Paco Ibáñez

En el Olympia

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Paco Ibáñez's sensibility was quintessentially post-war European: he selected poetry from the Middle Ages to the present and set it to music, bringing it alive and teasing out new resonances. His artistry was most compelling in concert, as this 1969 Paris recording illustrates. Ibáñez's remarkable performance radiates passion, optimism, energy, and humor. Armed only with his acoustic guitar and raw, throaty voice, he delivers a wealth of songs ranging from the introspective to the anthemic, the plaintive to the commanding. Ibáñez had lived in France since 1948 (when his family fled Franco's dictatorship in Spain) and as an exile, he made his homeland one of his work's primary thematic concerns. Here his poignant rendering of Miguel Hernández's "Aceituneros," retitled "Andaluces de Jaén," celebrates a specific province; its political charge is also undeniable since the audience was well aware that Hernández had died in jail under Franco. Post-Civil War Spain is addressed more explicitly with a version of Gabriel Celaya's rousing "España en Marcha." (Amid the cheering after the song, there's a shout of "Franco, asesino!" [Franco, murderer!] -- censored for the album's 1970 release.) Ibáñez also chooses older texts with a timeless, universal perspective: for instance, he denounces capitalism with the Archpriest of Hita's pre-capitalist, 14th century "Lo Que Puede El Dinero," rather than with a topical contemporary poem. Ibáñez treats his French fans to a Spanish-language rendition of Georges Brassens's "La Mauvaise Réputation"; elsewhere, he displays pan-Hispanic solidarity with a stirring version of Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén's "Guitarra en Duelo Mayor" (retitled "Soldadito Boliviano"). The song's mention of Ché Guevara sends the crowd into rapturous applause: this was the '60s, after all. Admittedly, at this concert Ibáñez had an exceptionally enthusiastic audience of Spanish émigrés and sympathetic French, but the intense, intimate communion he achieves with that audience is rare and seldom documented so compellingly.

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