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AZAHAR

Prog Folk • Spain


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Azahar biography
AZAHAR are a Spanish/Uruguayan/Egyptian quintet who play an exotic mixture of keyboards and electric/acoustic guitars reminiscent of MEZQUITA and TRIANA. You could call it Flamenco rock with some Middle Eastern flavour. The vocals are all in Spanish, as are the liner notes.

Their first album, "Elixir" (1977), is a concept album about sorcery and magic dominated by a distinctive Flamenco guitar style over layers of keyboards (synth, mellotron, Fender Rhodes piano and grand piano). It features no drums, only bass rhythm, but still manages to be playful and varied, with a few interesting twists and turns and some intensive electric guitar passages. Their second album, simply called "Azahar" (1979), is a little more energetic, more funky perhaps, as it now features a drummer as guest musician. But it is also less subtle, less elegant than the first and the Spanish vocals can be kind of rough on the edges.

There have been quite a few bands trying their hands at this style; unfortunately, AZAHAR are not the best. If you're really into Spanish folk prog, bands such as BLOQUE, TRIANA, CRACK, MEZQUITA and GRANADA are more recommended.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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AZAHAR discography


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AZAHAR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.54 | 20 ratings
Elixir
1977
4.16 | 26 ratings
Azahar
1979

AZAHAR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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AZAHAR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Azahar by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.16 | 26 ratings

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Azahar
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by Popovych

4 stars Another example of flamenco rock. Azahar shows us in his self-titled album with strong roots Arab of Andalusian rock .

The first cut, 'Expresso a Ketama' is a great and powerful album start, with great guitar work, which is the basis of the song.

In 'La Naranja y el Limon', Azahar musicians show us their virtuosity, especially the bass line. The keyboard has a distinctly Arab atmospheres. However, the voice is not as melodic as Jesus de la Rosa (Triana) for example.

'Noche de Primavera' tries to emulate the flamenco rhythms of early Triana, as in 'Zahira', especially in the synth and percussion. 'Bulerias de Lujo' follows with this percussion work, which reminds me 'Tele' Rodriguez work on Triana.

In 'El Mago Acidote' we can see modern sound (The difference between Azahar and Triana). This cut shows the best vocal performance of the album. Some female voices, also in this song, reminds me spanish popular 70s music (Mocedades for example)

Next Track 'Aire y Fuego' with first one 'Expresso a Ketama' will be clear influences for 80 and 90s bands and artists like 'El Ultimo de la Fila' y Manolo Garcia (always with arabic music influences in his albums). In addition, this track sounds like a Triana clone.

Last Track 'Expreso de Ketama' is a great end of the album. It's like a modern music travel from Andalusian Rock to Spanish Prog. One of the highlights of the album.

In conclusion 'Azahar' is a good addition to your Flamenco Rock collection.

(+) Modern Sound, in opposition of other Andalusian Groups. The reason? Using modern instruments. (-) Sometimes this album seems a Triana clone and the vocals aren`t so melodic as Triana.

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 Elixir by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.54 | 20 ratings

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Elixir
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by nikow

4 stars First off, let me start by saying that the music on this album is so exciting that you don't really even notice the lack of drums.

Azahar is a band that was unknown to me before I ventured into a music store in Spain and just asked for some prog. This is the album the managed to sell me, and boy, I surely was not disappointed. Without understanding Spanish, I just enjoy the passion and warmthness of the vocals, full of emotion without being too overblown. The guitar playing is also excellent throughout the album, showing some fret burning fast runs now and then, bringing fire into the music and sometimes changing into lush flamenco style guitars.

The real star of the album are the keyboards though, omnipresently always there, painting landscapes made of synth sweeps, piano chords, and string-like sounds.

The melodies are at times pleasantly arabesque, bringing some mystique into the music.

Warmly recommended, 4 stars.

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 Azahar by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.16 | 26 ratings

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Azahar
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

4 stars When Azahar released Que Malo Hay, Senor Juez? as a single in 1977 it was banned in Spain because it advocated the legalisation of marijuana. A further consequence was that vocalist Ricardo 'Dick' Zappala, who was of Egyptian origin, was deported. Ironic indeed, given the band's concern with ideas of freedom. However with the help of guitarist Antonio Valls, Zappala was later allowed to return to Spain under the condition that he did not enter the capital of Madrid. By all accounts crowds flocked to the few concerts they gave, such was their reputation following the above incident. Original members Jorge 'Flaco' Barral (bass) and Gustavo Ros (keys) subsequently left to form Azabache during 1978. Manolo Manrique replaced Ros, although Zappala himself also contributed in the keyboards department. Willy Trujillo, formerly of Gualberto, joined as drummer; Azahar's first album (Elixir) had featured some percussion but no drums. Barral wasn't replaced and a couple of guest musicians supplied the bass guitar here: Julio Blasco, who had appeared on Granada's Valle De Pas album, and Enrique Carmona. The song writing on this album is mainly shared between Zappala and Valls, with the other two band members having only one credit each. The music falls broadly within the Rock Andaluz category having something of a North African flavour, similar in some ways to Mezquita although the Azahar album preceded Mezquita's debut.

What we have here then is mainly symphonic prog with some Arabic/flamenco elements. One or two tracks have a slight disco feel due to some of the drumming, but overall this isn't an issue. The band employs a wide variety of keyboards but there's also more than enough excellent guitar work to keep axe victims happy. The tracks are an even mix of songs and instrumentals, although Bulerios De Lujo is basically just a drum solo. All are of a consistently high standard but three are worthy of special note. The flamenco influence really shines on Zahira. It begins with Spanish guitar and is then joined by synth and organ. Castanets begin clacking in the background, followed by doleful electric guitar phrases. Drums finally enter and join the now prominent castanets; this is really wonderful stuff as Spanish guitar trades with synth and Santana-influenced electric guitar. El Mago Acidote is another highlight and at over 9 minutes is arguably the most symphonic track on the album. It features some lovely keyboard parts, with bell-chime electric piano and funky clavinet featuring prominently. A very light fusion influence is evident here, slightly reminiscent of Gotic. The first half of the song has a warm and optimistic feel; the second half is slower in tempo with fervent vocals and organ contributing to a melancholic atmosphere. Aire Y Fuego has the strongest Arabic flavour on the album thanks to its harmonic minor scale and wailing vocals. Zappala's singing is especially noteworthy here as this is a notoriously difficult scale for vocalists. The song also features superb organ, by turns psychedelic and churchly.

Azahar was one of many fine bands from Spain during the latter half of the '70s and this is a very pleasant album that takes melodic symphonic prog and imbues it with traditional elements, full of typical Spanish exuberance. Bearing in mind that I'm a big fan of Spanish prog, I can't give this any less than 4 stars.

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 Elixir by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.54 | 20 ratings

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Elixir
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars This is an album that falls under the category of ‘it doesn’t matter how technically awesome your music is if it doesn’t move anyone’. Or at least in my personal opinion that’s the case.

I’m always curious whenever an older, obscure album is reissued (and remastered in this case). Was this a lost masterpiece that finally managed to get its deserved attention? Is the band attracting new attention for some reason, and the back catalog needs to be refreshed? Or is the band itself bankrolling the project? In the case of Azahar, none of these seems to apply as near as I can tell. And yet, here is the CD version of their 1977 album ‘Elixir’.

I’ve read some of the interesting tales of this band in their heyday and their supposed ‘counter-culture’ leanings. Lead singer Dick Zappala was supposedly deported from Spain for using the band to try and promote a legalization of marijuana agenda, only to reenter the country and rejoin the band before they finally broke up. Well, that may be true but I don’t really hear much in the way of radical politics in this music. Then again, I only speak English and the vocals (and liner notes) are all in Spanish, so who knows.

Musically these tunes are all about keyboards: mellotron, Fender Rhodes, piano, and various Roland synths. Oh yeah, and there’s a couple of guitars as well. In the case of Antonio Valls that includes some outstanding electric guitar that sometimes borders on hard rock and sometimes just ever-so- slightly on psych, but is always complex and vibrant (check out “¡Es que Esto no Tiene Nombre!” and the lengthy solo on “Mercaderes” for Valls at his best. He also plays a mandolin somewhere on the album but that’s a bit harder to pick up on (on “Viaje a Marruecos” for sure). And this is Latin music, so there must be acoustic and Spanish guitar – and there are, thanks to Jorge Barral who also plays bass (would like to see how that works out in concert!). Neither figure prominently in most of the music though, except during the middle and end of the three-part “Viaje a Marruecos”.

But all that aside, if you pick up this record be ready to be left awash in keyboards. The opening “Campos de Azahar” is a slow and building instrumental almost completely consisting of mellotron and Rhodes, with a little bass for good measure. “¡Es que Esto no Tiene Nombre!” is more of the same. The rest of the tracks at least include liberal amounts of Valls’ (and sometimes Barral’s) guitars, but primarily this is still a keyboard album. A decent one, but in the end I’m left wondering exactly what inspired someone to spend the time and money to have it remastered and reissued. I’m assuming it must have a market in Spain or this wouldn’t have been done, but for me this is a moderately decent album that you likely won’t be put off by, but isn’t really worth dipping into your savings to pay for either. Three stars and here’s hoping any fans of the band manage to pick up all the copies so the label at least covers their costs. Otherwise they may not be able to bankroll more worthy projects in the future.

peace

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 Azahar by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.16 | 26 ratings

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Azahar
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by NotAProghead
Special Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

5 stars If AZAHAR debut ''Elixir'' is only a good album, their second effort, ''Azahar'', is a masterpiece. It is in my opinion a key Spanish prog album, of the same level as TRIANA's ''El Patio'' or ''Recuerdos De Mi Tierra'' by MEZQUITA.

''Azahar'' is a tasteful, very energetic blend of symphonic rock, flamenco (mostly in the way of singing, Spanish guitar plays a lead role only in one song) and jazz with some Arabian touches here and there. First class musicians offer the listener great variety of moods and melodic finds. Ricardo Zappala's singing deserve special mention - Spanish in nature, sometimes gentle, sometimes aggressive, but always natural. The writing is also strong, ''Azahar'' instantly grabs your attention, but every time you listen to the album you can find new nuances.

AZAHAR made a classic record, one of the best in the genre, it's a pity their career was so short. Highly recommended.

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 Elixir by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.54 | 20 ratings

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Elixir
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by pirkka

4 stars A very strong music from this multi country quartet. Folkish music with strong symhonic attitude. Great instrumentalists and extremely creative compositions. A real joy to listen to! I like especially the way the basist plays but also the guitarras and fine use of mellotron. This is not as sophisticated as say Bloque, more to the direction that Mago de Oz took later. There is IMO more rock in this along with folk melodies and progressive arrangements. In my own scale I give this full 5 stars, a true masterpiece, but here in PA this is good, actually excellent, maby not essential, but would make a good addition to anybodys collection so 4 stars.

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 Azahar by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.16 | 26 ratings

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Azahar
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars In the early Nineties I bought a few Sirius magazines (former Spanish progrock fanzine) in order to improve my poor school Spanish. I noticed an add in which the known Spanish proghead Angel Romero was offering his entire progrock LP collection. I got in touch with him (we shared a negative view on the awful tradition of bullfights!) and he explained that he was suffering from an increasing dust-allergy, how sad. I asked him for advise to buy Spanish progrock records from him. Nowadays AZAHAR's second eponymous album is still one of my favorites, the debut-album was entitled "Elixer". The difference between these two CD's (released by Fonomusic) is that the second sound far more mature. The eight compositions (running time between 2 and 10 minutes) are more varied and elaborated. The guitarplay is sensitive featuring short but powerful soli and some exciting flamenco guitarwork. The Spanish vocals has a typical Spanish undertone, very warm and expressive. The keyboards sound lush and have a pleasant variety: strings, organ, synthesizers, clavinet and acoustic - and electric piano. The rhythm-section plays dynamic, Spanish people have a natural feeling for rhythm! This CD is a very fine example of the unique Spanish progrock: harmonic, melodic and tasteful compositions above self- indulgence.


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 Azahar by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.16 | 26 ratings

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Azahar
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by 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.

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 Elixir by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.54 | 20 ratings

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Elixir
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars What a peculiar band were Azahar! They created a rough sound, an energetic combination of ethereal keyboard orchestrations and guitar riffs, the bassist made his instrument assume a prominent position, the guitar solos were quite rocky, and the occasional synth solos and harmonies served as an appropriate match, and last but not least, Zappala's passionate singing added some more fire to the band's musical flame during his interventions. and yet, they had no drummer. The fact is that the band were searching for a compatible and interested drummer while they were starting to create and arrange their own repertoire, and somewhere on the road they decided that the band worked well without a drummer. Given the fact that the band's material is heavily influenced by Flamenco and Arabic folklores, which are indeed very rhythmic musical sources, it is odd that Azahar could feel at ease without a drummer/percussionist. But they certainly did, and made it work alright. The lack of a drummer allowed all four musicians (lead vocalist Zappala plays some string synthesizer, too, while bass player Barral is in charge of the percussions) to expand their performances without the constraints of well-marked rhythm patterns: the tempo itself is created and/or kept and/or modified by the interaction between Valls, Zappala, Ros and Barral. Anyways, it is clear that pace is not the most relevant concern for the band - texture and cadence are. Regarding this factor, it is fair to make a special mention for Barral's melodic approach to his bass parts: he manages to participate in the band's overall freedom, while making his instrument function as some sort of basis for all nine tracks. The instrumentals feel quite soaring, as if the sounds were floating in the air while the sun sets on the edge of some Andalusian coast - the opener 'Campos de Azahar' is an eerie exotic gem, and so are the melancholic 'Mercaderes' and the joyful 'Cántaros de Fuego', while '¡Es que Esto No Tiene Nombre!' portrays a more symphonic drive. The latter is one of the finest pieces in the album, complex and full of twists, yet none of these twists feels forced or gratuitous: each and every shift of pace is cleverly placed as a connection between one preceding section and the following one. The sung tracks may be the hardest to take for the listener, since Zappala's style and timber are acquired tastes. It would be reasonable that some might find it annoying, but I personally enjoy his vocal excursions, which are based on an over-exaggeration of Flamenco singing (which is an exaggerated singing style per se): I notice a disposition for humour and a crude, unabashed sense of drama in his singing. Those can be certainly felt in his pro- marijuana claim for '¿Qué Malo Hay, Señor Juez?' and his existentialist concerns for 'Un Hombre Cansado'. His singing becomes a bit more relaxed and focused in the closing three-section suite 'Viaje a Marruecos', which finds the band exploring diverse motifs, harmonies and textures for an 11+ minute time. The exotic element is enhanced here in a most fascinating manner. The culminating climax closes down the album with full passion: Valls seems to have kept his best soloing for this moment, while the keyboard layers expand themselves in order to create an atmosphere of elation. A great ending for a record that would make an excellent addition to any good prog collection.

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 Elixir by AZAHAR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.54 | 20 ratings

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Elixir
Azahar Prog Folk

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This Spanish four-piece band made two fine albums, this is their first one. It's released in a beautiful digipack FOC that contains the lyrics, a band picture, a short story and the tracking-list. If you compare AZAHAR's music to TRIANA, MEDINA AZAHARA or MEZQUITA their sound on the nine compositions (between 3 and 6 minutes) is more laidback and more atmospheric, featuring tasteful keyboards (lush Solina string-ensemble waves, warm piano chords, sumptuous synthesizer runs), sensitive, often howling electric guitar, some fine flamenco guitar and strong, typical Spanish vocals (emotional and expressive). The running time is only 37 minutes but here it's quality above quantity. A nice album but their next (and final) eponymous album is their best.


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