Manitas de Plata: Olé! Vanguard OVC 8068 (1994), barcode 723918806822
Compiled in “The Flamenco Guitar of Manitas de Plata”, Vanguard 08 9158 72 (2 CDs, 1994), barcode 3351479158721
Compiled in “Manitas de Plata The Gipsy Legend”, Barclay 4723736 (9 CDs, 2015), barcode 602547237361
Recorded OCtober 1963, Arles, France
Fabulous music and music-making – and don’t miss the companion disc, Gypsy Flamenco
Originally posted on Amazon.com, 7 April 2014
This is a fabulous recital, originally released in the US in 1966 on LPs Vanguard VSD-79224 (VRS 9924 mono) and Philips 844.536 PY and 849.473 BY in Europe – links will open new tab to entry on discogs.com. I don’t have this American CD issue, OVC 8068, but a European twofer released in 1994, 08 9158 72 “The Flamenco Guitar of Manitas de Plata: Gypsy Flamenco & Olé!”, that conveniently pairs this program and its companion Gypsy Flamenco (CD OVC 8018 and link to my review – the LP, VSD 79203, was titled “Guitarra Flamenco”, and the SACD reissue from 2000, Vanguard VSD 503, reverted to that title). Unlike “Gipsy Flamenco”, I haven’t found an individual European issue for Olé!, nor an SACD reissue. As for sonics, where I’ve had the opportunity to check, European Vanguard (marketed by an”Arcade” company from the Netherlands) used the same transfers as the US Vanguards (distributed by Vanguard’s founder Seymour Solomon through his company Omega Records), and they always sound great, present, natural, and with very limited tape hiss.
Let me refer you to my review of “Gipsy Flamenco” for the details and circumstances of those recordings, which are just a small part of the huge material accumulated by producer E. Alan Silver of Connoisseur Society during a recording session in Arles in October 1963. The rest (and possibly new recordings at the end) was issued on six LPs on his own label, Connoisseur Society: CS 263 “Manitas de Plata Flamenco Guitar” in 1965, CS 965 “Manitas de Plata Flamenco Guitar vol. 2” in 1966, CS 2003 “Juerga!” in 1967 (but this one had an earlier release, on French Philips 844.535 PY, in 1963), CS 2006 “Recital Manitas de Plata” in 1968, CS 2013 “Viva Manitas de Plata!” (1969) and CS 2017 “Manitas de Plata Live” (1970). All those albums were licensed to Philips for Europe, and were issued and reissued with different covers, under numerous different label numbers – and sometimes inept titles, like “Manitas de Plata aux Saintes-Maries de la Mer” (the French Philips version of CS 965), which is 40 kilometers away from Arles where he was recorded. Some or all of these Connoisseur LPs were ressiued to CD on the Connoisseur Society label, long long time ago, in the early days of the CD era, in Japan, no barcode, which made them utmost rarities and thus collectors’ desirabiliae, difficult to find online, rarely offered, and always at steep prices. Discogs.com fields two:
30CD-3003 (CD 4099) Manitas de Plata Flamenco Guitar = CS 263
30CD-3004 (CD 4126) Manitas de Plata Juerga ! = CS 2003
But now the collector and fan of Manitas doesn’t need to search them frantically and break the piggy bank whenever they show up, since, through their licensing to Philips, they’ve been (except, apparently, for CS-2013, but together with the Vanguard CDs) reissued in 2015 on Barclay’s 9 CD set mentioned in the header.
Back to those two Vanguard CDs: one can’t recommend one over the other, both collate the same sessions and the same inspiration. Flamenco purists contend that Manitas de Plata doesn’t play “authentic” Flamenco, among other reasons because he doesn’t have the characteristic “beat” of Flamenco, or compás (see the section about compás in the Wikipedia article on Flamenco). This may be true, I’m not a specialist, but even if so, and so what? Picasso, Dali thought it good enough for them. Maybe it’s not “authentic” Flamenco and maybe it’s not Flamenco at all, but, whatever its name, it is still fabulous music and music-making – and although the focus is on the guitarist, don’t neglect the singers, Manitas’ cousin the great José Reyes and his son Manero Baliardo. Flamenco, so far as I can tell, is an art of raucous singing as much as of wild guitar playing, and this may not be genuine Flamenco, but it sure is raucous and wild.
Outstanding liner notes on my European issue, with, in addition to Silver’s recollections, a general survey of Flamenco (taken from the original Vanguard release of Olé!), its roots and development, and short presentations of each piece, with artists’ bios. TT 50:21. By the way, Manitas de Plata is still alive, going on 93, having survived both his cousin and his son, and he’s recently published a call for help in the French press, having recently suffered a heart-attack and claiming to be ill and broke, having earned much in his life and given even more in typical Gypsy fashion, and claiming not to know what he’s done with all those paintings that Picasso and Dali gave him, if he lost them or if they were stolen, because he “never considered Art as a commercial value”. It’s always startling to meet the real life behind the legends. France has Brigitte Bardot, once the contender with Marylin Monroe for the title of sexiest woman in the world, now going on 80. Imagine Marylin today, she’d be going on 86. And James Dean at 83? Icons are better off dying at a young age, that’s what makes them icons. I’ll help Manitas, in gratitude for this great recital.
P.S.: 5 November 2014: MdP passes away, may flamenco trumpets greet him in heaven