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Azahar - Azahar CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.07 | 38 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Soon after the release of Azahar's debut album, a series of extra-musical events that eventually led to the lead vocalist's deportation out of Spain, forced the disintegration of the band. Fortunately, a couple of years later, the band resumed their career with the former lead singer back in Spain, but by then, the line-up had changed substantially: the Uruguayan keyboardist and bass player that had been part of the original formation were gone, and now the band had a new keyboardist and a drummer (plus a couple of guest bassists for the recording sessions). Since in their debut album there was no drummer in the band, you can easily notice that the inclusion of one served as a source of tightness for the performances and arrangements of the new album's repertoire, making the ensemble sound more solid; on the other hand, a portion of the eerie magic of the debut is lost, since now the music is more construed and less free in its form. Of course, Ricardo Zappala's timbre and vocal style are an acquired taste, since he is an overtly exaggerated performer, but he certainly can evocate the passion and emotion of Flamenco with a wicked rocking twist, making his singing a fundamental element of the band's overall sound. But we must consider that half of the material is instrumental (Zappala plays some keyboard and percussion, as well), so it's obvious that Azahar is more focused on the music itself than in Zappala's voice. The band clearly goes for a rough approach to Flamenco-oriented symphonic prog. Keyboardist Manrique's work on his layers and occasional solos is the only source of finesse, while Zappala's frontal chanting, Valls' enhanced electric and Spanish guitar playing, and Trujillo's potent drumming create a powerful wall of sound mostly erected by basic exotic lines and chord progressions. Trujillo's labour (in conjunction with the alternating guest bass players) adds some energetic touches of funky and jazz fusion, which feel particularly effective in the instrumental tracks: both the opening and closing numbers are catchy and evocative, and so are the heavily Flamenco 'Zahira' and the psychedelic 'Bulerías de Lujo', which includes an almost tribal drum solo. Their sound reminds me very much of Medina Azahara, if only a bit less refined and a bit more aggressive, even in the slower passages. Among the sung numbers, 'La Naranja y el Limón' and 'Aire y Fuego' are the most impressive, since they are fluidly articulated and show off that special South Spanish magic so well. 'Noche de Primavera' is an emotional rock ballad that could have gone to more places had it been developed more thoroughly, while the 9+ minute mini-suite "El Mago Acidote" tends to drag during its second half - this is where I miss the ethereal nuances that made the best of the band's first album. All things considered, although it doesn't match the overall strange magic portrayed in their debut album, this is quite an excellent recording, full of appealing musical ideas, solid performances, and a genuine sense of passion. Rating: 3 ½-4 stars.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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