Initially I found the guitar players much more accessible, the singers tend to take a while to percolate but finding one you like tends to lead to another. The late Camaron De La Isla(always refered to as Cameron) is the most famous singer. A young Paco De Lucia accompanied him, he led a rock & roll lifestyle & died young. Another couple of recommendations would be La Perla De Cadiz & Enrique Morente who played a stunning set at WOMAD this year. Rod B recommends 'Suena la Alhambra' in the Best of the Year section. Sounds like a winner to me. Juan Pena & Orchesta Andalusi de Tangier's 'Encuentros' which Charlie turned us all onto still sounds great. Also Jose Merce CD 'Aire' has some crackers on it.
Guitar players. More votes for Sabicas & Gerardo Nunez though I'd probably opt for 'Jucal' with some fantastic tracks(except track two which is a stinker). Add to that Carlos Montoya, Tomatito, & two that almost seem like flamenco cliches but are excellent players Paco de Lucia(I'd avoid his jazz/flamenco fusion stuff myself but each....) & Tony Blairs favourite, Paco Pena
Des, the difficulty of recommending flamenco CDs to anyone based in the UK is to find ones that might be available. Amazonâ€™s stock is a bit patchy, and Iâ€™m not aware of any specialist flamenco shop in the UK (but then I do live in the sticks, so if anyone does know of a shop with a large comprehensive stock of flamenco CDs, please, please let me know).
Out of the CDs that I think would be easy to get hold of, I would most recommend Estrella Morenteâ€™s My Song and a Poem/Mi cante y un poema of five years or so back. Produced by Enrique, it features some of the greatest flamenco guitarists around: Juan and Pepe Habichuela, the Carmonas, and Manolo SanlÃºcar. I think this CD is a very good introduction to flamenco for the reason that David mentioned. Flamenco singing can sound a bit of a challenge for the newcomer until you get used to it, but Estrella's voice, whilst completely flamenca, also easily appeals to non-aficionados. My feeling is, if anyone tries this CD but canâ€™t find anything to like, flamenco probably isnâ€™t for them. But if you do like it, then thereâ€™s a serious danger you'll discover this whole new world of music on which to ruin your finances.
Like David, I found CamerÃ³nâ€™s voice abrasive at first but then after a few listens I suddenly got it, and I now appreciate why he was unquestionably the most important artist in the recent history of flamenco. Along with Paco de LucÃa first and then Tomatito he transformed the genre through incorporating jazz, rock, and Latin American influences into his songs (â€˜Como el Aguaâ€™ is his best song for me, available on numerous compilations).
In my opinion, the other most important singer of the last few decades is Enrique Morente. Personally I think his latest CD SueÃ±a del Alhambra is absolutely superb, but be warned, the arrangements and instrumentation are hard to describe, and not what you might expect from a flamenco artist. His music has always had an eclectic and experimental side: my favourite CD of his has to be the magnificent Omega from 1996, a CD based on arrangements of Lorca verses and including four Leonard Cohen songs; featuring a rock band from Granada, guitar legends Vicente Amigo and Tomatito, and notable for the first appearance of Estrella.
Rod B. wrote:I haven't come across any British-compiled flamenco compilations that I could recommend
I bow to Rod, Chris and Davidâ€™s (and probably everybody elseâ€™s) superior judgement on flamenco, but I have to say that I like the Rough Guide to Flamenco, which contains tracks from at least four of the artists recommended so far - Enrique Morente, Tomatito (with CamarÃ³n), Paco de Lucia and Pata Negra. I was turned on to Enrique Morente, and in turn Estrella, as a result of this compilation. The fact that I havenâ€™t dug much further than that might be confirmation of Rodâ€™s view above, although I think it must in part be down to fact that flamenco tends to be something that I like as an ingredient rather than the full dish.