Beth Carvalho – Pra Seu Governo & Canto Por Um Novo Dia (2003 2-em-1)

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Beth Carvalho
2 X 1: PRA SEU GOVERNO (1974) / CANTO POR UM NOVO DIA (1973)
2003 EMI Music 583745 2

PRA SEU GOVERNO (1974) Tapecar LPX.22

1. Miragem (Nelson Cavaquinho / Guilherme de Brito)
2 1800 Colinas (Gracia do Salgueiro)
3 Tesoura Cega (Walter Queiroz / César Costa Filho)
4 Maior É Deus (Eduardo Gudin / Paulo César Pinheiro)
5 Fim de Sofrimento (Monarco)
6 A Pedida É Essa (Norival Reis / Vicente Matos)
7 Pra Ninguém Chorar (Paulo César Pinheiro / Edmundo Souto)
8 Me Ganhou (Gisa Nogueira)
9 Falência (Nelson Cavaquinho / Guilherme de Brito)
10 Vovó Chica (Jurandir da Mangueira)
11 Agora É Portela 74 (Paulo César Pinheiro / Maurício Tapajós)
12 Pra Seu Governo (Haroldo Lobo / Milton de Oliveira)

CANTO POR UM NOVO DIA (1973) Tapecar LPX.19

13 Hora de Chorar (Mano Décio da Viola / Jorginho Pessanha)
14 Canto Por Um Novo Dia (Garoto da Portela)
15 Se É Pecado Sambar (Manoel Santana)
16 Homenagem a Nelson Cavaquinho (Carlos Elias)
17 Evocação (Nelson Ferreira)
18 Velhice da Porta-bandeira (Eduardo Gudin / Paulo César Pinheiro)
19 Folhas Secas (Nelson Cavaquinho / Guilherme de Brito)
20 Salve a Preguiça Meu Pai (Mário Lago)
21 Mariana da Gente (João Nogueira)
22 Fim de Reinado (Martinho da Vila)
23 Clementina de Jesus (Gisa Nogueira)
24 Memória de Um Compositor (Darcy da Mangueira / Betinho)
25 Flor da Laranjeira (Humberto de Carvalho / Zé Pretinho / Bernardino Silva)
26 Sereia (Tradicional)
27 São Jorge Meu Protetor


If I had to invent a singer, she would (naturally) need to have a very beautiful voice.  After this, I would train her enough to sing well, learning the secrets of phrasing, division, breathing, projection, naturalness, these things that you learn in school.

Later, I would say to her that all of this was not enough.  A singer is not a musical instrument.  She is a person, a human being, and it is fundamental that this is made clear when she sings.  The emotions, sadness, joy, depression, anguish – all this that popular music suggests has to be transmitted when it’s time to sing.  So much depends on her so that the music is not shorn of its sensations when it’s communicated.

Finally, I would tell her to sing things that come from the people.  The songs made by the geniuses of the people, full of talent and unspoilt by commercial ambitions and the neurosis of novelty so common to composers of the middle class.  I would suggest that she serve as a point of entry between popular culture and consumerism, not allowing the goal to jeopardize the origin.  She would have to be, therefore, a singer of great talent.

Beth Carvalho saved me the trouble of this work.  She already exists.

– Sérgio Cabral


This is a bit of a ‘stop gap’ post because the world should filled with music but I don’t have a lot of time to help with this Divine Mission today.  Along with Clara Nunes, Beth was one of the people whose albums first got me into samba when I was just visiting there as a tourist.  I think the first album I heard, at a friends house was Nos Botequins da Vida, one of her first efforts for RCA.  Shortly after, I was lucky enough to find that album and one of these – Canto Por Um Novo Dia, I think – in my regular stop-and-frisk of the street vendor’s carts in every city I passed through.   They are pretty common albums, nothing “rare groove” about ’em, but it’s your loss if you overlook them on that count.  I still feel like Beth gets taken for granted by many Brazilian music fans, maybe because her management did not have the strategic foresight to arrange for her to die young.  She is still around performing, making the occasional record, but has thus far shown zero interest in surrounding herself with young hipsters in the studio to ‘update’ or reinvent what she does, so has yet to become subjected to any awkward revivals.

On top of their strong repertoire drawing from the best of the many composers available to her, these early albums also have the presence of her mentor Nelson Cavaquinho playing guitar on many tracks.  You can hear his distinctive plucking of the strings from behind the sounding board, as well as some occasional backup singing, alongside Dino 7 Cordas.  There is also Abel Ferreira on clarinet, Copinha on flute, Wilson das Neves on drums, Paulo Mauro on a couple of arrangements.  This last handful is all on on Pra Seu Governo, which is inverted chronologically on this 2-on-1 CD.  I’m not sure why they did this, but it probably is the stronger of the two albums in terms of immediately just grabbing hold of you.  It has also the best samba marimba ever, on Monarco’s O Fim do Sofrimento…  The earlier album Canto Por Um Novo Dia is equally excellent, and features arrangements by César Carmargo Mariano, at the time in the middle of a string of classics for Elis Regina.  It opens with the heart-wrenching Hora de chorar, which is a bit less upbeat of an ‘opening number’ than Miragem, perhaps. Beth delivers a great mix of tunes on both albums from composers old and new, and maintains the laid back, roda de samba vibe that I think is one of the things that endeared her so much to Nelson Cavaquinho.

So now, the sound … It is a big step up from the horrific Discobertas boxset (I’ll keep laying into that point until people stop buying them – I’ve never seen a label so worthy of going out of business).  But this EMI reissue has still got “issues.” The EQ is relatively neutral, but the source for both albums appears to be vinyl copies.  I suspect Tapecar didn’t keep their masters or else preserved them so poorly that they are useless now. So, surely EMI has access to fancier A/D conversion units than I have at my disposal, but unfortunately they also slapped some heavy CEDAR noise reduction on it that sucks all the transient frequencies out.  There is audible compression too that you can really hear kicking in at some places, but it’s used judiciously for the most part, adjusted to sound pretty natural and doesn’t distract too much.  However, listen to the whole disc with a pair of headphones and I all but guarantee you will have listening fatigue and a headache before you are a couple songs into Canto Por Um Novo Dia.   Although my vinyl copies of these are probably less than pristine, they might still warrant a needledrop here sometime for the handful of us who still care about these things.

 


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Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971)

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“No amount of dancin’
Is going to make us free.”

The Left Reverend Eugene McDaniels

    Recorded at Regent Sound Studios and Atlantic Studios, New York City
1971 Atlantic SD 8281 (Original release)
This reissue 200_ by Scorpio/Rhino records

Acoustic Bass – Miroslav Vitous
Drums – Alphonse Mouzon
Electric Bass – Gary King
Featuring – Welfare City Choir
Guitar – Richie Resnikoff
Piano, Music Director – Harry Whitaker
Vocals – Eugene McDaniels, Carla Cargill

Producer – Joel Dorn
Recording and remix engineer – Lewis Hahn

Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair, manually auditioned, and individually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled using iZotope RX 2 Advanced SRC and dithered with MBIT+ for 16-bit. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp.  Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.


Inauguration day special, y’all.

Dim the lights for this one.

I’ve heard different rumors about Eugene McDaniels and the Nixon administration – that the FBI was tapping his phone, that Spiro Agnew himself called Atlantic Records to complain about this album, which would seem to indicate that the reactionaries were much hipper to popular culture than I personally give them credit for.  But it’s not too far fetched – his most famous song, Compared To What?, which became a huge hit for Les McCann & Eddie Harris and then again for Roberta Flack – may be the boldest, most biting sociopolitical critique to ever top a record chart, and has apparently been covered by 270 different artists by today’s count.  So I can believe that, for the forces of Empire, Eugene McDaniels was a man who had to be stopped.  Atlantic Records dropped him after Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse.  The record is a profound and mercurial work of art that is revolutionary, less in some kind of militant way than in its general refusal to fit into any preconceived framework.  Instead, it carves out its own space and leaves the listener transformed and looking at the world differently than before they put it on.  This album, and Eugene himself, were their own gestalt.

I’m still thinking that, someday, I will file a Freedom of Information Act on Eugene McDaniels to see what, if anything, the Deep State was thinking about him.  This is what how I imagine a summary of his file might read:

  “McDaniels, Eugene Booker.  Born February 2, 1935 in Kansas City.  Black communist singer with known jazz associates.  Calls himself a Reverend, may be planning to form a religious cult or commune – field reports are inconclusive.  Believes rock singer Mick Jagger to be the Antichrist.”

I have been wanting to post about this album at various moments throughout the last couple of years.  It’s become a relevant soundtrack again and a source of solace for me.  The enigmatic  McDaniels is truly one of the great unsung songwriters of the twentieth century, because I think he wanted it that way.   This record gets name-checked a lot because it’s been sampled by prominent artists. The grooves are undoubtedly deep, and the musicians first rate – in fact the notes to the 2005 reissue of this on Water Records, with the limited space they have, talk more about arranger and keyboardist Harry Whitaker than they do Eugene.  Granted, Whitaker is the special secret sauce that makes this album stand out from its 1970 predecessor “Outlaw.”  That album is also really great, but this one is explosive and astounding,  unquestionably a masterpiece.  It was made with almost no budget, with Whitaker doing the arrangements, and with minimal overdubs (mostly just vocals, except for the first track which has a second guitar and some percussion added).   H.W. deserves tons of credit for the sound and cohesiveness of the final product, but for me it is McDaniels’ voice, lyrics, melodies and above all his completely unique vision that make this an album about which I can say “There’s really nothing else quite like it.”   It was a boundary-defying fusion of funk, jazz, rock, and soul; a record that is utterly psychedelic without a single wah peddle or production gimmick, hell there isn’t even a solo anywhere here in spite of the fact that every one of the musicians were utter virtuosos.  Apparently Whitaker wanted to bring horns in on the record but they had no money for it.  I’m so glad they didn’t, because its sound of lean restraint became an essential characteristic of its sound.  It’s intense, but also relaxed.

When I say he is enigmatic I guess I just mean enigmatic to me, because he left a big musical footprint with an incredible career arc, but chose to spend most of his life rather quietly away from the spotlight.   We’ll have a look at his YouTube channel that he started sometime around 2010 in a minute, but first let’s recap the basic facts first. McDaniels was a huge cross-over hit-maker in the early 60’s with “100 Pounds of Clay,” a song so popular that my parents remember it from their high school days, and “Tower of Strength,” both when he went by Gene rather than Eugene.  In the middle of the decade he wrote the song that would end up being recorded innumerable times, Compared To What?, the royalties from which presumably left him set for life.  At the end of the decade, McDaniels features prominently on one of my favorite Bobby Hutcherson albums, the adventurous and politically-charged Now!   He never lost the pop instincts he honed early in his career, but chose to make uncompromising, uncommercial music.  Like one of the only other people I would put in his category, Andy Bey, he also had a classic jazz singers voice (check out Freedom Death Dance…), and a four octave range, and he apparently preserved both up to the very end, in spite of  – or is it because of? – disengaging from the crazy world of the music industry.  The guy was too deep for the machine to process, and he didn’t need the money, so he went and lived his life privately, and took very good care of himself.  Listen to this man speak for a few minutes about Compared To What.  He looks so great here, with no indication that he would pass away within the year

 

Now is the place where normally I might indulge in a track by track breakdown of this record.  I could do that, and maybe someday I will, but it should really be heard first, and I bet some of you haven’t played it yet.  So let’s all listen to it and meet back here in a month to discuss it?  Really, it does speak for itself, and has to be absorbed with all of its quirks.  It should be left to the listener to follow his labyrinthine thread that ties together end-times religious imagery; invective against war and calls for justice that are clever, funky, and tuneful; a story of how everyday life as a black man going about everyday capitalist acts (trying to exchange an item at a grocery store) can lead to a near race riot; and a narrative of the colonial “settling” of the United States, decrying the indignities visited on First Nations peoples.   This last track is the climactic closer to the album, The Parasite (For Buffy), which in spite of just having guitar-bass-drums and vocals, comes off almost orchestral in its sweep (which is definitely a testament to Whitaker, who I imagine standing in front conducting them all with a baton).  It’s a breathtaking unity of words, music, execution.  McDaniels vocal control here is worth a study of its own: the verses have a sweetness that becomes a snarl in schizophrenic increments, with the anger slowly being peeled back in single accents and intonations, replaced again by sweetness almost like he is trying to hold back the demon.  Until, by the end, his voice becomes a raw exposed nerve, with the final minute collapsing into literal screaming and the group attacking their instruments in a free-form festival of noise, an avant-garde blast, like the sound of the universe diving into its own navel.

You have to hear it to believe it.


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Flabbergasted Freeform No.18 – 2016’s Eternal Aftershow Pt.2

eternal-afterart_2

Here is an aural tradition that I only occasionally follow – a mix of some of the many remarkable musicians, singers, composers, and arrangers who left this planet during the last year (now itself good and dead, 2016).  For the dozen or so people still listening to these podcasts,  I had at one time intended and promised to post this in the last weeks of the year.  A lot of factors made that into much less of a priority when the time rolled around, but there was also the uncomfortable hunch that we weren’t quite out of the woods yet regarding celebrities reaching their expiration dates.  I even considered a horror movie type scenario where any still-living musicians who just happened to play on these tracks might be put at risk, or even worse, some Ring-like scenario where just listening to the podcast might kill you. So I quite reasonably decided to hold off until the year had safely passed to finish it, and now here it is, completely free of demonic powers.

It is by necessity incomplete: there were just too many stiffs to work with.  I opted not to include Muhammad Ali’s perplexing rendition of “Stand By Me” from 1963, for example.  I also couldn’t find the right moment to fit in a track from the bootlegged 1977 studio session where Paul Kantner briefly fired Grace Slick and Marty Balin from Jefferson Starship, and replaced them with Carrie Fisher and Blowfly.  The abandoned album was tentatively to  called “Blowfly Against the Empire ’77”.  It was a concept album, of course, and hard to take any one song out of context…(*edit: I legitimately forgot Buckwheat Zydeco, and I even had some of his records pulled.  Boo, hiss…)

A few artists from Part One (done way back in October) were repeated here, but most were not.  So if you are wondering where are Natalie Cole, Gato Barbieri, The Brothers Johnson or Phife Dawg, have a look back in the archives.  I don’t recall if I ever mentioned Rudy Van Gelder by name during either show, but surely he recorded at least a couple things in there somewhere.  A playlist will be uploaded in a few days time.

Besides streaming this show on Mixcloud, you can also get direct downloads in the links below it.  If you feel inspired, you can make a little donation with one of the buttons on the right-hand column – every penny helps to cover the costs of hosting this site.


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The Brothers Johnson – Right On Time (1977)

01-frontThe Brothers Johnson
Right On Time
1977 A&M Records SP-4644

Runnin’ For Your Lovin’     5:05
Free Yourself, Be Yourself     4:26
“Q”     3:25
Right On Time     3:50
Strawberry Letter 23     4:58
Brother Man     3:10
Never Leave You Lonely     3:02
Love Is     4:20

A1     Runnin’ For Your Lovin’  5:05 (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Mortonette Jenkins Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A2     Free Yourself, Be Yourself      4:26  (George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath* Drums – Harvey Mason Horns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Ian Underwood  Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker   Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A3     “Q”     3:25  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson)

Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

A4     Right On Time      3:50  (Quincy Jones, George Johnson, Louis Johnson)

Backing Vocals – Alex Weir, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Richard “Jose” Heath Drums – Harvey MasonHorns – Tower Of Power Horn Section Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Lead Vocals – George Rhythm Guitar – David T. Walker Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

B1     Strawberry Letter 23     4:58  (Shuggie Otis)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Louis Johnson, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Soloist – Lee Ritenour Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin, Ian Underwood Percussion – Ralph MacDonald

B2     Brother Man   3:10  (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Dave Grusin)

Drums – Harvey Mason Keyboards, Synthesizer – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar, Bass – George Johnson, Louis Johnson

  
B3     Never Leave You Lonely    3:02  (Louis JohnsonValerie Johnson, Peggy Jones)

Drums – Harvey Mason Guitar, Bass – George Johnson Lead Vocals – Louis Percussion – Ralph MacDonald Guitar, Bass – Louis Johnson

B4     Love Is   (Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Quincy Jones, Peggy Jones)

Backing Vocals – Alexandra Brown, Denise Trammell, George Johnson, Jim Gilstrap, Oren Waters, Stephanie Spruill Keyboards – Dave Grusin Percussion – Ralph MacDonald  Guitar – George Johnson Guitar, bass – Louis Johnson

Horns arranged by Greg Adams

Alto Saxophone – Lenny Pickett
Tenor Saxophone – Emilio Castillo
Trumpet  – Greg Adams
Trumpet – Mick Gillette
Baritone Saxophone  – Stephen Kupka

Produced and arranged by Quincy Jones
Synthesizers programmed by – Ian Underwood, Michael Boddicker

Art Direction – Roland Young
Creative director – Ed Eckstine
Engineer – Norm Kinney
Assistant Engineer  – Chuck Trammell
Engineer, Remix – Don Hahn
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Book photography by  – Andy Kent, Dennis Callahan, Neil Preston, Randy Alpert,
Ron Phillips, Jim McCrary, Patricia Reynolds, James Fee
Design – Phil Shima

Produced for Quincy Jones Productions
Recorded from February 1st to March 21st, 1977 at A&M Recording Studio “B” Hollywood, California


This post is right on time to break the silence of nearly two months without a blog post. Flabbergasted Vibes (the blog) is on life support and the plug could be pulled any day, if not by me than by a Higher Power.  There’s been enough dying in 2016 without adding this place to the list, but my enthusiasm is definitely at low tide in the grand ebb and flow of things.

Sure, it seems like the world has come unstuck – personally, professionally, politically – but none of it is really a surprise.  I don’t have much to say about this particular album at this particular moment.    Spinning a well-worn dusty classic is about all I’ve got left, and I’m finding even that doesn’t cut it on most days.  But if you  are pressed for time on your way to the fallout shelter and unable to deliberate at length, you could do worse than randomly grabbing this off the shelf with a few other long-players.  I hope you had the foresight to equip your survivalist shelter with a working turntable and speakers.  And a bicycle, for generating electricity off the grid, obviously.

The instrumental reliability of The Brothers Johnson is beyond dispute, and here they have some big cheeses in their pantry to help serve up the funk – Harvey Mason on drums, the Tower of Power horns, Ralph McDonald on percussion, David Grusin and Ian Underwood on keyboards.  And, of course, the whole thing is greased with Quincy Jones’ aural butter to keep the smooth proceedings from ever getting so hot that they scorch.  Burnt, crispy funk was not Quincy’s thing.   The title-track, which strives a little too hard for silliness, is maybe a little boring and could use a little extra grit.  It’s hard to fault anything else though.  The highlight is naturally their cover of the Shuggie Otis’ song Strawberry Letter 23 .   Shuggie has always been “a musician’s musician,” and it’s not as if he was an unknown when he recorded this song for his second LP in the early 70’s.  But the fact that it wasn’t the huge hit it could have been the first time around just meant that the world got to enjoy it twice.  The Brothers Johnson version, which came out a full six years later, is remarkably faithful to the psychedelic spirit of the original.  Maybe it is less cryptic and more mysteriously happy.  Quincy’s production pushes it into heavenly and exciting places, and it sports an epic  layered guitar solo by Lee Ritenour too.  Has Tarantino ruined this song yet by making it the background for some ultraviolence?  I think he has but I can’t remember where.   There are some fine original songs here too in a similarly breezy, windows-rolled-down summer spirit.  In fact the opening and closing tracks of the LP could have been written as bookends to accommodate Strawberry Letter, which is sequenced squarely in the middle of the album (first song on Side 2).  There are a couple of tight instrumentals too.  But yeah, no doubt, Strawberry Letter 23 is the showcase piece here.

Is this the last post of 2016?


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Shirley Collins – The Sweet Primeroses (1967)

folderShirley Collins
The Sweet Primerosos
1967  Topic Records  12T170
Made in the UK

All Things Are Quite Silent
Cambridgeshire May Carol
Spencer The Rover
The Rigs Of The Time
Polly Vaughan*
The Cruel Mother
The Bird In The Bush
The Streets Of Derry
Brigg Fair
Higher Germanie
George Collins
The Babes In The Wood
Down In Yon Forest
The Magpie’s Nest
False True Love
The Sweet Primeroses
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