Ottmar Liebert

Winter Rose

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In Spain, flamenco's purist hardliners view Ottmar Liebert the same way they view the Gipsy Kings: as a pop culture bastardization of the real thing -- the real thing being traditionalists like Paco de Lucía and Tomatito. But that's a narrow-minded and foolish way of looking at it, because Liebert never claimed to be a flamenco traditionalist. The guitar-playing instrumentalist has been bringing a wide variety of influences to the table -- influences that continue to serve him well on Winter Rose. Recorded from 2003-2005, Winter Rose is Liebert's third Christmas-influenced project; the two previous ones were 1990's Poets & Angels and 2000's Christmas + Santa Fe. But saying that Winter Rose is Christmas-influenced -- at least some of the time -- isn't saying that it is strictly a Christmas album. Liebert puts his spin on a few traditional Christmas songs, including "Away in a Manger" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." But truth be told, much of Winter Rose is not overtly Christmas-themed -- and the disc's other highlights range from several Liebert originals to a tasteful arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "Le Café." The word "tasteful" comes to mind throughout Winter Rose; sure, Liebert can be slick and glossy, but he's tastefully slick and glossy -- tasteful as a guitarist, tasteful as an arranger, tasteful in his ability to combine flamenco elements with everything from European classical to new age, folk, and pop-jazz. This CD is not among Liebert's essential releases, but it is nonetheless a pleasing, worthwhile addition to his catalog -- and while Winter Rose isn't a Christmas album through and through, it is still nice to see Liebert revisiting the Christmas theme on some of the tracks.

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