If the aim of Flamencopolis is to alter any misguided impressions that flamenco is a staid music and dance style whose components are set in stone with little room for innovation, it succeeds wildly. In recent years, artists such as Ojos de Brujo, Ketama and the rocking Raimundo Amador (the latter two are included here, the former, unfortunately, are not) have taken the basic elements of traditional flamenco and created from them something appropriately called nuevo flamenco. Placed side by side with the more traditional form, which often occurs on this project, the two branches of the music sometimes sound so dissimilar that one could make a case that they are not even related. But as if to prove the point that they are indeed, and that the possibilities go even further, Flamencopolis not only converges the new and old flamenco styles, but invites artists from outside of the genre to collaborate with some of flamenco's greats, thus making even more clear that flamenco is capable of seamless integration. Nowhere is that more obvious than on the album's second track, "Bolleré," on which blues legend B.B. King teams with Amador in a live setting, the result sounding as if they'd always performed together. The jazzy "El Oasis de los Dioses" features the Algerian raï star Cheb Khaled, whose raspy vocals complement Ketama's bell-like romanticism remarkably well, and Brazil's iconic Caetano Veloso also sits in with Ketama to laudable results in "Kanela y Menta." The jazz guitarists Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin have had great success recording with the Spanish maestro Paco De Lucia, and their collaborative "Chiquito" is a showcase for their combined and individual virtuosity. George Benson also brings in a jazz touch, opening the set in a duet with Tomatito titled "La Vaciloa." In the end, though, it's the flamenco artists, not the visitors, who provide the most impressive moments. Camaron de la Isla is as classic a flamenco cantaor as there is, and his two tracks here, one with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the other with the popular Spanish singer Ana Belén, are polar opposites in tenor, but in both instances de la Isla proves the draw.
AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin