Carmen - a rock band in the early seventies that created the perfect blend of serious rock and traditional Spanish and flamenco music.
Everywhere, the band and its music are mentioned very favorably - here are a few samples:
"A very unique and very excellent band"
"Still sounds fresh today"
"Their sound is difficult to draw any comparisons to, because it is so unique."
In All Music Guides, François Couture writes
"...the musical elements are so well integrated into the progressive rock vocabulary (including hand claps, castanets, and flamenco footwork) that one wonders why nobody followed the band's footsteps (literally!)."
Initially, Carmen was a success. They played with Bowie, toured with Jethro Tull, worked with one of the hottest producers in the world and debuted with an album that critics instantly loved...
So why are these pioneers not more widely known?
Just plain old bad luck, it seems. The band was five years old, recording their third album and being approached as support for a Rolling Stones tour when a series of catastrophes struck - the drummer had a serious accident, they parted company with Tony Visconti and their manager decided to leave as well. The band lost heart, and the great promises weren't fulfilled.
A year or so later, punk rock was steam-rolling the world, and there was no place whatsoever for a band that used more than three chords and had professional dancers on stage. The window of opportunity had closed.
Luckily, Carmen's music is preserved; in recordings, but foremost in the hearts and minds of the people who got the chance to listen to them.
Carmen - the flamenco rock band "the most original rock band you'll ever hear"
The front man in Carmen was guitarist David Clark Allen who played flamenco styled rock guitar with the same power and intensity as an acoustic flamenco player.
The other distinct part of the band's sound was the castanet and flamenco footwork rythmns of David's sister Angela and lead singer Roberto Amaral. Live, the band had a special soundboard stage with microphones, on which Roberto and Angela would dance as part of their show. Angela Allen also played keyboards and sang. Drummer Paul Fenton added power to the rythmn.
The bass player in Carmen was John Glascock, formerly of Chicken Shack, who had joined the band in 1972 in Los Angeles. John Glascock was later to become bass player with Jethro Tull. He played with them from 1976 to 1979, when he died, tragically, at the age of just twenty-eight, from complications stemming from a congenital heart defect.
Carmen released three albums:
The first album was the product of three years honing material influenced by Genesis, Yes and Led Zeppelin. Tony Visconti produced the record and helped Carmen realise their musical vision in the studio.
"Dancing On A Cold Wind" is more intellectual, with the second side being a complete mini-opera: the nine-part suite "Rememberances". The third album, "The Gypsies" was the product of one and a half years touring the states. Tony Visconti was no longer involved with Carmen by this point. Line records released a CD with both Fandangos in Space and Dancing On A Cold Wind, but the album wasn't available again until 2006 when AngelAir records re-released all of the albums as well as a new solo instrumental album by David.
Why does Carmen's music still sound so fresh today?
One reason is that their special fusion of Latin music and rock was not some kind of cheap trick or gimmick. Neither was it a formula, thought out by record company executives. David spent years finding a combination that worked.
Another reason: experience shows. When Carmen started playing together, the members were all seasoned performers and musicians with years of hard work in other bands and acts. David had played flamenco guitar since very early childhood.