Tercer album (1976), and Casta viva (1978). Then in 1979 the duo had to be disbanded because Tina's was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1983 Tina stabbed her sister in her arm with a knife and was taken first to a prison and then to several mental hospitals. Unfortunately things went even worse. Tina lost all her money, her work and her children (who went up for adoption), became homeless, slept on the streets for more than 10 years, and finally died in a homeless shelter in 1995. A few years later (in 1998) her sister Carmela reformed Las Grecas with Alicia Robledo Benavente.
The focus on Las Grecas their sound on the debut album Gipsy Rock is focussed on the powerful and passionate vocals by Carmela and Tina. The flamenco roots are obvious. But no flamenco guitars, all songs are layered with rocking electric guitars, from flowing and moving Carlos Santana-inspired to fiery, raw and distorted with hints from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. The atmospheres contain catchy and swinging rhythms, often tastefully coloured by piano and organ. Don't expect Prog Andaluz in the vein of Triana but just enjoy how pleasantly Las Grecas scouts the borders between rock, flamenco and pop, topped by the strong and flamenco-inspired vocals of Carmela and Tina. What a unique effort.
Only the second album, Muchos mas was ever released officially on CD, the other three are unavailable digitally (as far as we were able to find out). In 2007, a bootleg CD was released of this first album, though.
Ibio — Cuevas de Altamira
Here we have another fine example of the original approach of the Spanish prog-rock bands. Ibio are from the Cantabria area and consisted of Lily Alegria (bass, vocals), Mario Gómez Calderón (keyboards, synthesizers, Mellotron, clavinet), Ito Luna (drums), and Dioni Sobrado (guitars).
The first track of Ibio's debut album Cuevas De Altamira evokes the best of early King Crimson: melodic, 24-carat symphonic rock with majestic Mellotron eruptions. But then the music turns into a surprising mix of traditional northern Spanish folk songs and prog-rock. It is pretty unique to hear these folk instruments alongside electric guitar and keyboards. A classic album.
The band disappeared shortly after this album's release in 1978, but three of the four members made a comeback album, El regreso, in 2006.
Iceberg — Coses nostres
This Spanish band came from Barcelona and was formed in 1974. (I also wrote about them in Prog Andaluz #1.) The debut album Tutankhamon (1975) is their most "symphonic rock-oriented" release offering tasteful songs with many shifting moods, ranging from fluent with biting and howling, wah-wah drenched guitar solos, to dreamy with floods of choir-Mellotron and tender Fender Rhodes piano. The vocals are often passionate (not everybody's cup of tea) and the interplay between guitar and keyboards is flowing. A perfect blend of skills and emotion.
But Iceberg's most acclaimed effort is their second album entitled Coses nostres. It is instrumental and has a more jazz-rock inspired musical direction. The band delivers outstanding, very melodic instrumental music in the realm of jazz-rock along with some fusion.
You will be carried away by the seven dynamic compositions with lots of interesting musical ideas. We have fiery guitar, swinging bass, subtle Fender Rhodes electric piano and sensational Minimoog flights in Preludi I Record, a strong Andalusian undertone, captivating shifting moods and spectacular wah-wah guitar and dazzling Minimoog runs in Nova, John McLaughlin-inspired acoustic guitar and swinging jazzy piano in L'Acustica, flashy synthesizer flights, fiery electric guitar in the songs and an amazing rhythm-section in the songs La d'en Kitflus and 11/8, and an exciting pitch-bend-driven Minimoog solo in the mellow A Valencia.
My highlight is the song La flamenca electrica: first soaring keyboards and strong clavinet runs, then a swinging rhythm with strong Andalusian undertones featuring spectacular work on guitar and keyboards. If you like jazz-rock, this band should in your collection!
Iceberg continued their steady output with Sentiments (1977) and Arc-en-Ciel (1978). Their final release was the live-LP En directe from 1979, after which they disbanded.
Itoiz — Itoiz
Itoiz was founded in Mutriku/Ondarroa, Basque Country, Spain in 1976, by Joseba Erkiaga (flute), A. Azkarraga (bass), Estanis Osinalde (drums), J.C. Perez (guitars) and Jose A. Fernandez (Fender Rhodes piano, Grand piano, Hammond organ, Kong Polyphonic ensemble, ARP synthesizer).
They are one of the most original sounding Spanish prog-rock bands, due to the very distinctive Basque vocals. The band released seven studio albums between 1978 and 1988. I prefer this one, their debut LP.
To me, it sounds as one of the finest examples of Spanish progressive folk rock. The eight compositions still carry me away to prog-folk heaven, what a wonderful music! As a huge fan of native vocals I am delighted about the slightly high-pitched Basque vocals, these fit perfectly with the warm keyboard sound (organ, synthesizers, string-ensemble, Fender electric and Grand piano), sensitive electric guitar work and folky elements like twanging acoustic guitars and flute.
Later albums sounded less in the symphonic rock tradition. This is one of my favourite all-time prog-folk albums.
From their fourth album Itoiz were largely a pop band, creating straight catchy melodies. With these later albums they became one of the most successful Basque groups in the eighties. They broke up in 1988.
A full seven-album box-set, Bilduma was released in 2000.
Unusually, as of 2023, a website still exists for the band.
Neuronium — Quasar 2C361
In the second half of the 70s I discovered the fascinating world of Tangerine Dream (1974-1977 era) and early Klaus Schulze. Soon I started to dig for more.
In those days you could buy tons of electronic music LPs in the legendary record store Boudisque in Amsterdam. I did, and especially Neuronium turned out to be one of my favourites, from the first album Quasar 2C361 (1977) to Heritage (1984). This electronic music formation was founded by Michel Huygen (born in Belgium), fellow keyboard player Carlos Guirao and guitarist Albert Gimenez (who left the band after their disappointing second album Vuelo Quimico in 1978).
Michel had played in psychedelic rock bands. With Neuronium he started to play jazz-oriented music during a string of concerts in their embryonic phase. However on this first effort it's mainly Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze-inspired electronic music; ambient electronic landscapes with lush synthesizer-strings and soaring string-ensemble, pulsating sequencers and slow, hypnotizing synthesizer flights.
The guitar player adds a special flavour to the music with his howling runs and moving solos, especially in the final part of El Valle De Rimac where we can enjoy a wonderful blend of synthesizer and electric guitar. That was Neuronium's trademark in the early years.
In the long title track the band delivers a first and final part with a beautiful strings sound, flute and twanging acoustic guitar in a dreamy atmosphere.
Although the climates sound a bit similar on Neuronium's first album, to me this sounds like warm and pleasant electronic music. And it was the start of an interesting career for Michel Huygen. Later he would collaborate with Tangerine Dream, Steve Roach and Klaus Schulze, and in 1994 he performed on the legendary Dutch electronic music festival KLEM also featuring Chris Franke in that year.
From the late 80s, Neuronium became a solo project from Michel, eventually releasing more than 40 studio and live albums under the Neuronium and his own name, plus several albums in collaboration with other big names like Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra, Mark Shreeve, and also appearing in special records with Enya, Mike Oldfield, Suzanne Ciani. His most recent album under the Neuronium name, Ikigai, was released in 2022. A good starting point would perhaps be a 'best of' compilation, Essentialia released in 2019. Lots more information can be found on his excellent website (link above).
Miguel Rios — Al-Andalus
Singer Miguel Rios is one of the most experienced musicians in Spain. He has released a lot of albums (from prog and rock to commercial) between the mid-70s and now. On the DVD entitled Rock And Rios (live 2005) you can even witness Dutch legend Thijs Van Leer!
His most interesting era was in the 70s, especially the albums La Huerta Atomica (1976) that features many Spanish prog musicians, and Al-Andalus (1978) on which some members of the Prog Andaluz band Guadalquivir join the veteran.
On Al-Andalus we can enjoy a very varied sound, topped with Miguel's distinctive vocals. On the one hand we have flamenco-inspired (Morish atmosphere in the title track) or jazz-rock (swinging rhythms with outstanding work on guitar and synthesizers in Azahara and Un Dia En Mojacar). And there are moments where the music is a blend of several styles (string arrangements and a sensitive guitar solo in Guadalquivir and brass, piano and an excellent build-up guitar solo in Balada De La Alondra Y El Gavilan). There is even a sentimental ballad, La Blanca Oscuridad, featuring, in the end, a part of the guitar piece Recuerdos De La Alhambra by Tarrega.
This is a fine collection of unique progressive music from Spain.
This album was reissued in 1985 on LP and a remastered version on CD came out in 2005. Miguel Rios is still recording and performing, with a Spanish tour scheduled for the end of 2023.
The Storm — The Storm
This is a Spanish band that was founded in 1969 in Seville by brothers Angel and Diego Ruiz (Angel on guitar and vocals, and Diego on drums) and school friend Jose Torres on bass. But their music had nothing in common with Prog Andaluz bands (like Smash, Triana and Medina Azahara) as they started to play covers from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Guess Who.
Soon after a fourth member, Luis Genil on organ, joined and the band changed their name from Los Tormentos into The Storm. Everybody was impressed by the progressive hard rock of Led Zeppelin and especially Deep Purple. Then Storm changed their musical direction: a heavy rock sound with omnipresent Hammond organ work. They joined gigs with known Spanish rock bands Smash and Maquina! and gradually The Storm became pretty popular among the hard rock aficionados.
In 1974 the band finally released their eponymous debut album. The single I've Got To Tell Your Mama / It's Alright even reached the top in the Spanish charts! And The Storm impressed Freddy Mercury when they were support-act for Queen during one concert. The sky looked very bright but unfortunately due to different reasons like work overload, military service and a changing musical taste in Spain, things didn't work out as planned. In 1979 their second album entitled El dia de la tormenta was released but with a new bass player and a hardly recognisable sound, a bit of a sad goodbye. Perhaps we can cynically conclude that The Storm was heavy but a short one.
On their debut album The Storm delivers mainly rock songs with simple (mainly) English lyrics, heavy guitar work and cascades of Hammond organ (great solos in Woman Mine and It's All Right). Often Atomic Rooster (John DuCann line-up) comes to my mind because of the swirling Hammond organ, fiery electric guitar and exciting heavy climates.
At some moments The Storm surprises the listener with interesting musical ideas like in the long and progressive Crazy Machine (biting wah-wah guitar and jazzy interlude with outstanding Hammond work), I Don't Know (break with swinging rhythm guitar and lush Hammond) and Experiencia Sin Organo (Black Sabbath meets Led Zeppelin with heavy guitar runs and no organ as the title suggests).
If you like Hammond-drenched progressive hard rock like Atomic Rooster, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, this band is worth checking out.
This debut has long been a prized item among vinyl collectors and is very hard to find. However, both of their albums are available in a 2CD box set entitled Lost In Time released in 2013. Pressed in a limited edition of just 1000 copies, however.
Tarantula — Tarantula I
Tarantula is one of the many Spanish prog-rock bands that emerged in the second half of the 70s, spearheaded by Triana, Blogue and Granada. Founded in Valencia in 1973, they disbanded in 1978 after releasing only two albums.
The two releases are totally different. The self-titled debut (1976) contains wonderful, vintage keyboard-drenched symphonic prog. The second album, Tarantula 2, was released in 1978 with a different line-up and delivers a harder-edged and more direct approach with hints of early Uriah Heep. Here is a track-by-track run-through of that excellent debut album.
Recuerdos (Memories): The atmosphere in the first and final part alternates between mellow (with flute-Mellotron and soft Minimoog flights) and bombastic with dramatic vocals and majestic violin-Mellotron eruptions. It is very moving! The mid-section features an acceleration with Hammond floods and fiery electric guitar. This sound brings German prog bands like Jane and Ramses to my mind.
La araña y la mosca (The Spider And The Fly): First a pleasant harmony of cheerful flute-Mellotron drops, fat Minimoog sounds, Emersonian Hammond waves and fiery electric guitar runs. Then the mood shifts from dreamy, with tender piano and melancholical vocals, to slow with sensitive electric guitar work and a catchy rhythm with a lush vintage keyboard sound (Mellotron, Hammond and Moog).
Singladura final (Final Voyage): This song starts and ends with a beautiful, mellow atmosphere featuring twanging guitar, soft organ waves, a warm string sound and wonderful vocals. The break halfway contains pure rock-and-roll with heavy guitar and raw vocals. How surprising!
Un mundo anterior (A World Before): A slow rhythm contains flute and violin-Mellotron, followed by a very sensitive electric guitar solo and tender piano runs. Goosebumps! The tension between the grand piano, flute-Mellotron and electric guitar is great and carries me away to prog-heaven.
Imperio muerto (Dead Empire): This long track opens with a psychedelic atmosphere, due to a haunting organ and ominous fat Moog flights. Then lots of changing climates with sensational Minimoog runs, another rock-and-roll break and dramatic vocals. Excellent!
La danza del diablo (The Devil's Dance): A mid-tempo song with strong interplay between organ and electric guitar and a swirling Hammond organ solo.
Lydia: A short piece that sounds Bach-inspired, with warm classical guitar and powerful organ.
Paisajes pintorescos (Picturesque Landscapes): This final composition is very alternating with the sound of a harpsichord, fiery electric guitar work and great, very expressive vocals. The final part delivers an up-tempo rhythm with wonderful vocals, lush organ and a harder-edged guitar solo. It is very dynamic and exciting.
Both albums have been reissued a couple of times, including on CD in the 1990s on the South-Korean prog-friendly Si-Wan label. In 2006, both albums appeared on CD on the Walhalla label, marked as "remastered". Walhalla is, however, regarded as a bootleg label. No info on the label exists, and not on the origins of the mastering either.
Keyboard player Vicente Guillot played in some other bands afterwards and released albums with Borne, Praxis, and Alquimia.