[2 November 2011]
Between the mid ‘60s and mid ‘70s, Spain saw an explosion of girl-pop, records made by female singers that used mainstream pop styles sometimes mixed with traditional Spanish music. It was music that expressed hope and optimism at the height of the repressive Franco regime, and it demonstrates just how much buoyancy lurked underneath the surface during that brutal time. Chicas compiles 24 tracks of this music. While it’s uneven, as compilations of this type tend to be, it’s definitely worth hearing. There are no political themes because the regime would never have allowed that, but there are plenty of great songs here. What’s most surprising is the variety. Many of the songs are typical, upbeat ’60s radio pop, such as Laura Casale’s Motown-esque “The More I See You”, but there are some unusual tracks here as well. “Un Chico Moderno” (“A Modern Guy”) by Pili & Mili, uses a conventional garage-pop tune to express a surprisingly feminist message about what kind of guy the singers are looking for, while Vainica Doble’s “La Maquina Infernal” (“The Infernal Machine”) builds its melody around what sounds like an electronically processed kazoo. There are a few clinkers here and there, mainly a couple of Spanish-language versions of mainstream pop hits like the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud” and the Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, but no song here is longer than four minutes, so they’re easy to sit through. Besides, where else are you going to hear Encarnita Polo’s interpretation of “Hava Naguila”, which incorporates flamenco guitars, R&B horns, and salsa piano licks? Songs like that are why you buy a compilation like this one, and if you’re at all a fan of ‘60s pop or world music, you should.