Cleopatra 2024


Six-string-wielding sevillano weaves his wizardry into well-known hits to challenge their omnipresence.

Purely instrumental interpretation of songs is often a self-imposed entrapment for artists who are wary of the process’ dangers: it’s too easy to lose sight of the original melody after going off on a tangent and to bore the listener with the tune that doesn’t bear repeating without words – and why non-jazz musicians carry on doing this can be anybody’s guess. Flamenco luminary Rafael Riqueni should have known better, still, than to try and use the simplistic formula on the radio-friendly pieces which were wearing everyone out for years, yet the veteran decided to apply different filters – or, rather, add fiery flourishes to familiar fare – and almost fail due to the sheer impossibility of such a task.

While his method will work wonders on Spanish standard “Amapola” and “Cogiendo Rosas” that Riquieni wrote himself – the two numbers which bring the album’s main course to emotional finale – and on “Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile)” with its ever-shifting motif and vibrant drift, Rafael’s readings of “Tears In Heaven” or “I Will Always Love You” find the maestro diligently filigreeing the ballads’ background to offset the topline. However, he’s too cautious when touching the evergreens, “Moon River” and “Cinema Paradiso” that exude the air of decadent elegance anyway, even though not to the extent of “Just The Two Of Us” or “What A Wonderful World” that retain their sparse, soulful sway and get augmented with fresh ornaments. And if the guitarist wouldn’t delve into “Stairway To Heaven” any deeper than the epic’s acoustic part, slightly enhanced here, “Dream On” acquires a few new dimensions once its lace is streamed through his fingers.

The same sadly can’t be said of RR’s delivery of “Every Breath You Take” or “Yesterday” – a Feliciano-approaching bonus track on the record’s CD version, alongside two orchestral takes on “Spanish Harlem” one of which features Ben E. King’s silky voice. A futile effort and a waste of a remarkable talent’s time.


March 12, 2024

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