An extraordinarily unique creative
affinity with Vicente, reminiscent
of Camarón and Paco de Lucía.
In 1991 I happened to find a copy of “Poeta de Esquinas Blandas”
in the Corte Inglés in Madrid. That CD became a favorite flamenco
recording of mine, one against which I would compare others in reference.
Since it was the last recording these two did together, it seems apt to
use it as a benchmark for this latest effort.
El Pele has three very distinct characteristics which set him apart from
all other cantaores: 1) he has a very unique voice, something like a fingerprint,
which is highly recognizable; 2) he is capable of reaching notes well
higher than many cantaores; and 3) he has a unique sense of melody, which
he uses to broaden the possibilities within traditional flamenco.
Vicente Amigo also has developed a very unique sound of his own. He has
obviously worked very, very hard to create his own voice with the guitar
and it shines through everything he plays.
has a unique sense of melody, which he uses to broaden the possibilities
within traditional flamenco.
The first track, Canto, an alegría, begins with Vicente playing a
heavily accentuated single line descending melody on the guitar, which evolves
into themes very similar to those of the alegría “La Tarde
es Caramelo”, from the album Ciudad de las Ideas. A deep bass drum
marks compás along with palmas and cajón to accompany the
guitar and voice.
Soon, choruses state the choral melody and so begins one of the strongest performances
on the recording. The choral voices sound nothing like the earlier ones
from Poeta de Esquinas Blandas (1990) or La Fuente de lo Jondo (1986).
In fact, they do sound much like those on Del Amanecer…(1998), which
Vicente recorded with José Mercé. The guitarist seems to
have found a mix of male and female voices he decided works well, something
like a trademark..
This recording brings a fairly strong delivery for El Pele, who has an
extraordinarily unique creative affinity with Vicente, reminiscent of
Camarón and Paco de Lucía. The bulería “Los
Amantes” begins with a simple change of chords on guitar and then,
gasp, a saxophone?!?! Vicente used flutes to tremendous advantage on an
alegría from Poeta de Esquinas Blandas, and also trumpet in a rumba
from Vivencias Imaginadas. But a saxophone? That’s certainly novel.
The sax is hard not to associate with jazz or blues or pop music, but
the question here is, does it sound flamenco? In my judgement no, it does
not. To my ear the saxophone sounds inappropriate, as much as some might
like it in other contexts. Another instrument, perhaps less known, like
a duduk or a cymbalom or a kanun, although strongly associated with other
types of music, would have been less of a stretch.
A huge advance in sound quality in comparison
to previous recordings Pele has done.
slow bulería does succeed in the end. Joined by La Susi, El Pele
goes on to deliver an emotional performance in this story of two lovers.
What it lacks in tempo it almost makes up for in intensity.
The tangos “Iré con el Viento” follow. Again, the
choruses lack the dramatic effect found on the fandango Qué Bien
te Suena for example from Poeta de Esquinas Blandas, although Pele does
perform as always with the requisite emotional charge.
The soleá, “Rincón de los Amargos”, brings
us to a more traditional flamenco setting. Here, Vicente accompanies in
a far more reserved style than most of his older accompaniment recordings.
The freed space allows El Pele more room to vary the dynamics and present
his unique sense of melodic progression.. Another element worthy of mention
is that the recording, which was made at Vicente’s home studio,
reflects a huge advance in sound quality in comparison to previous recordings
Pele has done.
Vicente’s suggestive accompaniment
subtly supplies the Andalusian cadence
rather than repeatedly stating it outright
The rumbas and sevillanas which follow are of far less substance than
the seguiriya, which deserves some attention. It fades in and evolves
into a subtly faster paced piece, with synthesizer in the background creating
an ambience true to the spirit of a seguiriya, yet daringly novel. How
well it works I’ll leave to the discretion of each listener. Personally,
I like a number of things about it, the mood created by the musical setting,
Pele’s voice in one of his strongest suits, Vicente’s suggestive
accompaniment, which subtly supplies the Andalusian cadence rather than
repeatedly stating it outright, and the deceptively fast compás.
It is a joy to have a new recording from these two highly creative individuals
and I hereby publicly request they don’t keep us waiting too long
before recording together again.