Los Bravos – “Black Is Black: The Anthology 1966-1969” (2017) review
Los Bravos – Black Is Black: The Anthology 1966-1969 (RPM Records, 2017)
Formed in 1965 by members of Madrid’s Los Sonor and Mallorca’s The Runaways, Los Bravos, in 1966, became the first Spanish band to have a single sell more than a million copies. Manager, Alain Milhaud, who was given full control of the band’s performances, musical direction, recordings, and image, put Los Bravos in the studio with producer Ivor Raymonde. One of the songs from those recordings, “Black Is Black” written by Tony Hayes, Steve Wadey and Michelle Grainger, and featuring performances by studio musicians including Vic Flack and John McLaughlin, reached #2 on the UK charts and #4 on the US charts, becoming the biggest selling song by a Spanish band in either of those nations and giving Los Bravos a permanent place in pop history. Although the band did experience some success in the following years they would never approach the heights gained by this tune.
The genesis for Los Bravos began at the Jaima Club in the resort town of Cala Mayor, Mallorca in 1965. Los Sonor connected with The Runaways and upon their return to Madrid, guitarist Tony Martinez, organist Manolo Fernandez and guitarist/organist Manolo Diaz, also recognized as a singer/songwriter of Los Sonor were joined by three members of The Runaways, bass guitarist Miguel Vicens, drummer Pablo Sanllehi and vocalist Mike Kogel. The band continued to perform as Los Sonor, but after the band was taken on by pop impresario Alain Milhaud it took on the new moniker Los Bravos, and Diaz took on a role as a non-performing songwriter. Milhaud signed the band to a management contract which gave him full control of the band’s performances, musical direction, recording and image.
Signed to Decca Records, Los Bravos released a string of singles and albums between 1966 and 1969, the members being relegated to mainly vocal performances with studio musicians such as Jimmy Page performing the music. “Black Is Black” sold more than two million copies in the US and UK alone, and enjoyed great success throughout Europe. The band followed up the hit single with an LP of the same name, but it did not fare nearly as well. A follow up single “I Don’t Care” written by Raymonde and fellow producer Tony Clarke reached #16 in the UK and the band toured with acts such as Dusty Springfield, The Alan Price Set, The Settlers, Boz Burrell and Episode Six. A follow up US single, “Going Nowhere” written by Estelle Levitt and Ruth Sexter, sadly lived up to its title and sold poorly.
The band, with Raymonde producing, tried in vain to duplicate the success of “Black Is Black” employing popular trends in pop and R&B music, ranging from fuzz guitars to Motown backbeats. Los Bravos even made a couple of movies in the vein of The Beatles and The Monkees, but neither enjoyed success outside Spain. April, 1968 saw the Los Bravos hit single that should have been, “Bring A Little Lovin’” penned by Harry Vanda and George Young of Australia’s The Easybeats fail to hit, reaching only #51 on the US charts despite it being a great performance of a hot pop number. In April of 1969 lead vocalist Kogue left the band, which had lost organist Fernandez to suicide in 1967, leaving the band with only three of its five original members and marking the end of Los Bravos’ international marketability.
The band carried on performing and recording but though there were some very interesting releases, record sales faded as did demand for the band as a concert attraction. April of 1969 saw the release of the LP Ilustrisimous Bravos. The album, featuring tunes penned by Vanda and Young as well as Diaz, was without doubt the most solid long player ever recorded by the band. Sadly it was released only in Spain. The end of the line had arrived for Los Bravos.
In addition to “Black Is Black” being included on many compilation albums over the years, “Going Nowhere” was included on Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 a 2001 release on Rhino Records. RPM Records has done the pop music world a great service with this 2 CD, 60 track compilation, which includes the bands hits, nearly all its single sides and all the best album tracks. With a run time of over 157 minutes, both discs are jammed full of the very best of Los Bravos and serves as a document of a band that deserved a much better fate than it received, although “Black Is Black” has reserved the band’s place in the annals of pop music history.
Compiled by Syd Kreft, Black Is Black: The Anthology 1966-1969 finds Los Bravos sounding better than ever thanks to the fine mastering job of Simon Murphy at Another Planet Music. The 16 page full color booklet contains complete track annotations, an informative essay by Nick Rossi, and is illustrated throughout with photos of the band as well as single and album artwork, making this without question the definitive Los Bravos collection.
– Kevin Rathert
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