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Carmen - Dancing on a Cold Wind CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.73 | 84 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Carmen's second album is a full-blown concept album, about a prostitute turned into a dancer lost her lifetime love. Sounds cheeeeeeeesy?? Ya betcha, and you'd better get the "patta negra" cold cuts to go along with the "manchego" fondue. Carmen joins the club of prog groups toying with cigarette packs: after label mates Procol Harum's A Salty Dog album with John Player's medallion and Camel's Mirage album with Camel, Carmen toys with the French Gitane ciggie pack (note that JJ Cale will also mess with this foggy artwork), this trend is not only "impolitecally correct" (who gives a hoot, right?;-) but also shows a lack of imagination. Please note that Line label also screws up the track separation on this album, but at least the album is in its entirety this time.

Anyway, Carmen's concept piece tells us the tribulation of this hooker looking for the real stuff (after having sold the bad acetate for years;-), but it is rather hard to get into the story, because of the fairly weak lyrics, and hitting rock bottom we the almost- ridiculous sidelong Remembrances suite. But if lyrically this album is weak (I will avoid the word insignificant, because there is a concept), musically the album is rather good, and songwriting-wise a vast improvement over the debut album. We are still in the pop- rock realm of Queen, 10 CC and The Sparks (and at times Klaatu's Hope album) with that flamenco influence. The vocal parts are also improved and come at times as almost- operatic, and the album is augmented by string and brass section arranged by producer Tony Visconti.

And as cheesy the concept of that sidelong suite is, musically it works quite well (the strings thicken the plot when necessary) and the mood is more to other-than-flamenco Spanish moods (Aranjuez Concerto-type of dramatics) and the many musical twists are everything a symphonic proghead is asking for. Only the short Time is weaker, due to the lyrical obligation of the concept, but on the whole Carmen oeuvre, this is where Carmen manages to be at their best and maybe their most original (forget the flamenco bits) and often strike the right string in your ears. In some ways I hear musical melancholy that would be present in Harmonium's l'Heptade concept album even if the loss of reason (as opposed to loss of love) was the concept there.

BTW, I have yet to hear any Jethro Tull influences anywhere on the first two albums!! As for the tracks on the first side, they are of the calibre of the debut album's second side, which was the better there. The opening Viva Mi Sevilla is a highly impressive flamenco rock track, while I've Been Crying goes though constant changes with Angela starring at vocals and mellotron, while Purple rose is often excellent with great mellotrons as well.

A much superior album to its predecessor, DOACW is not yet that masterpiece many will have you believe: a bit overblown and showing the limits to Carmen's creation spectrum (this flamenco-rock can only go so far) and even their best moment (Remembrances) is in danger of over-reaching themselves songwriting-wise. They will then tour the Us supporting Jethro Tull: this is how Glascock got into that group, since Carmen's third album was released posthumously.

As I said with the previous album's review: it is high time that Carmen's three albums get a complete overhauled re-issue series (to mend for those highly-flawed Line label versions) with correct facts and remastered version if possible, but given that two of the original five members are dead (leader Allen and bassist Glascock), they'd better hurry.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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