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Carmen - Fandangos in Space CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.84 | 129 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 266

Carmen was a British/American progressive rock band active from 1970 to 1975. Carmen was possibly one of the most original progressive rock bands that you ever heard. Their music combined progressive rock with a strong flamenco influence and it was all performed in a very fresh, energetic and powerful way. Adding to their distinctiveness was the fact that during long instrumental passages, members of the band would dance on stage, adding those sounds to the instrumental mix. The instrumentation included vibes, castanets and lots of flamenco dancing. The sound is centered on guitar and keyboards are used subtly but with good effect. However, the keyboards are limited to some mellotron and spacey synths, here and there. So, the flamenco prog, apparently a pretty ridiculous idea, happened in 1973, really.

Carmen was founded by David Clark Allen, a Mexican/American Californian trained in flamenco guitar. Originally, a seven member band in Los Angeles, the band relocated to London, in January 1973, where the members soon stabilized as a quintet. The line up on the album is David Allen (lead vocals, electric guitar and flamenco guitar), Angela Allen (lead and backing vocals, synthesizer and mellotron), Roberto Amaral (lead and backing vocals, vibraphone and castanets), John Glascock (backing vocals, bass guitar and bass pedals) and Paul Fenton (drums and percussion).

"Fandangos In Space" is the debut studio album of Carmen and was released in 1973. The first track "Bulerias" is divided in "Cante", "Baile" and "Reprise". This three-part song is a true roller coaster of sharp complex rhythmic prog and flamenco. The future Jethro Tull member John Glascock's bass work is simply amazing. The piece establishes the main musical motif that will come back later in "Looking Outside" and on the the closing track "Reprise". The second track "Bullfight", despite all the exuberant energy in the form of a symphonic bombastic song, a more rock component comes to the fore, which blends beautifully with the castanets. The sound proof lead vocals are always happy to mate with polyphonic support. Roberto Amaral's typical falsetto vocals are put to good use on this track. The third track "Stepping Stone" is a compact track, a kind of a psychedelic ballad, which gets full marks for inventiveness in a short time frame. It's actually quite pretty with a great intro. The mellotron here ensures a pro- rock shimmer. The fourth track "Sailor Song" is anchored in the traditional rock spirit and yet has a very mainstream feel. It reminds me strongly Jethro Tull. It has another great intro and it's probably the most emotional song on the album and the most beautiful song too. It makes a perfect use of the group's falsetto. The fifth track "Lonely House" is a very beautiful acoustic song. This ballad with ingratiating harmonies is clearly rooted in a soft rock harmony. Despite the flamenco prog rock of Spanish origin, this song proves that Carmen is also too committed to their Anglo-Saxon origins. The sixth track "Por Tarantos" is a very short traditional flamenco song. It's an acoustic solo instrumental piece played with the traditional acoustic six string guitar, proving that David Allen is an excellent performer on classical guitar. The seventh track "Looking Outside (My Window)" is divided in "Theme", "Zorongo" and "Finale". It has an emotional exuberance even almost a certain hit potential and sounds as if taken from a musical. In front of their eyes, the listener is able to see almost a whole armada of flamenco dancers. The eighth track "Tales Of Spain" opens beautifully and manages to have an infinity of mini-songs all over it. The male and female harmonies are amazing, while the guitar and mellotron duet are also great. The ninth track "Retirando" is a very short song. It's a nice song supported by a symphonic element, but its main purpose is to flow us into the title track. The tenth track is the title track "Fandangos In Space". The closing title track is another extraordinary song that opens with a very frantic instrumental that leads us, once more, to some more intriguing multi-part harmonies, like some other previous tracks. Again, we have another great chorus and the final of the song takes way too many twists and turns that works magnificently in the end of it. The eleventh track "Reprise Finale" is another beautiful very short acoustic piece nicely played on acoustic guitar by David Allen. It closes the album nice and calmly.

Conclusion: "Fandangos In Space" introduced to the world the one of a kind blend of flamenco music and progressive rock. It's hard to point out any highlights here, because this is a very even album. But, some of the best includes, "Bulerias", "Bullfight", "Looking Outside (My Window)" and the title track. There are also some shorter and less progressive tracks, like the beautiful acoustic "Lonely House", "Sailor Song" and the catchy "Stepping Stone". Vocals are great and the harmonies are gorgeous. Overall, this is a worth listening album. In most of the time the compositions can be traced back to a rock solid element. The band was able to combine the traditional flamenco and the symphonic rock structures in an authentic and credible way. In conclusion, this is a very tasty and highly unique album, a must for all prog rock fans, one of the genre's unsung classics, which should must be in any progressive rock fans' collection.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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