Various ‘¡Chicas! Spanish Female Singers vol. 2 1963-1978’ (Vampi Soul) 4/5

ChicasHow did Spaniards internalise the emerging and prevailing sounds of the Brit invasion in the 1960s and beyond? That was the rationale behind this latest compilation from the ever wonderful Vampi Soul and once again they have unearthed some gems from the past.
What immediately comes across from this cross-section sampling is that even under Franco’s rule, Spain was slowly beginning to soak up external cultural influences and in the musical sphere this in practice meant singers from overseas recording specifically Spanish language repertoire. The results were often entertaining and, on occasion, quite surprising choices into the bargain. Who, for example, would have thought that Millie Small’s ska-pop hit ‘My boy lollipop’ would be covered some twelve years later in Spanish by US singer Donna Hightower with ‘Tú eres mi idolo’ and a lovely rendition it is too. A pity, then, Hightower did not record a whole album’s worth of reggae-infused music, or maybe she did and that should be a future re-issue project. Merseyside trio the Satin Bells fancied themselves as Motown scousers of sorts, but the excellent B-side, ‘Come c’mon’ features lovely harmonies that would not be out-of-place on a soul-blues 45.

Bossa Nova was not overlooked by the Spanish music scene and a very Sergio Mendes feel is to be found on a lush take on Jorge Ben’s classic, ‘Más que nada’, completely revisited with a new set of Spanish lyrics. The French musical and fashion revolution was well underway by the mid-1960s with Brigitte Bardot leading the way for Les Françaises and one of her compatriot’s, Claudine Coppin, decided to chance her luck in Spain with 40° a la sombra’. Interestingly the evocative title was revamped in a different setting by French writer Philippe Djian when penning the cult novel and later to become film, 37° 2 le matin (‘Betty Blue’ being the English language title).

Home grown ye-ye came in various guises such as the uptempo and brassy hues of ‘Un millión de lágrimas’ by Claudya con Ramon y sus Showmen and the rhetorical sounding title, ‘Tú no eres yé-yé’ from Blanca Aurora. Indeed even Stax soul classics from the era were not immune from a reworking as ‘Los Quandos illustrate on Sam and Dave’s eternal, ‘Soul Man’ There are in addition some old favourites from the recent past in Elia and Elisabeth, a duo of sisters whose Spanish parent settled in Colombia and here the pairing offer up ‘Porte bajo el bol’ with joint vocals and an eerie organ accompaniment. Bilingual inner sleeve notes and memorable photos of the singers plus individualised notes on the songs leave no stone unturned and the reader and listener is very much the beneficiary.

Tim Stenhouse