Various Artists CD

Gipsy Rhumba

(Soul Jazz/Inertia) 

Gipsy resSpain only had 1500 record players when the Beatles visited in 1965, an extraordinary statistic that ensured music was not only live, but largely home-grown. In the early 1960s Barcelona’s Gypsies invented Catalan rumba, filtering Cuban rumba through the prism of flamenco. Flamenco purists may have scowled at it, but it soon became popular dance music.

This firecracker of an album contains 20 tracks dating from 1965 to 1974. Basically the earlier the material the closer the link to flamenco. As the years went by more of the instrumentation usual to Cuban rumba bands crept in. If that robbed the music of something of its initial distinctiveness it certainly did not dilute the primal energy and raw excitement. The pin-you-to-the-wall highlights come from such stunning singers as Peret, Antonio Gonzalez, Maruja Garrido (who was championed by Salvador Dali) and Dolores Vargas.

The remastering (probably mainly from vinyl and cassette sources) is exemplary, although one could argue that the material may have been better programmed chronologically rather than according to some aesthetic scheme.