Well this is a new thing for the blog, the first time I have ever hosted a “leaked” track unavailable elsewhere, and hopefully it won’t get us shut down after managing to survive this many years. The track below was deemed unsuitable for release on the rarities discs included with the recent 2103 Nara Leão boxset, and was passed along to me by an audio engineer in friend in São Paulo who made me swear never to share it with anyone except at home through a stereo. Well that guy turned out to be a royal prick so I am disregarding the promise now.
In the mid-1970s, Nara had gone into semi-retirement in order to raise her children and eventually pursue a degree in psychology. I suppose the urge to perform in someone as creatively powerful as Nara doesn’t just go dormant, and the retirement didn’t last all that long by today’s standards. These days it is normal for pop stars to release one record every three years, because they are mostly overpaid lazy fucks, but it must have seemed an eternity to her fans back in the day. She returned to recording with a deliberately nostalgic work looking back to the golden age of Brazilian song, hence the title, Meu Primeiro Amor (“My First Love”). It is a great record but probably came across a bit anachronistic in light of the whirlwind of changes – social, musical, political – that had swept across Brazil in the decade leading up to it: changes which, of course, Nara played pivotal and multiple roles as a cultural and musical icon. Given how the newly-uncovered track featured here lay buried for almost forty years with no indication that it ever existed, it is difficult to say if this recording session was simply an attempt by Nara to musically invent herself, to experiment with new sounds, or maybe to make a little cash with a more contemporary-sounding single. Whatever the case, she apparently did not care for the resulting recording and disowned it.
For the session, she chose João Donato to work out the arrangements and take on production duties (he would later end up producing her next album, Os Meus Amigos São Um Barato ). The complete personnel on this track is unknown, but what little was written on the insert inside the tape reel documents that the session involved Hyldon and Cassiano on guitar, both seminal figures in the Brazilian soul scene of the mid-70s, and the melody sounds like one or both of them may have a writing credit here. And though I can’t prove it, I swear I can hear their friend Tim Maia on backing vocals. Normally his voice overtakes everyone else on every session he was ever on, however, so maybe they just kept him really far from the microphone or made him sing in the hallway. The tune starts out with a throwback nod to her bossa-cum-capoeira heyday, but the intro is just an illusion that does not prepare the listener for what comes next: some of the most funky pieces of music to be made in Brazil in the mid-70s, music that is so forward-thinking it wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio decades later. All that being said, as incredible as it is to have an unissued track from Nara Leão with these unlikely collaborators, I can understand why she chose not to release it. Her voice just isn’t particularly suited to funk and soul music, and although she did have a reputation for iconoclasm in the 60s, perhaps in the mid 70s she opted not to jeopardize her good standing as a canonical MPB singer by attempting a polemical style like funky samba soul, especially with such sexual overtones. She even chose to sing, rather awkwardly, in English, which would have further enraged much of her devoted following.
So here is the track, titled “Descontrolada”, and if it doesn’t get this blog shut down for good, I hope to see you all soon in another post. If the gods have mercy, I promise to post more often than I have been lately.