Manuel Iman

Flowers in the Desert

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The easiest thing that a facile flamenco guitar player like Manuel Iman could have done on his debut Flowers in the Desert is stick to the usual jumpy trappings of the genre as he does on the intensely rhythmic "Rumba Chulita." But that would simply put him on par with more established pop flamenco stars Ottmar Liebert and Jesse Cook. Introducing a rock edged electric guitar into the mix proves a stroke of brilliance on a multi-movement piece like "Zingar"; a frothy tropical jam that suddenly grows deeper and more passionate until Iman finally plugs in and wails, screaming and crunching like Van Halen dropping into a little cantina. He uses the rocking instrument as the centerpiece of a soaring Middle Eastern flavored jaunt on the title track. The tune begins unassumingly, loping along with a bright Spanish guitar melody before chant-like vocals soar in the distance, spacy synth harmony appears, and Iman dramatically ups the distortion and goes for broke. While rock & roll is an obvious love, Iman's other main influence appears to be classical music. A marching rhythm pattern on "King of Hearts" forms the backbone for a graceful weave of gentle flamenco stylings and synthesized orchestrations. And the closing track, "Swan Birthday," is a soft flute-acoustic guitar meditation which borders on new age and enters the classical realm with another synth orchestra sweep.

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