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Carmen - Fandangos in Space CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.84 | 135 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Unusual group this Carmen bunch: formed by three American (from LA), named on a French opera about Spain (Bizet's Carmen) and moved to England for their recording career. The brainchild of Roberto Amaral and David Allen (not that Daevid ;-) around a shared interest in Spanish music and Flamenco in particular, this group is rather unique- sounding, even in the light the Spanish band that fused their rock with the local Flamenco, such as Triana & Co. So the group partly relocated to Britain (with David's sister Angela as a member) and found their rhythm section of John Glascock and Paul Fenton. They immediately found interest and landed a recording contract (Regal Zonophone, the label that discovered Procol Harum) and their albums would be produced by Tony Visconti.

Graced with a strangely psychedelic Spanish bride picture on a spacey/cosmic background for artwork (a different rose flowers cover in the US), it is a bit misleading as their music is a very uncommon mix of prog rock and flamenco that sounded more like Spanish versions of 10 CC, Queen, The Sparks with a more progressive template. Apart from the botched opening track of this unusually-poor Line label Cd reissue (never owned the vinyl, but the screw up in the second mini-suite's track separation as well), Carmen develops a good catchy rock (that is not far from pop either) with some of the usual prog tricks (such as time sigs, multi-movement suites, heavy dramatics with theatrical twists including Flamenco breaks and concept albums) and managed a fair success that is now a bit forgotten. Unable to judge Bulerias (we hear less than two minutes of it rather than the original five), most of the first side is made of songs that often refer to their Spanish obsession (Bullfight), but none of them are really outstanding (I find Sailor Song rather poor as the birds noises are reminiscent of the much superior Harum song A Salty dog) and the odd mellotron layers are not changing much to this.

The flipside starts on the mini-suite Looking Out, which presents some impressive rhythm twists and high drama, that automatically makes it one of the album's highlights. Followed by the equally interesting Tales Of Spain and the bridged Retirando, the title track takes the spirits another step upwards (I'm pretty sure there is a bit of a concept on this second side of the album), even if they come close to some melted Manchego at times (sounding like Mariachi in Zorro movie) with the reprise making the Queso Iberico a full fondue.

Not quite the masterpiece that my fellow reviewing colleagues make it out to be, Carmen's debut record does not induce (based on the album's full length) the same weariness that Triana and other groups do. Apparently, the live shows came with full traditional costumes for the dancing couple and rather glam clothes for the other band members, the group has a little too much of a pre-fabricated act to be truly enthralling, however unusual this might have been at the time for Western rock audiences. I am far to be calling this precise album a masterpiece, because there are way too many average tracks on the first side and the second one, although much better, is hardly flawless and the standouts are not that outstanding. Still an original album, but nothing worth selling your soul, because you will feel much short-changed, especially if you acquire the error-filled Line label reissue. Time for a complete overhaul of the Carmen oeuvre.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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