Marcos Valle – Garra (1971)

Marcos Valle
1971 on Odeon (MOFB 3683)

1 Jesus meu Rei
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
2 Com mais de 30
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
3 Garra
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
4 Black is beautiful
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
5 Ao amigo Tom
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Osmar Milito, Marcos Valle)
6 Paz e futebol
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
7 Que bandeira
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Máriozinho Rocha, Marcos Valle)
8 Wanda Vidal
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
9 Minha voz virá do sol da América
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
10 Vinte e seis anos de vida normal
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
11 O cafona
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)

bonus tracks 2011

12. Com mais de 30 (versao instrumental)
13. Garra (versao instrumental em sol)
14. Black is beautiful (alternate version instrumental)
15. Que bandeira (alternate version instrumental)
16. Que bandeira (instrumental mix)
17. Wanda Vida (instrumental mix)
Marcos Valle – vocals and piano
Dom Salvador – piano and organ
Marizinha – vocal on Black is Beautiful
Geraldo Vaspar – acoustic guitar, orchestrations on 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
Orlando Silveira – orchestrations 9, 10
Cesar Camargo mariano – orchestration on 6

Produced by Milton Miranda
Musical direction by Lindolfo Gaya
Assisten producer – Mariozinho Rocha

2011 reissue supervised by Charles Gavin
Reamstered by Ricardo Garcia at Magic Master, RJ

Another classic early 70s album from Marcos Valle, But, this album took a little while to grow on me. Perhaps because, when I’m obsessively-compulsively collecting, consuming, and divulging music, I am busy worshiping the Dark One, Satanáis, Beelzebub, Lucifer, or Jimmy Witherspoon – I am a little put off by the opening track on this one, ‘Jesus Meu Rei.’ On the other hand, there is an apocryphal and even millenarian streak to a lot of the content on this album. Satan may have granted me the power to acquire gluttunous amounts of music over the years, but far be if from me to question The Brothers Valle if their faith is strong. It’s a gorgeous baroque pop tune with whispy harpsichord and strummy acoustic guitar and very, um, “churchy” organ from none other than Dom Salvador. Then tuning into the lyrics and I am surprised, in spite of knowing that I shouldn’t be, of Paulo Sérgios genius. In its hymnal piety the song also calls on Jesus to look around at how the world has changed, and ambiguous lines that can either be a lament of world gone down the wrong path, or perhaps a plea to some type of moral relativity adn realism (“nada e ninguem / sabe o que é mal / e o que é bem / Jesus meu rei / fazendo lei / Passa seu tempo real”). A chorus of voices that’s built since the first verse swells into the transcendent bridge and the softly provocative lines:

De repente, achou a verdade / Informou ao seu ministério / Que o mistério estava na vida / Vida lá fora / Fora dali

Era só olhar para o mundo / Ver a gente amando na grama / E as crianças pelo jardim Escorrendo pra mãe, pro pai // Pro paísFor the non-Lusophile, I regret to inform you that are missing out on quite a bit here and subtle wordplay that translation just can’t get at. Listen to how well the lyrics, vocals, and arrangments hang together and reinforce each other.

When I first played this album I didn’t quite know what to thing of it. But since then I’ve decided this may be the “sleeper” in the whole batch of Marcos’s 1970s output, a near perfect album. In his liner notes Marcos admits to his inability to classify these songs: “sambas-pop-bossa-jazz”, he calls them, but there is definitely some pós-Tropicália rock here too.

“Com mais de trinta” begins by playing with the trendy phrase of the late 60s and early 70s, “Never trust anyone over 30,” after which Paulo gives us a hold LOT of reasons not to trust the number 30. Then seemingly leaving the whole idea of 30 in the dust as the narrator contemplates the things in life he dreams about but never does, his sensation of dislocation in time and space, “Passo a passo, faço mais um traço”.. This is deceptively simple, unadorned lyricism. Bereft of the layered complexity of Chico Buarque’s genius work, or unburdened by the density of Caetano Veloso’s beguiling forays into solipsism, Paulo Sérgio seems to have had a way of saying speaking in a very simple way about very complex ideas. So simply and directly that might leave you utterly unstruck and unconcinved when first encountered. There is a clean symetrical beauty to the words, Marcos’ vocal delivery, and the production and arrangements. When the truth of this hit me, the parts of this album that had seemed like a bit of a confused mess became utterly uncluttered. Paulo had a way of setting words to Marcos’ musical ideas that makes them one of the classic telekinetic songwriting teams. And Paulo had a way of churning out pointed, sardonic, and nuanced critiques of all manner of societal patterns, preconceptions, of issues contemporary and contextual and quasi-eternal, without ever succumbing to bitterness or hipster irony, holding on to his own brand of humanist optimism.

The title track is just plain weird, with Marcos’s out-of-breath ‘ha ha’ sounding completely bizarre in one of his brother’s stranger lyrics concoctions of urban dislocation, ambition, alienation. Musically it’s infectiously punchy in a soft painted-velvet arrangement of drums grooving in the left channel, utterly unhurried and laid-back; Dom Salvador laying down percussive bursts of organ and swells of Hammond vibrato at the end of certain measures; breaks at the ends of the chorus where suddenly flutes and violins sneak their way. Then a verse of Marcos singing scatlike nonsense syllables. Once again, sonically it is a pastiche of elements that probably shouldn’t be thrown together and yet couldn’t sound more natural (and, once again, Paulo Sérgio manages a lyrical mimesis). The alternate version here, at a faster tempo and in different key, sheds light on the creative process and makes me even more impressed with the final version. Its not that the two are terribly different in structure or execution, but the album take is much more “in the pocket.”

The album continues to challenge the listener, to greater or lesser success or failure. “Black Is Beautiful” almost feels like they are (as the British would say) ‘having a go’ at the listener with a playful send-up of Afrocentric pride; then I think to myself, no, they are totally sincere, just hopelessly clumsy and even naive about it. From a sociohistorical context, in Brazil or in the US where the phrase “Black is beautiful” was born, there is so much that is just WRONG with this tune that I wouldn’t know where to start. I still can’t honestly say what they were thinking.. This album has plenty of The Brother’s Valle blue-eyed soul on it, but this song has enough exaggerated torch-song drama to it that I just can’t take it too seriously But it’s also too damn intriguing for me to leave it at face value, and its kind of, well, a bit hilarious:

“Hoje cedo na Rua do Ouvidor // Early today on Ouvidor Street
Quantos louras horríveis eu vi // I saw so many horrible blondes
Eu quero uma dama de cor // I want a lady of color
Uma deusa do Congo ou daqui // A goddess from the Congo or from here
(Que se integre no meu sangue europeu) // To blend with my European blood

Black is beautiful (2x)
Black beauty is so peaceful
I wanna a black
So beautiful”

If this is sardonic, then it may be complex commentary on the foundational myths of Brazilian mestizagem (race-making, and often coerced in the master-slave relationship) as the roots of an alleged “racial democracy” that has never existed in reality. Or, perhaps its just completely silly drivel from two blond-haired blue-eyed surfista beach bums. In which case, its still hard to be mad at these guys. It’s just too damn honest and awkward, and the broken English (is this intentional? These guys spent two years living in the States…) only adds to the sense that somebody is mocking somebody else about…something.

Amigo Tom… At this time Tom Jobim had spent quite a few years in the US recording with the likes of Frank Sinatra and producer Creed Taylor (for his CPI label). This song is a simple `welcome home’, things weren’t the same without you, please don’t leave again, yes things have changed here but it will all be okay in the end.. The melody line and chordal structure is a worthy homage to the master of bossa nova.

“Paz e futebol” takes up the trope of Brazilian culture a culmination of tropical laziness and a Lusitanian aversion towards work, a critique strongly linked to Anglo-Saxon prejudices against Brazil but just as equally bought into by Brazil’s upper class who looks to Europe (or the US) as their model for “civilzation”. This is a gentle rebuttle without an exclamation point to punctuate its rancor. “Que bandeira” is probably just a song of thwarted, spurned love and the misunderstandings in changing relationships. Or maybe it’s a coded critique of the military dictatorship that the censor`s missed because they thought Marcos and Paulo were harmless pothead surfers at this point.. “Wanda Vidal” is lyrically like the opening of some unwritten mystery novel, but was actually on the soundtrack to a telenovela (Os Ossos do Barão) and musically driven by heavily strummed acoustic guitar, bossa-rock drums, chunks of organ chords and piano, congas.. Apparently this song has some cult status in Europe and the US as Madlib apparently did a remix of it. The following tune “Minha voz vira do sol de América” is, in spite of its possibly megalomaniac title, an understated instrumental based around Marcos or Dom Salvador’s piano and Veraldo Gaspar’s lush arrangement, with a stray female vocal drifting in and out (uncredited, but maybe his wife Ana again?). “Vinte e seis anos de vida normal” – this song couldn’t possibly have a cooler introduction of vocal harmonies, strings, followed by strong propulsive drums, erogenous arrangements, and more of Paulo’s lyrical talent in narrating another disaffected, alienated young person who feels they’ve spent their life reading newspapers and watching TV, wishing he’d done things he hadn’t, regretting things he had, until he comes across an announcement in the paper that mentions that he has died, um, reading the newspaper, followed by a stanza of millenarian hyperbole too good to spoil.

“Cafona” (translated roughly as in bad taste, tacky, ‘brega’ or whatever) is either utter nonsense or deep and profound. I’m not sure. But its definitely got one of the deepest grooves around on this disc and Marcos vocals couldn’t be more, well, Marcos. And it was the lead track for a another telenovela sountrack, a show with the same name of “Cafona.” It’s a perfect album closer, and again a perfect marriage of voice-lyric-instrumentation-arrangement.

The instrumental bonus tracks all make for great listening. And sense we mentioned Madlib in this post — is he actually hoping for more remixes and samples? One thing that hasn’t been mentioned in these posts is that, in a big way, Marcos Valle is more valorized outside Brazil than within it, where is almost forgotten except for his bigger hits. In a lot ways he was either ahead of his time, or just ‘out of time’, existing in some weird alternate musical universe. I am aware that these write-ups have perhaps begun leaning towards the breathless prose of idyllic idol praise but, damnit, this album really IS probably a masterpiece. It is nothing if not masterful, and it makes it all sound so easy – as if blending sun-dappled soul music with post-bossa pop, mild psychedelia (as in, about five or six hours into a psychedelic experience..), and rock attitude is just something they guys could do with a shrug or the casual nonchalance displayed in the back cover photos.

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  1. Well you certainly made us wait for this one. A fantastic album, and another high-water mark in Marcos’ career. As usual, thanks for your thoughtful review, especially your in-depth take on the lyrics. These songs have been with me for so long, I haven’t really thought that deeply about many of them, so it’s nice to read your insights.
    It does surprise me that you take this album for a “sleeper” as it has always been one of my favourites, being almost as loaded with classics as O compositor e o cantor.
    I’m happy to report that the remastering here does away with some problems on the Japanese issue, most notably some ugly digital distortion near the end of “O Cafona.”
    And for me, the bonus tracks here are the most interesting of the whole box. “Com mais de 30” is a totally different arrangement, heavy on the horns, and sounds like it may have been recorded much earlier. “Garra” is a revelation. You say: “It’s not that the two [the original and bonus takes] are terribly different in structure or execution.” Actually, the bonus version is the exact same backing track recorded in the original key of G, and reveals that the album take was slowed down a whole tone to F — giving the flute and backing vocals in particular a dark, mysterious flavour. In fact, it sounds so strange there seems to be a misconception out there that the flute-organ lines in the choruses are played on the mellotron.
    They may have done the same trick on the album take of “Black is Beautiful,” this time slowing down the voice as well, a la “Strawberry Fields Forever,” giving Marcos a menacing edge. The bonus track is in a higher key and faster, but it’s actually a different take.
    Although it’s an instrumental here, "Minha voz vira do sol de América" has lyrics and was recorded by Claudia in 1971, as well as on the Luinar Marcos Valle Songbook Vol. 2, featuring Marcos and Patricia Alvi.
    One problem with the box set is the liner notes. It looks like Marcos submitted the same ones for this set as he did for the Japanese remasters a decade ago, the difference being the people in Japan actually edited them and took out the mistakes! For example, as on Marcos Valle (1970), he again cites the wrong novela — this time for "Wanda Vidal." It actually appeared not on Os Ossos do Barão, but O Homem que deve morrer, performed by O Som Livre, whoever that might be.
    Anyway, all in all it’s an amazing piece of work. Enjoy.

  2. yeah, pawyly, I`ve been trying to wait until I have time to give these a write-up halfway worthy of what they deserve, rather than rushing them all out at in a hurry.

    I guess the album is only a "sleeper" to me, then, because I hadn't previously paid as much attention to it as I could have. And I *AM* actually well aware that "Garra" is in a different key on the bonus track — but I maintain its not *essentially* different in structure: that was my point, what a huge difference just changing the key can make. But you are saying that they actually just slowed the tape down rather than recording an actual take? Not sure how you know that for a certainty, but… cool.

    Regarding sound quality I meant to point out that digital distortion at the tail end of the first track, "Jesus Meu Rei". Is it also present on the Japenese pressing?

    THanks for helping to clear up the novela details although I really am trying to resist collecting those albums because it will become a whole other mania. And my guess is that "O Som Livre" is just a house band for the label Som Livre which — as far as I know — began as a label that released novela soundtracks almost exclusively before moving into other things.

  3. password:


  4. >But you are saying that they actually just slowed the tape down rather than recording an actual take? Not sure how you know that for a certainty

    Yes, that's what I'm saying. If you put the bonus track in an audio program like Audacity and slow it down a tone, you'l see the tracks (without the lead vocals) are one and the same.

    >that digital distortion at the tail end of the first track, "Jesus Meu Rei". Is it also present on the Japenese pressing?

    If you mean that vinyl-like crackling during the choral section, yes, it's also on the Japanese version, although it seems louder on the box set.

    Flabb, I wanted to ask you about a couple of mysteries in the lyrics:
    *In Com mais de 30, do you know what the reference is to "Artigo 30"?
    *In Black is Beautiful, what/where is Rua do Ouvidor?

  5. I found a blogger's post about Artigo 30, but I can't really make sense of it. Can you?
    "Divagando:….o artigo 30 do cógigo penal fala justamente que as circunstâncias pessoais não se comunicam com o crime em questão…a não ser qdo se tratarem de elementares desse crime.. acho que nesse caso a circunstancia e o crime não só se comunicam como também se confundem… 30 anos….ou só 30?….seria o próprio crime ou seu elemento?…kkkkkkkkk… liga não só surtando…adoro direito penal e amei o poema!!!"

    As for Rua do Ouvidor, I tried to do a Google Streetview on Rio, but it seems they haven't done that street. Next time I'm in Rio, I'll make a point of checking it out.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing so much of this box set, and your generosity for other posts as well. Will you be uploading the final couple of albums from the box?

  7. I ask my friend who is a Carioca what neighborhood (barrio) is Rua do Ouvidor in and she said it is in Centro do Rio. This may be over simplifying the translation but I think the best 'American English' translation is, downtown.

  8. Thanks for all your terrific work doing the rip, scans and upload.

  9. sorry for not replaying to this thread forever. I've been in the middle of a major move, having my identity stolen, and having my monitor die on me all in the same week.

    Rua Ouvidor (named for the old courts of the imperial period, if I'm not mistaken, where peoples cases were "heard") was kind a hip bohemian place in, yes, central downtown rio where you could hang out at a cafe, have a drink, watch the girls pass by. Now its overstuffed with retails stores selling the same shit as everywhere else. 'O Centro' has lots of cool pockets still, however – there are lots of places to chill out and even hear some live music in the early evening, when people are getting off work but before they head home, decompress, and then go out again to someplace else (like Lapa, where nothing happens before midnight… and is unfortunately overrun by tourists most of the time). Pawlyshyn, your question (and subsequent research) on Artigo 30 is a bit of a mystery to me. I'll see what I can find out but right now its just beguiling

  10. What happened to Toque Musical?

  11. JT, Prato E Faca is gone too?

  12. for the record, I couldn't access ANY blogs, including mine, yesterday all night long. Gave me quite a scare for a while. But… time to make backups, I guesss


  14. By the way, folks, over at the Guitar and the Wind blog, there's a super-rare Sergio Mendes promo single from 1965 with two of the six songs recorded when Marcos and Anamaria Valle were members of the band in the States. In FLAC format to boot!

  15. Oh well! What a wonderful album! one of the most beautiful music that I heard! Struck by the first song and shook by "Que bandeira" and all the rest is a magical journey for tropicalia, psychedelia, samba, bossa, and amazing vocals.
    Oh I can't wait for the next album in this boxset!
    thanks for your enlightenment flabber!

  16. Qual é a senha para descomptar o arquivo Marcos Valle – Garra?

  17. oi João, a senha é "vibes"

  18. Wow this album is just full of amazing tracks. Thank you for the lossless 🙂

  19. Thank you very much for this work Flabber!! I've recently discovered your blogg and I'm totally amazed with some of your records. This and Previsao are two of my favourites… I will try some of the artists I don't know yet. Greetings from Barcelona!!

  20. The link doesn’t seem to work, it keeps saying ‘we’re nearly ready’. Could you upload it again please? Thank you very much!

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