Liviu Tipurita goes inside the world of Romania's super-rich Gypsy popstars - a world of fast cars, lavish houses and gangsters - to look at a type of Gypsy music called Manele.
After their internationally successful 1988 self-titled debut, few have followed the the Gypsy Kings' noteworthy fusion of their distinctive flamenco-inflected pop with other international influences. Love & Liberte, a 1994 Elektra Records release, is one of their few compilations of all-new material, one that demonstrates this growth perhaps more than any of their other projects. One of their more extravagant songs, "No Vivire" implements a prominent bassline and strong brass accents in the chorus. Equally pleasant but slightly less authentic, "Escucha Me" crosses their Spanish guitar sound with a full reggae ensemble. The album's zenith hits with two instrumental tracks, "Guitarra Negra" and "Love and Liberte." "Guitarra Negra" shows off castanets with bongos. Every few bars, the intensity seems to reach a peak, only to retreat and regroup for another charge.
The Gipsy Kings are largely responsible for bringing the joyful sounds of progressive pop-oriented flamenco to the world. The band started out in Arles, a village in southern France, during the '70s when brothers Nicolas and Andre Reyes, the sons of renowned flamenco artist Jose Reyes, teamed up with their cousins. Their eponymous 1988 album sold tremendously in France and appeared on the Top Ten album charts in 12 European countries, including England; in 1989, it spent 40 weeks on the U.S. charts and went gold, becoming one of the few Spanish albums to do so.