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Allegria

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On their first two Stateside releases, this six-man troupe from the south of France merged dazzling flamenco guitar with synthesizers and a rock backbeat to create a style that was novel, virtuosic, pleasant, and slightly brain-dead. World-wide success notwhitstanding, the evidence that they’re a glorified musical tourist trap lies in their schlocky choice of cover tunes — ”My Way” on their self-titled 1988 album, ”Volare” on 1990’s Mosaique — both performed without a shred of either irony or real feeling. You won’t find any of that nonsense on Allegria, a reissue of the group’s early-’80s acoustic recording, and that’s a plus. The music here is straight-ahead flamenco — busy, deft, and often quite pretty. Because the form is so rigidly structures, though, the cuts on the album all ten to sound alike, and the athletic strumming rarely relaxes to invite the listener in. The lack of klutzy pop pretensions makes Allegria the Gipsy Kings release to buy if you absolutely must, but don’t let the band’s gold records fool you: They just prove that the world-music market isn’t above crass exploitation, and that there really is a sucker born every minute. C+

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