Picks and Pans Review: Gipsy Kings

updated 02/13/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1989 01:00AM

Gipsy Kings

Jaded American ears have been perking up recently to the sprightly sound of this surprisingly successful album that came from way out in left field. Actually this sextet, all of Gypsy descent, are from even farther away—southern France, to be exact. (Yes, Virginia, there really are Gypsies, and some of them spell it with an i.) Their weapon of choice is the acoustic guitar, and they sing in the Gitane dialect—a melange of Spanish, Catalan and Provençal. On songs such as the hit "Bamboleo," the profusion of guitars strummed in unison creates music of undeniable passion. Throughout their American debut, the Kings manage to combine pop sweetness with Latin fire. In their hands and throats (Nicolas Reyes sings lead), ballads—"Tu Quieres Volver," for example—take on a palpable ardor. They employ simple but effective harmonies, most notably on the salsafied "Un Amor." The spicy flamenco instrumental "Moorea" provides pungent pleasure. They also do the best version of "My Way (A Mi Manera)" since Sid Vicious tortured that standard. It's only on songs like "Bem, Bem, Maria," when they drag in synthesizers, bass and drums, that the appeal of the Kings evaporates. Luckily, they don't muck around with their basic style often. Why should they? They've stumbled onto the inside track to music of a rare dignity and distinction. (Elektra)

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