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Los Bravos

Reissue of the 1966 debut album by Spanish beat/soul band Los Bravos, the most international Spanish act of the 60s. Recorded in London under Ivor Raymonde's direction, it features such powerful tracks as 'Trapped' and the worldwide chart hit 'Black Is Black'.

'Black Is Black' is remembered as the peak of 60s Spanish pop. However, although Los Bravos came from Madrid, it was a truly international hit: his backer is a French record company man, Alain Milhaud, who employs a German singer (Michael Volker Kögel, later Mike Kennedy), supported by British musicians and songwriters. The European Union was working full steam ahead… in 1966!

After settling in Spain, the visionary Milhaud flies to London in search of an international release for Los Bravos. The Spanish recordings don't get much attention but Phil Solomon, one of the industry's big fish, sees potential in the singer, who commands soul's emotion and Gene Pitney's dramatic flair; he appreciates the project's strength, with capable musicians and their own songs, written by Manolo Díaz.

We must nor forget that, although at the time self-sufficient groups are becoming the norm, a pop industry that manufactures hits for the young market is still thriving. Solomon suggests they join the star-making machinery of Decca Records. In spring 1966, the band is in London, where they must record - with horn arrangements - tracks approved by Decca. Ivor Raymonde, who will direct the sessions, makes it clear to the Spanish band members: he will only require Mike's vocal performance; due to union impositions and simple efficiency, he prefers to use session musicians.

Hence the urban myth that surrounds 'Black Is Black', which says that Jimmy Page played guitar on the track. (It'd be more interesting to know who was responsible for the bass, the true engine of the hit.) According to Germán Alonso Moreno in the book "Los Bravos: recuerdos de una leyenda" (AHE, 2004), the band did record some songs on the sly. Although the presence of session musicians has been used to denigrate Los Bravos, that method of production is - then and now - common in orchestral pop.

With a cover that seems to be an answer to the famous photos of The Beatles arriving at Madrid's Barajas airport, the first LP by Los Bravos features five songs by Manolo Díaz plus an adapted Italian song ('She Believes In Me'). Decca provided material by multi-faceted songwriters. The exciting 'Trapped' is the work of Irish Phil Coulter and Scottish Bill Martin, who would later pen the Eurovision songs 'Puppets On A String' and 'Congratulations'. However, all hopes are pinned on 'Black Is Black' and its Motown drive. Released in the United Kingdom in June 1966, it took off immediately, thanks to the support of stations such as Radio Caroline.

Contrary to the rose-tinted vision of the film "The Boat That Rocked", pirate radios are not selfless organizations: they are companies that charge for their support. Solomon guarantees that support and, a few weeks later, 'Black Is Black' reaches #2 on the British charts. In the autumn, it climbs to #3 in the US. It's the same all over the world, except in France, where Johnny Hallyday is successful with his cover, 'Noir C'est Noir'. Los Bravos are living such dizzy times that are not even worried by the French anomaly.

Diego A Manrique

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