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V/A - Chicas: Spanish Female Singers 1962-1974

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Artist: V/A

Album: Chicas: Spanish Female Singers 1962-1974

Label: VampiSoul

Review date: Oct. 28, 2011

The teen-age beat of mod 1960s music spread across the world in weird and wonderful ways. In Franco-era Spain, it manifested as an explosion of songs by an ebullient and vivid range of girl singers, bringing a deeply needed sense of lift and freedom, disguised, perhaps, as slight and innocuous pop music. Chicas: Spanish Female Singers 1962-1974 offers a more than generous sampling, and showcases the variety and imagination of Spanish pop during the ‘60s and early ‘70s.

First up, and setting the mood, is “Cha Cha Twist,” an obscure Warner Brothers single by Margarita Sierra, who actually made inroads into the American pop scene before dying young. Hers is a Dionysian surf-twist dance song; a yelping, frenzied vocal riding Hal Blaine-ish drum beats, charanga flutes, and trebly electric guitar.

Many of the best tunes on the collection are productions of the Belter label. For instance, Los Stop’s Motown cover “Extende Tus Brazos” evinces a taste of the sort of crisp, clear yet somehow menacing production that Terry Melcher applied to Paul Revere & The Raiders: layered clean and dirty-toned guitars; strong bass line; up-front and theatrical lead vocals.

Indeed, the vocal approaches brought by different singers are rich and varied, from the heart-throbbing, kick-ass garage-band girl-rock of Lorella con Los Shakers’ “Sola Estoy,” to the Flamenco or Portuguese fado emotiveness of Los Que Vivimo’s strangely-paced “Contrapunto,” to the zippy, Latin-tinged sunshine pop of Ellas’ “Llovio.” And all of this is set in arrangements that include elements as wide-ranging as The Ventures, big-band mambo, Top 40-style American faux-psychedelia, and bossa nova. (As a bonus, be prepared for a feast of electric organ sounds that might suggest Esquivel on a bad acid trip, as recorded by Joe Meek…)

For all the loopiness and exuberance on display here, there are also deeper sounds. The collection’s closer, a cover of Three Dog Night’s “Liar” called “Mientes” by Lia Uya, is utterly stunning, with its dark and arresting vocal delivery, a stark and dynamic arrangement that features rolling and rippling guitars that sound like they might have come from West Africa , and at climatic moments, some hard and dramatic horn stabs. It is, by the standards of any style or era, a powerful and unforgettable record.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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