Som Três – Tobogã (1970)

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TOBOGÃ
SOM Três
1970 EMI Music 541831 2
Reissue 2002, ‘100 Anos de Odeon’
supervised by Charles Gavin

1 Lola (Lamartine Babo)
2 Irmãos coragem (Nonato Buzar, Paulinho Tapajós)
3 Bajar no México (César Camargo Mariano)
4 Eu já tenho você (Sabá, César Camargo Mariano)
5 Eu só posso assim (Pingarrilho, Marcos Vasconcelos)
6 O telefone tocou novamente (Jorge Ben)
7 Oh happy day (Edwin R. Hawkins)
8 Tobogã (César Camargo Mariano)
9 Mulher brasileira (Jorge Ben)
10 A volta da maçã (Toninho, Sabá, César Camargo Mariano)

In the years between Som 3’s first album and this, their last (as Som Três), the trio had been racking up quite a bit of famous credentials. They had been accompanying the likes of Chico Buarque, MPB-4, and Beth Carvalho at the important music festivals (they recorded with Beth on her first single, ‘Andança’). They had also become Wilson Simonal’s regular backing band, and even toured with him in 1970 in Mexico when the World Cup took place there. Simonal’s influence is in full force by the time of this LP, ‘Tobogã.’ Much like the amusement-park ride named after the winter-regions sled from which the takes its title, it eschews seriousness in favor of fun, variation, and surprises. But it also as spotty as a geriatric’s hands, as spotty as a teenager’s face, as spotty as a woman at that time of the month, as… I must stop myself now before my reputation is utterly ruined. But my tackiness is matched by that of this album itself. Blogosphere mimesis.

Without a charismatic singer like Simonal to lead the group in this direction, this album has so many weak points that I find it difficult to make it through from start to finish unless I relegate it to the background, a practice I am not fond of. The campy first cut, “Lola”, is a tune from famed composer of valsas, marchinhas, and football hymns Lamartine Bobo, whose own sense of humor is perhaps honored by the ‘whacky’ arrangement featuring gargling and silly voices, but personally I find it unlistenable even though the song turns tail and runs out in 30 seconds of very-believable salsa/descarga. If the song is a joke I suppose you just had to be there, but to me it is an awfully odd choice to open an album. Thankfully in the second track, ‘Irmãos coragem’, the trio redeem themselves with what is easily the most space-age and psychedelic track here. Opening and closing with judicious use of tape-delay on piano, organ, and electronics, the instrumental tune is driven by César’s organ and the playing of an uncredited percussionist on conga. The tune was also the theme for a successful telenovela at the time. The next track, ‘Bajar no México’, is perfect for painting your skin with day-glow and go-go dancing in a cage. “Eu já tenho você” is another unfortunate vocal number, and one of two cuts on the album to feature Toni Tornado who merely yelps and screams like a parody of James Brown, but also sings the bridge. (Some have said it is Gerson King Combo guesting on this album, which is a logical assumption given that he sang with Simonal’s band, but I have my doubts and will stick with my statement that I believe it to be Tornado). Maybe I need to lighten up and takes things less seriously, but I find this song pretty awful — although it ends up sticking in my head against my will. “O telefone tocou novamente” capitalizes on Jorge Ben’s success but ends up delivering a luke-warm and uninspired cover version. Again, it’s the unremarkable vocals that ruin this one for me — had the tune been a strickly instrumental cover version, I would probably like it a lot more, because Som Três were fantastic musicians. “Oh Happy Day” is the big surprise of the album. Originally recorded by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, this gospel tune went on to be an international hit recorded by artists as diverse from Aretha Franklin to Glen Campbell and Joan Baez at the time, and Som Três delivers a soulful, funky version that abandons any attempt at vocals except for the chorus of ‘Oh Happy Day’ dominated by female voices. It is triumphant, sweet, and worth the price of admission on this otherwise uneven album. The spell of enchantment is quickly interrupted, though, with another day-glow 60s soul number, Tobogã, which again features Tornado (or Gerson?) grunting, yelping and screaming like James Brown in a way that is hard to appreciate as anything but kitsch in retrospect. I suppose you could argue that it was important for breaking out of the straight-jacket of cultural nationalism in Brazilian music, but mostly its just silly. Another Jorge Ben tune, “Mulher Brasileira” is a hundred times more successful than “O telefone tocou..”, because it benefits from the soul-jazz cool vibe that Som Três was expert at creating. The low-key vocals even fit nicely on this one. The album closes with yet another throw-away piece of musical comedy, “A volta de maça.”

So while this album has its moments, only about half of its ten songs are particularly noteworthy, relegating the album to a footnote in the careers of everyone involved and perhaps a curiosity for the Simonal completists. It was probably a good place for Som Três to call it quits, in any case. Not exactly “quit while you are ahead” so much as “quit before you slide any lower down into mediocrity.” Perhaps that is the hidden symbolism of the album cover, the band slipping and sliding their way into musical obscurity…

Other listeners may react completely diffently to this album. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section. I like comments. Makes me feel like people actually READ the blog, you know?

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14 Comments

  1. I did like most of this LP even though it may not of gotten the reviews as stated but they keep it real just not one of there best indeed.. and thanks for post and share ~ ☮ldhippierick

  2. hi Rick, I don't know if this album received positive or negative reviews. I rarely read album reviews, to be honest!… I'm just giving my own opinion. I liked this album a lot more the first couple times I played it but repeated listenings have left me pretty indifferent to it, I guess.

  3. I actually have always liked this record, except for the terrible "Lola" (what an atrocious opening song). Once I skip that one, the record has a pretty relentless groove (even if it is kind of kitschy). Not to be taken too seriously but a fun record nonetheless…

  4. Maybe I shouldn't write before my 3rd cup of coffee in the morning… Or maybe it was listening to this album back-to-back with the `66 one. But yes, if you don't take this record too seriously, the results are definitely better.

  5. Totally new to me but I find I'm just a bit hooked already. This blog is an absolute education.

    Thanks, from Sydney Australia.

  6. "Irmãos coragem" is heavenly!

  7. I would like to know the password to open this up, thanx

  8. password:
    vibes

  9. where is the button to download????????????

  10. Greeting! Any way this can be re-upoaded? Or shared privately…really wish i can get this!

  11. como faço para conseguir o link ?

  12. Link Invalido

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