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Carmen - Fandangos In Space CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.84 | 113 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars There are some bands that succeed when you don't know why, and there are some bands that fail and you'll NEVER figure it out. Carmen is a band that failed, and the rest of us sat around and wondered why they even tried. I mean, there's no way in hell this would have caught on in a mainstream audience of ANY kind, popular or progressive, without having to carve such a niche market it couldn't breath. Oh well. I for one am glad they did try.

For their first album, Carmen decided to make it a doozy, and a doozy it be. There's hardly anything I can think of that's like this. I mean, there were bands doing the whole hard-folk proggy thing at the time, and there were bands doing the whole Spanish influence thing, but both at the same time AND arena rock ethics to boot? No one I can think of. The spacey synths, flamenco guitars and falsettos might seem a bit much, but trust me, it's worth it.

Now, best song on the record? Well, I pick the album opener, but honestly, any of the first three will do. "Bulerias" is a great, hard rockin' tune, with a fantastic refrain. The midsection with the flamenco tap dancing (best visual image, you'll see) might put some people off, but I love it. If you can make it through this track and back, then buddy, this band's for you!

"Bullfight" is just as powerful, with a great start and stop opening, rhythm section and vocals, with an appropriately hard/soft midsection (probably the best use of keyboards on the album; sounds like a trumpet). "Stepping Stone" is a weird, psychedelic ballad of sorts. Was once my favorite tune on the album. It's actually quite pretty, in a hard rockin', creepy sorta way. Fantastic intro.

This flows flawlessly into "Sailor Song." Another fantastic intro (love those seagulls), just don't try to make sense of the lyrics. It's desperate in delivery, and gorgeous at points. It might be the most emotional song on the album. Okay, scratch that. "Lonely House" is easily the most emotional number on the album. It's a little repetitive, but so what? It's still beautiful, with a fantastic key change that makes perfect use of the group falsetto.

"Poor Tarantos" is an acoustic solo instrumental that's actually a very clever way to show off David Allen's use of the six string. And, as a man who has a (very) basic understanding of the flamenco guitar, I can promise he's good. As for virtuoso, I cannot say, since I'm unfamiliar with flamenco guitarists at large. But he's good. And yes, I wrote that partly to show off.

"Looking Outside (My Window)" is another hard number, nothing you haven't heard before, but gosh. It's just so great. The soft guitar parts are great, the chorusy part is great, and how could you not love the line "burn your spirit dark?"

"Tales of Spain" is where Carmen...starts to loose it. It opens with some of the grossest proto-arena rock you EVER heard. "I fought, and I think that I won?" Every time I hear that, I start reaching for my lighter. Ah. Then it breaks away, and turns into some...narration? What?!? Wait, wasn't there some other album that was nearly flawless except for some pretentious, uncalled for narration that killed it? Oh well. The coda's not bad at all, but the day Carmen has a bad coda is a strange one.

"Retirando" is nice enough, but its primary purpose is to flow us into the title tune. Which rocks, by the way. "Fandangos in Space" that is. Love that chorus, once again. The ending takes way too many twists and turns it seems, but it all works out in the end. Although I wonder if the "Reprise Finale" was necessary. Oh well, it doesn't hurt (at least they knew not to END it with narration too).

Okay, so a couple of unnecessary instrumental bits, a little lack of diversity, and "Tales of Spain." But, focus on the good sides of Carmen (and they way outweigh the bad), you cannot fail. For one thing, they have a brilliant sense of melody. Everything is somehow catchy.

And I could speak for ages about the vocal harmonies they pump into most of the songs ("Bullfight," "Sailor Song," "Fandangos in Space," whatever). Also, these guys are the masters of intro and outro. Every song opens fantastically (aside from the obvious), and especially when they use that layered build to create a coda, it can't be topped.

The musicians ain't bad themselves. I already said that David Allen was good, and so is drummer Paul Fenton (who might be the most versatile in the band). I hope someone's still feedin' these guys. But you know who really impressed me? Johnny Glascock. He won't play bass like this again until Heavy Horses! Good for him.

So, this is, to date, the ultimate in Carmen albums. Barring "Tales of Spain," there's not a bad song on here. In fact, if it weren't for that there are only two-and-a-half songs on the album, I'd rate the living crap out of it. Which is a good thing, by the way.

If you're only going to buy one album by Carmen, which, in a perverse way, is both possible and impossible, this is the one. I can hardly think of a better repetitive, but almost never awful, downbeat heavy progressive folk album. And yes, that includes Songs from the Wood. It wasn't that dark, after all.

The Whistler | 4/5 |


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