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CARMEN

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Carmen biography
Founded in Los Angeles, USA in 1970 - Disbanded in 1975

In the early seventies, the British-American group CARMEN broke new ground in rock music, combining the British flair for progressive rock with traditional Spanish folk themes into a very fresh, energetic and powerful new mix. The sound is centered around guitar, keyboards are used subtly but to good effect. On the whole, they are a rather hard band to describe ... "They sound only like themselves, because it IS so unique". Some vague comparisons could be made to JETHRO TULL, MEZQUITA (some of the Spanish themes), and TRIANA (the flamenco/prog combination).

CARMEN released three albums only: "Dancing On A Cold Wind", "Fandangos In Space", and "The Gypsies". It's hard to say which of the first two albums is better, both are excellent starters. Two great tastes that taste great together. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...!

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CARMEN discography


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

3.84 | 112 ratings
Fandangos In Space
1973
3.73 | 67 ratings
Dancing On A Cold Wind
1975
3.08 | 36 ratings
The Gypsies
1975
3.50 | 14 ratings
David Clark Allen: Widescreen
2007

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

CARMEN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CARMEN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.39 | 18 ratings
Fandangos In Space/Dancing On A Cold Wind
2006

CARMEN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

CARMEN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Dancing On A Cold Wind by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.73 | 67 ratings

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Dancing On A Cold Wind
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 267

Carmen was a project of the Los Angeles based sibling couple Angela and David Allen, whose parents ran a Spanish restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, in which the flamenco guitar playing of David Allen was the main focus. In July 1970, they formed Carmen, which quickly became a popular local live act, but that couldn't land at any record company. So, in the early of 1973, a large part of the band moved to UK, where they stabilized as a quintet. There, the line up of Carmen was added by two British musicians, the future bassist of Jethro Tull John Glascock and Paul Fenton, an English drummer best known for his work with T. Rex. They managed to be produced by the famous Tony Visconti. Under his aegis, the first two Carmen albums emerged, 'Fandangos In Space' on 1973 and 'Dancing On A Cold Wind' on 1975, which can be attributed to the small genre 'Flamenco-Prog', otherwise that only can be founded in Spain, really.

The style of the music played by Carmen broke a new ground in the rock territory. It combines the British flair for the prog rock music with the traditional Spanish folk themes into a very fresh, energetic and powerful mix. The sound of their music is centered on the classical guitar. The keyboards are also used, subtly, but with a good effect. Carmen's stage performances featured Roberto Amaral and Angela Allen dancing on a specially amplified stage floor. So, their flamenco tap dance, 'zapateado', became an integral percussive addition to the music. The Spanish influences in their sound included acoustic guitar interludes in flamenco style, occasional Spanish lyrics, themes of betrayed love reminiscent of Federico Garc'a Lorca, and castanets, all supported by a traditional and very rich rock rhythm section.

So, 'Dancing In A Cold Wind' is their second studio album and was released in 1975. This is a conceptual album, with a cheesy story about a prostitute turned into a dancer that lost her lifetime love. It opens with a fantastic track called 'Viva Mi Sevilla'. The vocal part features references to the track 'Bulerias' from the first album. After the vocals, the track goes into a bunch of instrumental passages and ends with a beautiful synth vibe theme that builds up to an incredible powerful finale. It has rousing flamenco percussion and a crashing bass that provides a great energy. In the following 'I've Been Crying' the flamenco elements comes to the fore again, but the catchy vocal harmonies dominate. A pumping bass, which competes with the emotional castanets, provides a considerable increase in dynamics. From the hidden, a symphonic undertone emerges. Unctuous mellotron surfaces languish briefly together with a delicate percussion. At the end, John Glascock lets it sound almost like a Chris Squire and puts a dynamic end to the elegiac insert. It sounds to me almost like a flamenco version of Curved Air, with catchy vocal harmonies. In the ensuing ballad 'Drifting Alone' a sweetish pathos unfolds. Here the transfigured and romantic component is worked out. 'She Flew Across the Room' is a more laidback acoustic track that floats into each other without any Latin elements. Carmen indulges in atmospheric harmony in the title 'Purple Flowers'. Powerful bass lines mate here with an ethereal romantic string processing and elegiac key pads. In the background, the mellotron languishes in buttery sounding string sound, while catchy vocal lines testify to a song oriented origin. It includes some very heavy bass lines and the usual flamenco influences in the middle of the track. The second side consists of 24 minute 'Rememberances (Recuerdos De Espana)'. It's a very vocal orientated piece with few instrumental parts, but the themes and melodies are all really nice. This suite characterizes the penultimate album of Carmen as a sprawling long track and unites all the strengths of the band. It has catchy grooving vocal harmonies, crisp rhythm lines, dreamy uses of the acoustic guitar and gently built in symphonic smouldering unite here to form a small epic. Angela Allen, sister of bandleader David Allen, who is responsible for the dance element and delicate keyboards, contributes more convincing lead vocals in self confident mania. The Flamenco also appears, but only sporadically in this finale, which is characterized by emotional contrasts. Her voice remembers me sometimes the voice of Sonja Kristina of Curved Air. Overall, the individual parts flowing into each other also lack a bit of the connecting element in order to produce the right dramaturgical coherence on the second part of the album.

Conclusion: 'Dancing In A Cold Wind' remains, for me, a very good album. I'm not sure about the album I like most. 'Fandangos In Space' is more immediate and more catchy than this second is. But, perhaps, 'Dancing In A Cold Wind' be more 'serious' and more prog than the previous one is. Overall, this album is more complex then the first one, but as a whole, is less enjoyable. It has also less influences of Flamenco and more influences of the traditional prog rock music. Having said this, I'm perfectly convinced this album have enough positive energy to satisfy even more the most critical prog fans, than their debut. But, can you prefer more this second album or their first one, 'Dancing On A Cold Wind' is the excellent companion to 'Fandangos In Space'. So, I highly recommend the double CD with both albums.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 266

Carmen was a British/American progressive rock band active from 1970 to 1975. Carmen was possibly one of the most original progressive rock bands that you ever heard. Their music combined progressive rock with a strong flamenco influence and it was all performed in a very fresh, energetic and powerful way. Adding to their distinctiveness was the fact that during long instrumental passages, members of the band would dance on stage, adding those sounds to the instrumental mix. The instrumentation included vibes, castanets and lots of flamenco dancing. The sound is centered on guitar and keyboards are used subtly but with good effect. However, the keyboards are limited to some mellotron and spacey synths, here and there. So, the flamenco prog, apparently a pretty ridiculous idea, happened in 1973, really.

Carmen was founded by David Clark Allen, a Mexican/American Californian trained in flamenco guitar. Originally, a seven member band in Los Angeles, the band relocated to London, in January 1973, where the members soon stabilized as a quintet. The line up on the album is David Allen (lead vocals, electric guitar and flamenco guitar), Angela Allen (lead and backing vocals, synthesizer and mellotron), Roberto Amaral (lead and backing vocals, vibraphone and castanets), John Glascock (backing vocals, bass guitar and bass pedals) and Paul Fenton (drums and percussion).

"Fandangos In Space" is the debut studio album of Carmen and was released in 1973. The first track "Bulerias" is divided in "Cante", "Baile" and "Reprise". This three-part song is a true roller coaster of sharp complex rhythmic prog and flamenco. The future Jethro Tull member John Glascock's bass work is simply amazing. The piece establishes the main musical motif that will come back later in "Looking Outside" and on the the closing track "Reprise". The second track "Bullfight", despite all the exuberant energy in the form of a symphonic bombastic song, a more rock component comes to the fore, which blends beautifully with the castanets. The sound proof lead vocals are always happy to mate with polyphonic support. Roberto Amaral's typical falsetto vocals are put to good use on this track. The third track "Stepping Stone" is a compact track, a kind of a psychedelic ballad, which gets full marks for inventiveness in a short time frame. It's actually quite pretty with a great intro. The mellotron here ensures a pro- rock shimmer. The fourth track "Sailor Song" is anchored in the traditional rock spirit and yet has a very mainstream feel. It reminds me strongly Jethro Tull. It has another great intro and it's probably the most emotional song on the album and the most beautiful song too. It makes a perfect use of the group's falsetto. The fifth track "Lonely House" is a very beautiful acoustic song. This ballad with ingratiating harmonies is clearly rooted in a soft rock harmony. Despite the flamenco prog rock of Spanish origin, this song proves that Carmen is also too committed to their Anglo-Saxon origins. The sixth track "Por Tarantos" is a very short traditional flamenco song. It's an acoustic solo instrumental piece played with the traditional acoustic six string guitar, proving that David Allen is an excellent performer on classical guitar. The seventh track "Looking Outside (My Window)" is divided in "Theme", "Zorongo" and "Finale". It has an emotional exuberance even almost a certain hit potential and sounds as if taken from a musical. In front of their eyes, the listener is able to see almost a whole armada of flamenco dancers. The eighth track "Tales Of Spain" opens beautifully and manages to have an infinity of mini-songs all over it. The male and female harmonies are amazing, while the guitar and mellotron duet are also great. The ninth track "Retirando" is a very short song. It's a nice song supported by a symphonic element, but its main purpose is to flow us into the title track. The tenth track is the title track "Fandangos In Space". The closing title track is another extraordinary song that opens with a very frantic instrumental that leads us, once more, to some more intriguing multi-part harmonies, like some other previous tracks. Again, we have another great chorus and the final of the song takes way too many twists and turns that works magnificently in the end of it. The eleventh track "Reprise Finale" is another beautiful very short acoustic piece nicely played on acoustic guitar by David Allen. It closes the album nice and calmly.

Conclusion: "Fandangos In Space" introduced to the world the one of a kind blend of flamenco music and progressive rock. It's hard to point out any highlights here, because this is a very even album. But, some of the best includes, "Bulerias", "Bullfight", "Looking Outside (My Window)" and the title track. There are also some shorter and less progressive tracks, like the beautiful acoustic "Lonely House", "Sailor Song" and the catchy "Stepping Stone". Vocals are great and the harmonies are gorgeous. Overall, this is a worth listening album. In most of the time the compositions can be traced back to a rock solid element. The band was able to combine the traditional flamenco and the symphonic rock structures in an authentic and credible way. In conclusion, this is a very tasty and highly unique album, a must for all prog rock fans, one of the genre's unsung classics, which should must be in any progressive rock fans' collection.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Gypsies by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.08 | 36 ratings

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The Gypsies
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As I now own all three Carmen albums, I have to agree this is by far the least good of their three albums. Also there's a couple of songs with that somber tone like "Dedicated to Lydia", "Siren of the Sea" and "Joy" with the latter actually getting pretty joyful (no pun intended) towards the end. I absolutely can't stand "Come Back" it's by far the worst song Carmen ever done, I almost wondered if the warning I received about this band (by someone I used to know) being cheesy back in 1994 came from this album? Luckily the album has some winners, I do very much enjoy "Shady Lady", sounds like the band attempting a hit, and the title track is amazing. But in the end, the album, except for the godwaful "Come Back" isn't bad but this album really does pale compared to their past triumphs. It's as if the band was following the trends of 1977 in 1975 by going a more simplified direction. But between Paul Fenton and his horse riding accident and the band exhausted from hectic touring, little wonder they broke up with John Glascock joining Jethro Tull and Angela Allen singing backing vocals on "Crazed Institution" and "Big Dipper" on Tull's Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die. So it's clear that Fandangos in Space is a must have, so is Dancing on a Cold Wind, but the Gypsies is the one to worry last as it's pretty spotty, but has its moments.
 Dancing On A Cold Wind by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.73 | 67 ratings

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Dancing On A Cold Wind
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I found this LP in a $1 bin at a local Eugene, Oregon record store, an original UK pressing on Regal Zonophone (unlike Fandangos in Space, this was never released in the States). Basically, much of the stuff in that bin being frequent thrift store staples: easy listening, '70s singer songwriters, and AOR acts. So it's a trip to see a Carmen LP sitting next to a bunch of James Taylor, America, Captain & Tennille, Dan Fogelberg and Linda Ronstadt LPs. I wondered why it was being sold for so cheap? The disc don't look warped. Side two did feature this unsightly fingernail scratch, so they thought they'd never sell it for going price. I brought it home and the darn LP plays at Near Mint, even that scratch you can barely notice it, if at all (I was expecting loud pops or even skips, given I only spent $1 and pleasantly surprised that didn't happen). The cover is a spoof of pack of Gitanes cigarettes. Funny how their labelmates Procol Harum had a cigarette pack spoofed on one of their albums, A Salty Dog spoofing Player's Navy Cut.

Being familiar with Fandangos in Space, it's really no surprise the music on Dancing on a Cold Wind is in a similar vein. Same unmistakable blend of flamenco and prog. The foot dancing from Roberto Aramal and Angela Allen really sounds great on this disc. I wasn't expecting John Glascock to crank up the bass to give it a full fuzz effect like he did on the opening cut, "Viva mi Sevilla". It's almost as if Jannick Top of Magma stepped in. Regardless, it's instantly recognizable as Carmen, even a revisit of "Bulerias" from Fandangos in Space is quoted. Angela Allen is one of the very few female Mellotron players out there (the other being Virginia Scott of Beggars Opera who put one to great use on Waters of Change, but not Keiko Kumagai of Ars Nova as she used early tron samples). Side two is taken up with a suite, which is clearly the most ambitious thing they ever did. There's even a brief flirtation with medieval music, but that's because Tony Visconti played recorder on that part (as he did with Gentle Giant and even David Bowie). Still a very good record, but it may be a notch below Fandangos only because it doesn't quite match that album's intensity, while there are some intense parts, there are more calm and relaxed parts. Finally glad to own the second Carmen album. So I'm with popular opinion: a notch below Fandangos but still worth it if you dig what this band does.

 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by GKR

5 stars So, Carmen, aye?

I will strongly defend a solid 5 stars to the two first Carmen' albums. The motives for such a high score I will probably construct through several revisions of this reviews.

First, we do have to take in consideration the fact that Carmen is actually a live performance band. With flamboyant stage clothes, numbers of dancing and a complete stage performance with artistic interventions for each song. The combination of elements, music styles and artistic aproach is already a total comprehension of art group that deserves our attention.

Although a little bit poorly recorded, the vocals of John Glascock e David Allen are always in sintony and Glascock basslines always present and even with distorsion in some tracks. The compositions ("Saylior Song" and "Stepping Stone") and the repetition of the first melodies in the end of the album is remarkably.

Five stars to the Caballeros of Prog Rock!

 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Carmen promises Fandangos In Space and that's exactly what they deliver in this exciting mashup of flamenco rock and space rock. With lyrics in English betraying their origins as a combination of British and Mexican-American talent, it's a very different approach to the flamenco rock concept than homegrown Spanish bands would deploy (for one thing, Carmen could avoid the censorious attention of the Spanish regime of the age, whilst the Spanish flamenco rock bands had to more carefully judge when to toe the line and when to defy it), and also a great opportunity to hear John Glascock in action prior to his more famous work in Jethro Tull.
 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Carmen were a Los Angeles-based band, formed by guitarist/singer David Allen in 1970, featuring also his sister Angela on vocals and keyboards.They started as a seven-piece group and moved to London in early 73', reduced to a quintet and failing to find a contract in the US music market.After drummer Brian Glascock was replaced by Paul Fenton, the Goddess of Luck helped Carmen sign with EMI Records and eventually record their debut ''Fandangos in Space'' in 1973.

Having quite a daring sound for the time, Carmen blended the rock attitude with the charm of Flamenco music, creating an original mix, as Spanish bands had yet to show anything around the style due to the dictatorship in the country.Their sound was not only innovative but also fairly complex with plenty of interesting breaks, although the vast of time length is dedicated to the mix of typical Psychedelic/Heavy Rock with Flamenco.As expected the band mixed also English with a light dose of Spanish lyrics.To the music, this contains plenty of interesting and easy- listening arrangements, build around numerous shifting moods and led by the vocals and guitars of David Allen, ranging from electric poundness to acoustic softness, almost always driven by flamemco-flavored textures.The rhythm section provides an even cleaner sound of the style the band tried to promote.Angela Allen not only contributes with her lovely voice but she is also given some space to deliver good synthesizer and mellotron breaks.Another trademark of the band were the typical Spanish-sounding multi-vocal harmonies along with the strong amount of changing climates from explosive rock sounds to delicate acoustic structures.

''Fandagos in space'' should have been a masterpiece back at the time of its release, but just a few years later I can do nothing but admit that the Spanish bands did it a bit better regarding the style of Andalusian Rock and what more reasonable than this.Still the album sounds great even nowadays and deserves a strong recommendation both for its originality and its musical value...3.5 stars.

 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by RIREINC

4 stars So I read about this band in an old prog magazine, and after a long time I was able to locate a copy of the album... and I must say I'm impressed by the great musicianship and the excellent blend between Flamenco and prog-rock. The guitars may re-utilize some of the themes trough the album but in general its tolerable. Of course some of the lyrics are in Spanish but that's not a drag because in its majority is English.

For a debut album its pretty good and you should check it out if you are into flamenco and (sometimes) bolero. Bulerias and Looking Outside (My window) are probably the best songs from the album but the rest is interesting too.

4 Stars!

 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

3 stars Carmen were a band who fused prog and flamenco. Made up of both British and American musicians, including the brother and sister team of David Allen(vocals, guitar) and Angela Allen(keyboards, vocals, footwork). The most well known member here is bassist John Glascock who would later join Jethro Tull. The stomping and other sounds coming from the feet of Angela and Roberto Amaral is an important component of the music. This album was produced by Tony Visconti, best known for his work with David Bowie, but also working with Gentle Giant previously.

Some of the lyrics are in Spanish, and they talk way too much about Spain. I love Spain as much as the next person, but there is more to life than just Spain. "Bulerias" has a musical theme that gets reprised later on in the album. Begins with singing in Spanish, then English. Some good flamenco rock. In the middle the song changes and a guitar solo. Then footwork and celebratory voices. Acoustic part near the end before it goes back to the main theme. "Bullfight" is a more typical '70s rock song at first. Then a synth solo with percussion. After a different section. Ends with a vocal dominated part.

"Stepping Stone" is a more funky song. Features "do do do" type vocals. I like the synths in this song. "Por Tarantos" is an instrumental with great guitar playing. "Looking Outside(My Window" is the longest and best song. Starts off with the main theme from "Bulerias" briefly, then changes to a part with mostly Angela singing. Some vocals in Spanish before an acoustic guitar section. Then back to the main part now with dancing/footwork. More acoustic guitar and harmony vocals. After the bass solos for a bit. Music stops then a nice harmony vocal section; I like the part that goes "good it is to feel the sun".

"Retirando" starts with a great beat, I wouldn't be surprised if some hip-hopper has sampled this. Then some Mellotron and vibraphone. Some "badadada" vocals. Ends as a folk-rock song. The title track starts off sounding like Gentle Giant before it goes into a flamenco rock part. The two parts alternate. I like the guitar playing in the Gentle Giant-ish instrumental middle section. Later on some great footwork and piano briefly. Then a part with acoutic guitar, back up vocals and call-and-response vocals. Ends with an a capella section in Spanish. The last song "Reprise" has the main theme from "Bulerias" before a nice acoustic ending.

Fandangos In Space is the Carmen album I'm most familiar with, but I prefer the follow up Dancing On A Cold Wind. Never heard the third album. Not the proggiest album of the time but an original idea mixing rock and flamenco. A good effort, I'll give this 3 stars.

 Fandangos In Space by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.84 | 112 ratings

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Fandangos In Space
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Something quite different. As I was told many times, as I believe, prog is about something new. And this blend of Hispanic influences (right?) and typical prog traits for its time. As every new thing, I mean so new, it leaves me quite puzzled. Yes, my reviews can be divided to those written after just one listen and those about well known album. "Por Tarrantos", why I feel like listening Andres Ségovia here ? Because this is one side of the album, Spanish guitar, flamenco, however you call it side. And prog on the other one. Most of songs are combination of these two, but I hear more of prog. Something like a lot of influences, one of the biggest would it our Spain-like one.

One thing is pleasant here (and in fact, on every record), songs differ greatly. When somebody said that Not of This World by Pendragon songs sounds very similar, I agree (but don't see it as a mistake). Well, this is opposite situation.

4(+) stars for such fusion.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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