Released 1982 on Seroma LP-TM-009
Reissue 2011 on Editora Abril
(Deny King, Cassiano)
2 Outra mulher
3 Ar puro
(Tim Maia, Robson Jorge)
4 O trem – 1ª parte
5 A festa
6 Apesar dos poucos anos
(Beto Cajueiro, Tim Maia)
7 Deixar as coisas tristes para depois
(Pedro Carlos Fernandes)
8 Ninguém gosta de se sentir só
9 Hadock Lobo esquina com Matoso
10 O trem – 2ª parte
11 Casinha de sapé
12 Sol brilhante
(Rubens Sabino, Tim Maia)
Tim Maia would have been 70 years old today! So in spite of the efforts of US corporations imposing their mentality on the rest of the world, I am dedicating one more post to the grande mestre.
In his biography of Tim Maia, Vale Tudo, Nelson Motta called this album the best Tim Maia record that nobody ever heard. Similarly the notes on this reissue go to great pains to point out its small cult following and contrast it against its lack of commercial impact. Motta is prone to hyperbole in general, and the shoddy liner notes from Editora Abril on their series of Tim reissues can’t be taken too seriously. But I remember the first time I ever heard this album, at the house of a guy who had an autographed vinyl copy. I hadn’t even known of its existence, and the rather unflattering photo of Tim entering his Marshmallow Man phase had me skeptical. So I was surprised at hearing all these new solid tunes, and after much beer and churrasco on that lazy Sunday afternoon I was probably ready to acclaim the album in similar hyperbolic terms. It would be years before I was able to hear it again. Does it deserve to be better known? Most certainly. Is it one of Tim’s best albums? Depends on the listener, but its obviously well crafted and a mostly strong set of songs. (However it is hard to reflect on the music when you can BARELY HEAR what is going on — see below!) The thing about “Nuvens” is that you can’t call it a “commercial failure” because, as Motta said, nobody really got the chance to hear it. So even Brazilians who were fans before Tim received the recent surge of hipster interest were by and large unaware of this album.
At this point in his career, Tim had pretty much alienated everyone in the music business through his often volatile temperament, penchant for not showing up for high profile gigs, and appetite for hedonism. Label execs and promoters were wary of dealing with him. During the 70s, however, Tim was one of the first Brazilian artists to control the publishing rights for his own material: perhaps taking inspiration from some of his North American soul music counterparts, he recognized music publishing as one of the most egregious forms of exploitation and set up his own company, SEROMA, to publish his songs. Seroma was a publishing company first and only later an occasional record label, in which capacity Tim consistently lost money. In many ways Tim was a shrewd businessmen but a horrible administrator, promulgating the motto that Seroma was the only label that “pays on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays after 9 o’clock.” He kept the label’s treasury under lock and key in his own apartment, was known to occasionally pay musicians with drugs in lieu of money, and seems to have decided what to pay his band Vitória Régia based on his mood. The decision to make Seroma a label in the first place was practically an accident, developing after RCA rejected the double-album project with which they had lured Tim away from Polygram. This was what would become the two Racional albums, the sessions for which started out as straightforward soul and funk songs until Tim was introduced to his new-found (and short-lived) religion in Cultura Racional, after which he discarded all the lyrics and any vocal tracks, replacing them with bizarre musings on the world of Animal Energy and commands to “Read the Book, the Book of Life!” The second Seroma release came a few years later with a wonderful little album, 1978’s “Tim Maia Em Inglês.” Seroma would stay dormant as a label for a while afterwards, with Tim putting out records on major labels again (plus one on Som Livre in 1977). Once more disenchanted with the music industry’s vampiric practices, in 1982 he resolved to release yet another album himself and prepared for it by putting out a single that yielded a huge hit, “Do Leme ao Pontal,” and then funneling all the profits from it into the new record.
Unfortunately for Tim, without a distribution deal, Tim was essentially doing all the legwork for the promotion and distribution himself, work for which he clearly was not suited. The record went largely unnoticed, and was subsequently overshadowed by the phenomenal ‘O Descobridor das Setes Mares’ from the following year.
So, when I first heard that this record was at long last being reissued in 2011, I was very excited. Until I began to actually hear the results from Editora Abril, that is. Ed.Abril is actually a publishing company, responsible for the likes of trash-news magazine Veja, and their reissue series was originally intended to be sold at news stands. In spite of having had a few cool series on LP (the informative História da MPB composers series), they are an empire of paper, and it shows. The reissues had 50 page “booklets” that were light on information but full of garish graphic design and superfluous photos probably culled from their vast archives (Lulu Santos? Gretchen? why??). And the sound was PAPER THIN. Conspicuously avoiding any mention of master tapes or remastering, they managed to somehow downgrade the sound for the records that were previously widely available on CD at one time, such as his first four albums on Polydor. This isn’t just the nit-picking of an obsessive audio junkie either. Compare the Ed. Abril versions with any of those, or in fact the newer releases from the Universal boxset, and you will be forced to admit that Editora Abril did something very very bad to the audio. All the more tragic in the case of ‘Tim Maia em Inglês” and “Nuvens” because those two titles have been long out of print. and fetching ridiculous prices from collectors. It is painfully obvious that used subpar source material, and then applied a heavy-handed “noise filter” that makes these tracks sound like low-bitrate mp3s even when you are listening to 16-bit PCM WAVs. Now that the the Abril editions are also out of print, I have been seeing vendors on Mercado Livre (a place notoriously out of touch with reality when it comes to pricing records) selling those pitiful reissues for questionable amounts of money justified by the catchphrase “out of print”.. Time to put a stop to that by any means.
Whether all this preamble above is necessary before talking about the actual music is debatable, but I will say this: the experience of listening to this shoddy reissue is so much less enjoyable than hearing it on the original vinyl on that lazy Sunday afternoon, that it makes any kind of objective assessment nearly impossible for me. That is in fact why I waited a year to even write this post – my disappointment was so profound that it killed completely killed my enthusiasm about the record.
Working again with his frequent collaborators Cassiano and Hyldon, Nuvens is from the start an organic set of soul tunes. The production is slick but avoids the pitfalls of so much early 80s music (contemporary records by icons like Chico Buarque, Caetano or Gil sound positively silly by comparison). Acoustic guitar, electric piano, percussion, meticulous horn arrangements. The opening title cut has Cassiano’s melodic stamp of mellow soul all over it, and the next three tunes are pure Tim. In their original analog form this is a record for breezy summer days. “Ar Puro” picks up the tempo to get the dance floor moving, and the instrumental funk workout ‘O Trem’ is tremendous, although oddly divided up between the first and second sides. The magic is broken by the turkey “A Festa” which is ruined by overdubs of giggling women, and even without them the song is the equivalent of Tim ‘phoning it in’. “Apesar De Poucos Anos” was not written by Cassiano but sounds as if it were, his falsetto backing vocals adding to that feeling. It could be an affect of the lousy CD reissue but Tim’s lead vocal is almost completely lost in parts of this song, making for a very odd mix. The ballad that follows is really one of Tim’s best. “Deixar As Coisas Tristes Prá Depois” opens with a baroque-tingued acoustic guitar figure by Pedro Carlos Fernandes, very brief but very unlike anything else in his discography, and which continues throughout the tune. The production and arrangement is majestic — or rather it would be if it weren’t stifled by Editora Abril. The few bars of acoustic guitar and saxophone at the minute and a half mark just slay me. Next is an awkwardly direct, autobiographical “Ninguém Gostar De Sentir Só” that gives a glimpse to the loneliness hidden behind Tim’s ebullient personality. It’s also a great tune. The next is a turkey – “Hadock Lobo Esquina Com Matoso” pays tribute to a São Paulo streetcorner and Tim’s days ‘before the fame’ hanging out with Roberto and Erasmo Carlos. It’s honestly pretty awful. O Trem (part 2) continues the funk workout from the first side. “Na Rua, Na Chuva, Na Fazenda (Casinha de Sapé)” is Hyldon’s signature song and the title of his first album. Tim is a natural choice for recording this song (which has suffered some awful remakes in recent years) and his voice is much more powerful than Hyldon, but I prefer the original for being more emotionally satisfying and better arranged. The closing number “Sol brilhante” has a riff that is uncannily similar to the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love.” It could be just my imagination or coincidence but it wouldn’t be the first time Tim lifted something directly from US music. It’s a light and fluffy bit of summer breeze that blows shut the window pane on this little treasure of a record. Hopefully it won’t be another 20 years before somebody gives this one the reissue it deserves. I listen to this disc much less than I would if it sounded even halfway decent.