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Vega - Andaluza CD (album) cover

ANDALUZA

Vega

 

Prog Folk

3.81 | 36 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars VEGA was amongst the first wave of progressive rock bands to emerge from Spain in the late 70s following the fall of Franco's reign. While a scant few bands snuck in past the censors beforehand, after 1975 the floodgates opened and at long last the nation that was stifled during the early 70s progressive rock boom was allowed to join the party and add their own signature sounds. While many of these bands were overtly derivative of the English and Italian scenes, a few bands cast their gaze more upon their own local flavors. While Triana and Mezquita are perhaps the best known fusion bands that mixed symphonic prog, jazz and Andalusian flamenco rock, another band that was around during the day with a similar approach was VEGA.

While many sources cite the band as coming from Madrid, the group actually formed in Badajoz which is situated on river Guadiana on the Portuguese border. While the city is known for its Moorish historic quarter in the region of Extremadura, the sounds of neighboring Andalusia are dominant on the band's debut album ANDALUZA which finds guitarist Tom's Vega displaying his fiery guitar skills where he not only effortlessly channels his inner Paco DeLucia but alternates erratically with a stellar Mahavishnu Orchestra styled jazz-fusion style of prog that is steeped with local folky flavors although the rock parts are more on prog lite than actual outbursts into amazing complexities. The band released three albums during its existence from 1977-82.

While the band had many lineup changes with Vega remaining the only constant member, on ANDALUZA the lineup was Vega on flamenco and electric guitars, Rafael Guillermo on keyboards, mini-Moogs and piano, Guty L'pez on bass, Larry Martin on drums, Enrique Carmona on more flamenco guitar, Pedro Ample on supplemental percussion and Juli'n Llin's as conductor and string arrangements. While the album has outbursts of the more rockin' jazz-fusion bits the primary sounds are the unique foot-stomping rhythms of the flamenco guitar. The album is fairly short and just barely clocks in at over 30 minutes. The music is also entirely instrumental with no vocals to be heard and is probably the most authentic example of flamenco based prog rock that was released during Spain's first ambitious moves into the world of prog rock.

At times it sounds like there is no rock to be heard but tracks like 'Origen' start out in the rock paradigm before adding the flamenco elements however the rhythmic drive is flamenco all the way through the six track playlist. While all beautifully performed, ANDALUZA is an album that is dominated by the guitar antics which disallows any of the other instruments from really deviating from the plan. While the fusion elements are distinct with a fiery flamenco passion, the overweening presence of the pure flamenco elements prevent the album from really jumping off into any experimental realms and therefore VEGA sounded much more like a traditional Andalusian rock band with a few prog touches rather than a true prog / flamenco hybrid as heard by the much more interesting albums released by Triana and Mezquita.

For anyone interested in Spain's nascent prog scene of the 70s then VEGA is indeed a pleasant listen that will leave you imagining a walk down the streets of Seville as flamenco dancers do their little tap dance but if you are expecting a brilliant mix of flamenco with prog rock then i'm afraid you may be disappointed as the prog elements take a back seat on this one but the band would focus heavier on the jazz-fusion side of the equation on future releases. Overall an interesting Spanish prog rock journey but it doesn't quite measure up to the greatest releases of the era from more inventive bands like Triana, Crack, Mezquita, Veneno or Canarios. Still though a worthy addition to any flamenco infused prog lover's listening experience. One of the problems with this one is it's a bit one dimensional in its approach and the tracks start sounding the same especially when listened side by side with other flamenco fusion acts such as Mezquita's excellent 'Recuerdos De Mi Tierra.'

3.5 but rounded down

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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