Ricardo Ballardo “Manitas de Plata”

Ricardo Ballardo (1921-2014) was one of the world’s greatest flamenco guitarists, but no one knows him by that name. He is “Manitas de Plata” - “Hands of Silver”. Listening to his playing, sometimes you wonder how two hands and ten fingers could evoke such a maelstrom of sound.

Mantis is a Spanish Gypsy with no formal music training - he has played the guitar since childhood and by sheer absorption lives in his music as fish live in the sea. Living in the South of France, he had rejected all recording offers fearing that he would be cheated until this album - by the President of the Connoisseur Society, who was also the musical director of the recording. They wanted to bring Manitas to their studios in New York, but instead ended up shipping three-quarters of a ton of recording equipment to Arles in France..

To allow the engineers and musicians to get acquainted, several evenings of Flamenco music was organized in home-based informal settings. The actual recording was done in a medieval chapel with acoustics about as perfect as one could wish. The session began at 8pm one evening, and lasted until 4am. As the Flamenco is such a spontaneous and improvised art form, the recording engineers invited Gypsies and friends of the performer.

Even though there was enough material from the first session, Manitas himself suggested that he had more to offer, and a second shorter session was conducted the next night.

The result is this fantastic, fabulous 3 LP boxset, 1965. If you can find it, make sure the boxset comes with its included booklet - it’s a fascinating read.

The performances were recorded on 1/2-inch, 2 track at 30ips on Ampex 350-2. Mics were Sony C-37A. The album was recorded entirely in one “take”.

Mono & Stereo friend Gary Koh of Genesis Advanced Technologies, Inc.