El Lebrijano


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After the success of Encuentros, flamenco singer Juan Pena Lebrijano's first collaboration with an Andalusian orchestra from Morocco, it was inevitable that the experiment be repeated. Unfortunately, too many variables were changed for the effort to succeed: El Lebrijano seems to have struck out on his own and abandoned the entire personnel roster from the earlier effort. The result is much blander and more artificial. El Lebrijano himself still sounds good, his muscular tenor voice aging well. And the solo Arab singers sound almost as good as on Encuentros, although we hear less of them on Casablanca. But the Arabic chorus sounds vapid and has no edge whatsoever -- the antithesis of flamenco and hardly typical of music from the Maghreb, either. The Western string orchestra sounds too perfect and the engineer seems to have compressed them a bit. Three different percussionists are credited -- but if those are human beings playing, they have mastered the art of sounding like drum machines. The biggest instrumental sins are the omission of a flamenco guitar from most of the album and the occasional uncredited presence of an electric piano, an instrument that has no business in either flamenco or Andalusian music. The songs are acceptable, although they certainly do not showcase the Andalusian element, and barely showcase the flamenco. Think of it as generic Western Mediterranean pop. It is unfortunate that an artist with so long and distinguished a career as El Lebrijano has succumbed to the recent trend of cheapening and denaturing flamenco -- and North African music as well.

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