Various Artists Beginner’s Guide to Flamenco Review

Compilation. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Solid-enough budget compilation highlighting both known and worth-knowing talents.

Jon Lusk 2012

Much imitated and diluted, the gypsy music of Spain may present the newcomer with some difficult choices. Where to begin is the first question. Provided you have avoided the surfeit of tacky pop analogues and touristic cash-ins, you still need a guide to help you choose from the wealth and diversity of authentic traditional flamenco on offer.

This generous and well-annotated 3-CD set is a good place to start. As compiler and sleeve notes author, the late musicologist and journalist Jan Fairley is that expert guide. But as with any budget-priced compilation, the restrictions of licensing mean that there are significant omissions.

In this case, they include historically important figures such as Camarón de la Isla, La Niña de los Peines and Pata Negra. More recent luminaries including Paco de Lucía, Estrella Morente, Gipsy Kings, Bebo & Cigala and Ojos de Brujo are also missing.

However, there is a good range of "payo", or non-Gypsy, performers. These include Barcelona-based singer Mayte Martín and Miguel Poveda, as well as Cairo-based accordionist Ali Khattab. Khattab slithers up and down Arabic scales on a couple of numbers with great style, providing a subtle reminder about the Moorish roots of much Iberian music, including flamenco.

There’s more accordion in the version of María La Portuguesa by Las Migas (“The Crumbs”), a Barcelona-based group of four women, who are anything but crumby.  Among the other pleasant surprises are Surcos, by Jorge Pardo with Tino di Geraldo, and the contributions by an intensely emotional Enrique Morente.

Pianist Diego Amador’s offerings, Soléa del Churri and Sangre Milenaria, are highlights; and there’s a lovely and instantly recognisable reading of the classic copla, Ojos Verde, by Sergio Monroy. Elsewhere, Ketama’s fusion of rock, flamenco and Malian music has stood the test of time gracefully.

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