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Medina Azahara - ...En Al-Hakim CD (album) cover


Medina Azahara


Symphonic Prog

3.53 | 15 ratings

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3 stars The genre into which Medina Azahara had previously been slotted in is "eclectic prog", and nowhere does this description match the band's output better than on "En El Hakim". This has to do with the attitude of the group towards the compositions - one of patience and collaborative arrangements - and the inclusion of guest flamenco master Vicente Amigo. The result is a band that sounds, and even looks, like a mature version of the Gipsy Kings, one that knows how to slow down, take root, and stay awhile.

This is not to say that En El Hakim is mellow or laid back, just that it acknowledges a time and place for everything in music as in life. "La Guitarra" is of course a showcase for Amigo, but also for his interplay with keyboardist Pablo Rabadán. In "El Destino", Amigo plays a central role in a ponderous bluesy song, but in "Dejame Vivir", the band goes up tempo big time, coming across like the Moody Blues a la "Story in Your Eyes", but with an even better melody and not a note wasted. It even has a succinct lead guitar solo, and a masterfully drawn out ending that betrays its deeply progressive roots. This is 4 minute prog as it has rarely been done before or since. Finally "Desde Cordoba" combines all of the hues - the flamenco, the urgency, the synths, and the power balladry of the emotive Manuel Martínez to produce a touching finale.

Three less interesting numbers spoil the possibility of a 4 star rating. The title cut tries to integrate more overt Andalusian influences with very limited success, while "Velocidad" starts well but fails to reach escape velocity, ditto for "Tal Como Es". None of them are bad but they are simply not up to the high quality of the rest of the material.

En El Hakim is a good album with plenty of great moments from this important Spanish group that more people should know.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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