Novos Baianos – É Ferro na Boneca (1970)

“É Ferro na Boneca”
RGE (XRLP-5.340)

1. “Ferro na boneca” – 2:02
2. “Eu de Adjetivos” – 3:01
3. “Outro mambo, outro mundo” – 2:45
4. “Colégio de Aplicação” – 4:11
5. “A Casca de banana que eu Pisei” – 2:20
6. “Dona Nita e Dona Helena” – 2:30
7. “Se eu quiser eu compro Flores” – 3:17
8. “E o samba me traiu” – 2:05
9. “Baby Consuelo” – 2:02
10. “Tangolete” – 2;21
11. “Curto de véu e Grinalda” – 2:28
12. “Juventude Sexta e Sábado” – 2:54
13. “De Vera” – 2:50

Novos Baianos

* Pepeu Gomes – guitarra
* Paulinho Boca de Cantor – vocal, percussão
* Baby Consuelo – vocal, percussão
* Moraes Moreira – violão, vocal, letras

with supporting band “* A Cor do Som” (Jorginho Gomes, Dadi)
* Luiz Galvão – letras

This is a very heavily Tropicália-laden album from Novos Baianos (at this point in time called Os Novos Bahianos), and pretty extremely different from what they would become known for in their masterpiece follow-up, ‘Acabou Chorare’. In fact when I compare it to their next few albums I find I don’t think this is really that good.. The song “Tangolete” is almost the only thing here that sounds like it would have fit on their next couple records, and this is only a *maybe* and definitely not with the arrangement used here. But if it was from anyone else I would say its a pretty good Brazilian psych-rock album with some good arrangements and interesting instrumentation. Collectors of obscure ‘world’ psychedelia should love this. Fans more familiar with their transformation after their “encounters” with João Gilberto will doubtless like it but maybe more as a footnote to their other work. In other words, this is a historically important album but mileage may vary depending on how groovy you are or whether or not you need regrooving.

The title track leading off this album is pure Tropicália and would fit comfortably in between any of the tracks on Caetano’s first or Gal Costa’s first two albums. The track is, just as the title would imply, a lusophile mambo with some overwrought singing. The horn arrangments by H.L. Fietta really jump out and call your attention on this track. Both because they are some first-rate horn arrangements, and also because you might have noticed at this point that you will never again hear a Novos Baianos album with orchestration that is so prominent, with hippy-jazz flutes and real-jazz saxophones peppering the mix like day-glo axeita de dendê. Same with the following cut, Colégia de Aplicação. “A Casca de Banana que eu Pisei” is a fairly straight forward baião about slipping on banana peels, not much to say here. The tune “Baby Consuelo” is just plain annoying, but of course you may feel differently. Once again, the track “Tangolete” has something of the cadence of later compositions by Morais Morreira, but you might notice there is no *band* here as far as the Baianos are concerned — the arrangement is entirely made up of the orchestra and a lone bandoneón played by… somebody. The fact that this is the most memorable song on this album highlights the main problem I have with it — Most of these songs just kind of drift in one ear and out the other. Even if you find yourself digging it, you will be hard pressed to remember any of the melodies afterwards, which is a strong contrast to all of their later work. In spite of the hyperbolic liner notes from Augusto de Campos which assert that these songs are “100% in the rhythm of our musical revolution,” this is the sound of a band finding its footing on its first full-length recording, and there were a lot more memorable releases coming out of Brazil in 1970 to overshadow this one. Still, it is well worth giving it a listen and having around. The closing song, “De Vera” is a good ‘un that rocks the groove with some nice echoplexed, distorted, wah-wah guitar that works well to distract from the trite lyrics from Gavão. It’s a good closing to the short chapter of this phase of the Baianos story.

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Ary Lobo – Ary Lobo (1962)

Ary Lobo
“Ary Lobo”
Released 1962 on RCA-Victor (BBL – 1172)
Reissued 2004, “Essential Classics” series (82876641002)

1. Moça de hoje
2. Minha promessa
3. Eu vou pra lua
4. Movimento do Cidade
5. Se o passado voltasse
6. Zé Negreiro
7. Mulher de saia justa
8. Planeta plutão
9. Baião do Acre
10. Pedida a São Jorge
11. É Cosme e Damião
12. Garganta de cera


This is a particularly strong album from Pará native Ary Lobo (Gabriel Eusébio dos Santos Lobo). With experience as a radio presenter while serving in the army, Lobo relocated to Rio where he also worked in radio and began making records in 1958 interpreting other composer’s material. By the time this album was released in 1962 he had five LPs and had become a songwriter in his own right, and a top-notch one at that. His style was heavily influenced by Jackson do Pandeiro and even though he adds his own twists and personal “toque”, Pandeiro’s masterful shadow looms over just about everything here. His repertoire had come to mostly feature the regional styles of the Northeast, singing about the quotidian challenges of life in Recife (Movimento da cidade), or of the northeastern migrants to the southeastern cities of Rio or São Paulo in “Minha Promessa.” In this latter song the Cearense protagonist tells how he made a promise to Padre Cícero, swearing that if luck should come his way in Rio he would return to his home in Juazeiro do Norte. Everything turns out well for the narrator in the song, which was rarely the case for the migrants looking to trade their hard luck for a better life in the cities of the industrialized southeast, giving the song a tone of either tongue-in-cheek irony or a hopeful prayer, depending on your interpretation.

This record contains the first song Ary Lobo ever wrote, “Eu vou pra lua”, which was written and first recorded in 1960. (I am not sure if that recording was used for this Long Player or if it was rerecorded for this release..). Brilliant, clever, and catchy as hell, the Jackson do Pandeiro influence is very heavy here in both the arrangement and his vocal phrasing — in fact the first time I heard it, I thought it *was* Jackson do Pandeiro – but the song is still all Lobo’s. The lyrics use the romanticism of Sputnik-era dreams of colonizing space as a solution to earthly social problems as a way to fit in some biting social satire in under three minutes (2:56 to be exact..). I wish I had time to translate the lyrics to English for the anglophiles in Flabberland but, alas, I do not. But as a basic summary I can say that our singer is sick of hunger, crime, inflation and “uneven development” (sorry, that’s my inability to resist social-science jargon… the phrase is “O progresso daqui a carestia” or “Here, progress is expensive…”), and resigning himself to disinterested apathy (“It’s no longer worth it to even criticize / Nobody believes in politics / Where the people live in agony”). He then goes on to imagine a utopian life on the moon free of bureaucracy where there is no lack of water, electricity, hospitals or schools. Oh yes, and where a woman gets sentenced to ten years in jail for cheating on her husband but her ‘back door man’ doesn’t suffer (a bit of light male chauvinist humor tacked onto the end of the tune). Of course now we know none of these things could ever happen since even The Muppets couldn’t colonize space, or even make a good film about it.


Eu Vou Prá Lua
Eu vou morar lá
Sair do meu Sputnik
Do Campo do Jiquiá…

Já estou enjoado aqui da terra
Onde o povo a pulso faz regime
A indústria, roubo, a fome, o crime
Onde os preços aumentam todo dia
O progresso daqui a carestia
Não adianta mais se fazer crítica
Ninguém acredita na política
Onde o povo só vive em agonia

Na lua não tem
Nome abreviado
[a bunch of acronyms*]
Nem contrabando
De mercadoria
Lá não falta água
Não falta energia
Não falta hospital
Não falta escola
É fuzilado lá
Quem come bola
E morre na rua
Quem faz anarquia

Lá não tem juventude transviada
Os rapazes de lá não têm malícia
Quando há casamento é na polícia
A moça é quem é sentenciada
Porventura se a mulher for casada
E enganar o marido a coisa é feia
Ela pega dez anos de cadeia
E o conquistador não sofre nada

* Lobo cleverly mocks Brazil’s acronym fetish by rhyming a bunch of them in rapid succession here. The lyrics posted in numerous places online are erroneous in this part of the song, having apparently been taken from a cover version from Zé Ramalho which changed them, no doubt in an effort to make the song more ‘up to date.’ Which is fair enough, I suppose: the acronyms on the original recording seem mostly taken from institutions and bureaucratic agencies from the Vargas and Kubitschek era like COHAB and IPSEP (which was both an agency and a neighborhood, still very much existing, in Recife). He rattles them off too quickly for me to figure out, especially since I suspect a few of them no longer exist… perhaps someone out there can help set the record straight?

The album also features other notable hits like “Moça de hoje” and “É Cosme é Damião”, along with others I am quite fond of like “Zé Negreiro” and “Pedida a São Jorge”. Most of the songs were written by various pairings of Luiz Boquinho, Ary Monteiro, and Ary Lobo himself, which makes for a cohesive experience of a recording on which there are no bad or uninteresting tracks.

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Arnaldo Baptista – Loki? (1974)

1 Será que eu vou virar bolor?
2 Uma pessoa só (Mutantes)
3 Não estou nem aí
4 Vou me afundar na lingerie
5 Honky tonky (Patrulha do Espaço)
6 Cê tá pensando que eu sou loki?
7 Desculpe
8 Navegar de novo
9 Te amo podes crer
10 É fácil

All songs by Arnaldo Baptista except “Uma pessoa só” by Mutantes.

Recording in 16-tracks at Eldorado Studio (SP)
Produced by: Menescal/Mazola
Audio technician: Marcus Vinicius
Album cover by Aldo Luis, photo by Leila

Featuring: Dinho, Liminha, Rogério Duprat, Rita Lee, Rafa, and Arnaldo Baptista

The world of popular music is full of mythic figures whose eccentric reputations unfairly obscure and overshadow their actual contributions. Arnaldo Baptista is one such figure. In my younger days when I had just discovered them and was gripped by Os Mutantes “fever” (Mutant Mania?), I sought out this record with high expectations, knowing only that it was Arnaldo’s “nervous breakdown album” after which he took a long, um, “rest” and a break from the public eye. I admit I was slightly put off by the fugly album jacket design but I kept hope alive.

I brought it home full of eagerness, put it on the stereo expecting “The Madcap Laughs” and instead I got “The Madman Across the Water.” This is not a slam or a dis, as I will defend early Elton John and challenge anyone who wants to argue about it to a duel. Not a duel to the death with pistols or sabres, mind you, but maybe with a fencing foil. But still, Sir Elton doesn’t even rank in the realm of ‘loony’ tortured souls. So I was rather shocked to find myself listening to a subdued album of piano-driven rock music (hell, there isn’t any guitar on the whole record until the very end), rather than the Brazilian equivalent of “Oar,” “Easter Everywhere” or the aforementioned “Madcap.” What “Loki?” offers us is a piece of reflective pop music, a fragmented narrative of a life in the midst of post-psychedelic fragmentation of identity and doubt, of struggling with the ambiguities of celebrity and modernity, a “concept album” whose concept continually eludes the listener. For sure, the album is peppered with oddball, beguiling lyrics in praise of fruits and vegetables (“xuxu beleza, tomate maravilha”), lingerie, or an unexplained aversion to Alice Cooper, and his vocal delivery occasionally bursts into an odd Screamin’ Jay Hawkins warble, but for the most part Baptista’s stream-of-consciousness tales bring us a mix of the quotidian and the transcendent moments that made up a life lived to the limits of mental, spiritual, and physical exhaustion. For my money Baptista was the driving force behind Mutantes — I have never been terribly impressed with Rita Lee’s solo work, even the first two albums that Baptista produced. For me, those records are listenable largely by way of Arnaldo’s involvement; In fact her record “Hoje é o primeiro dia do resto da sua vida” is sort of a counterpart to this one.

But “Loki?” is far more tranquil and pensive; it’s occasional prog-rock flourishes never become cloying or annoying. Some of the songs flow one into the other in true rock-opera fashion. Mileage may vary, however, for the non-Portuguese speaker, as the music here is very much driven by the lyrics. Some of the tunes are self-referential to themselves; in other words, conjuring phrases and images already dealt with in other places on the album. I particular love his occasional use of an English lyric thrown in seemingly at random that matches perfectly the rest of what is going on musically and discursively. There are metaphysical musings – We are all one and the same person, I am the Alpha and Omega, and so on. “Uma Pessoa Só” is graced by the lush arrangements of Rogério Duprat, cradling Baptista’s explorations into the inner cosmos. And then there are moments of raw, confessional tenderness and intimacy — “Desculpe” and “Te amo podes crer” are both too plaintive and profound, too human and eternal, to suffer any hackneyed translations at my hands. My favorite song in the whole bunch is “Navegar de novo” which mixes reminiscence of going to the cinema with his girl, lamenting that the car he bought six months ago is already out of fashion, the tough impersonality of São Paulo; with musings about humanity, the speed of light, the conquest of space, of Brazil as being still a child, and, um, urban planning (I think..) Rita Lee sings backup on “Não estou nem aí.” The album ends with two minutes of an open-tuning 12-string solo guitar piece whose only lyrics, “I love myself like I love you. It’s easy. It’s easy,” his hushed voice mixed into the left channel as if he is whispering in your ear, before he ends the tune banging out guitar chords that rock out more than anything else on the record, giving way to a heavily-flanged fade out. The end. Like one of his more obvious anglophone parallels, one Roger Barrett, the album leaves me with the persistent feeling that there was (is) much more to the man than the “loony” tales and stories, the idiosyncratic behavior, the health problems. Don’t let the legend and the myth distract you from what this album is – a beautiful swan-song.

Additional info contributed by blog friend CK:

I love this album, which I bought back in the days of vinyl records. I’d
like to comment on the so-called Rita albums produced by Arnaldo. The
story that I’ve heard is that her first album, Build Up, was not
originally Rita Lees idea. Os Mutantes went into a forced recess due to
her husband Arnaldo deciding on an adventurous vacation with a friend
traveling by motorcycle from São Paulo to New York. Hitting into some
difficulties along the way (I think he made it to Panama), Arnaldo gave
up on the idea and returned to São Paulo to find Rita midway into an
album. So it was agreed that he can produce some of the remaining
recordings. So yes, he did have a hand in it, but its not like he was
the mastermind behind the helm of the whole thing.

Regarding her
so called second album, ‘Hoje É O Primeiro Dia Do Resto Da Sua Vida’,
the story of this album is quite well known. Mutantes informed their
record company that they have enough material for, and intend to,
release a double album. The record company explained that Mutantes did
not sell enough to warrant a double album. The compromise was to have
the second album out as a Rita Lee album, because she was always the
bands main pull or main attraction in minds of the populous. Arnaldo was
the musical genius, Sergio the guitar wiz kid, but it was Rita’s charm
and charisma that made Mutantes television friendly. So, this is really a
Rita’s album at all although it is officially credited to her.

Loki the album, one of the important things to know about the album is
that it was recorded after Rita and Arnaldo split up. Almost all the
songs are directed to Rita in one way or another. Será Que Eu Vou Virar
Bolar questions his musical future without her (venho me apegando ao
passado e em ter você ao meu lado // trans.: I’ve been getting attached
to the past and with you by my side). Uma Pessoa Só is a rerecording of a
Mutantes composition form their 1973 album O A E O Z (The A And The Z),
that was shelved until the nineties. In Não Estou Nem Aí he shows
himself unwilling to deal with the pressures in his life; rather get
high every morning (Não estou nem aí pra morte, nem aí pra sorte/ Eu
quero mais é decolar toda manhã). Rita Lee and Lucy Turnbull, who at
that time were working as a duo called ‘Cilibrina do Eden’, sing
background vocals on this and the following Vou Me Afundar Na Lingerie.
Arnaldo jokingly tuants them (or maybe it’s a shout-out?) on Cê Tá
Pensando Que Eu Sou Loki? (Cilibrina pra cá / Cilibrina pra lá / Eu sou
velho mas gosto de viajar). Descuple is an obvious open letter to Rita
Lee that warranted her to write and record her answer Agora Só Falta
Você on her 1975 album Fruito Proibido. Certainly not the answer Arnaldo
was hoping for. Desculpe is heart breaking in it’s vocal
interpretation, and has Limninha and Dinho giving us pure Mutantes power
in its execution, with only brother Sergio absent. Te Amo Podes Crer
follows Navegar de Novo, both stream of conscience type lyrics, and
follows the pattern of woes for the person identified as ‘you’ that left
and doesn’t want to return. Its a sad record thematically, but
beautiful in it’s playing. The Last song É Facil, Arnaldo amazes me as
how good a guitar player he really is, although he hardly plays the
instrument, up to that point in his carrer.

NOTE #1: There is noticeable noise / digital drop-outs beginning at the 1 minute and 20 second mark on the track “Uma pessoa só”. You may only notice them if you use headphones or a accurate speakers for playback. I compared two different CD copies of this first pressing, and the noise is in the exact same place. Quite likely damaged master tapes. I recently came across a new remaster of this album released on by the Universal group. I have not heard it and am not too inspired to pick it up, since the first pressings on Philips typically sound better than the newer remasters.

NOTE #2: There is a documentary about Arnaldo Baptista also called “Loki.” To my chagrin and consternation I still have not managed to see it. I am sure it has some lovely anecdotes about this album. Hopefully nothing that will make my commentaries look silly (or sillier..).


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Luiz Gonzaga – Luiz "Lua" Gonzaga (1961)

*note: Gonzaga did not actually have a mustache in the photo above..

Luiz Gonzaga com Acompanhamento Típico
“Luiz ‘Lua’ Gonzaga” Released 1961 on RCA Victor (BBL-1115)

1. Capitão Jagunço baião (Paulo Dantas/Barbosa Lessa)
2. Baldrama Macia rasqueado (Arlindo Pinto/Anacleto Rosas)
3. Creuza Morena, valsa (Lourival Passos/Luiz Gonzaga)
4. Dedo Mindinho, baião (Luiz Gonzaga)
5. Amor que Não Chora, toada (Erasmo Silva)
6. O Tocador Quer Beber, xote (Carlos Diniz/Luiz Gonzaga)
7. Na Cabana do Rei, baião (Jaime Florence/Catulo de Paula)
8. Aroeira, xote (Barbosa Lessa)
9. Rosinha, baião (Nelson Barbosa/Joaquim Augusto)
10. Corridinho Canindé, baião (Luiz Gonzaga/Lourival Passos)
11. Só Se Rindo, xote (Alvarenga/Rancinho)
12. Alvorada da Paz, marcha (Luiz Gonzaga/Lourival Passos)

Transcription notes: Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> Normalized to -1 db -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1.
Absolutely no EQ or noise-reduction!

As far as I can tell this was Luiz Gonazaga’s first long-player recorded FOR the format of a long-playing record or LP. Previous to this his work has been on 78s and singles. The record is also unique in that it lacks any songs from his famous partnerships with Humberto Teixeira or Zedantas. There is quite a lot of variety on this album, reflecting how Gonzaga was simultaneously “inventing” a genre of music and also constantly expanding its boundaries. The record starts off roaring with a tale of Canudos besieged by the militias of the First Republic, with their captain in the role of Judas against Antônio Conselheiro, the “messiah” of the sertão. But then the second cut, Baldrama Macia, takes us far from the northeast, to a different style of caipira or ‘country / folk’ music from the state of Mato Grosso and the area around its capital, Cuiabá. The style is called “rasqueado” and I don’t know too much about it, but apparently it grew from the riverine cultures spanning Paraguay to Mato Grosso and included the influence of polka music. To my ears it bears a curious resemblance to certain types of Mexican folk musics far to the north. The third tune, Crueza Morena, is in the mold of a traditional ‘valsa’ sertaneja, the very waltz that found its way to Brazil via the Portuguese court culture when the royal family briefly resided in Rio de Janeiro in the early nineteenth century, and would influence everyone from Villa Lobos to Pixinguinha. The next cut, a pure baião written entirely by Gonzaga himself, is a fine tune, nothing wrong with it in the least, but it pales compared to the song that follows it. “Amor que não chora”, written by the famous samba-cançao composer Erasmo Silva, was the big hit off this record. Just a gorgeous tune, everything about it complementing everything else in perfect proportions of instrumentation, vocal, lyric..

“Lugar que tem chuva, tem felicidade
Amor que não chora, não sente saudade”

Such simplicity executed with deceptively perfect rhythmic exactitude. The only other lines in the tune:

“Meu amor me abandonou, eu não sei qual a razão
Hoje está fazendo um mês que eu fiquei na solidão

Ai, ai, meu amor não chorou
Ai, ai, meu amor me deixou”

All of these are case-book examples of a vocalist knowing how to drag a line behind the beat, then speed it up in just the right place, where the phrasing is more essential than hitting all the notes – which, incidentally, Gonzaga always nailed with his big, expansive voice. Looking at the song structurally or compositionally, “there’s nothing to it,” as the English expression goes — but that’s part of the beauty, of course.

This is followed by a short song detailing the legal campaign to insure the rights of sanfoneiros everywhere to have a drink while on the bandstand. During the Estado Novo of Getulio Vargas (1937-1945), forró musicians were forbidden to drink on the bandstand due to the belief that they would incite riots and unrest and bring back the chaos of the cangaçeiros like Lampião who caused the government so much trouble. The repressive, discriminatory, and senseless law stayed on the books long after the fall of Vargas. Since Gonzaga had come to prominence with plenty of hit songs during this period, he had simply had enough of having to stay ‘dry’ during performances and wrote this song in protest. The song was popular and powerful enough that in 1962 the subject was to be brought before the Câmara of Deputies, where a nearly unanimous vote was held, “O Tocador Pode Beber.” A historic political victory in the name of popular culture.

The second side of this album is also quote good although not as strong as the first half. “Na Cabana do Rei” is another melodically lovely xotê about singing toads and pigeons. The next few tunes kind of float right through my consciousness without leaving much behind except for “Corridinho Canindé” which features a slick refrain of ‘ziggy-ziggy-boom’ as well as a tuba. This makes me happy. And actually the most beguiling track here closes out the album “Alvorada de Paz”, which is a marcha in the style of a samba-exultação, that is to say a patriotic samba singing the praises of not only Brazil but its leaders as well — in this case the election of President Jânio Quadros. Quadros was only president for about eight months, famously resigning his office and claiming that “occult forces” were conspiring against him. This is a literal translation from the Portuguese, which really only means “hidden forces.” But I think that if we take Quadros’ resignation letter literally, we will realize he was talking about the RECORD INDUSTRY, the Devil’s Plaything, more powerful even than the derrubador dos presidentes Carlos Lacerda, and thus by extension — Luiz Gonzaga and his “homage” to his presidency. In this line of reasoning, Gonzagão is responsible not only for the collapse of Jânio Quadros administration, but also the military coup that seized power from his vice-president João Goulart in 1964, and the entire military regime that followed. An still the cangaçeiros await their real revenge. If you play this record backwards, you will realize that forró is not just party music. It’s the Devil’s Music, pure and simple.

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Jorge Ben – África Brasil (1976)

Jorge Ben
África Brasil1976 Phonogram (6349 187)
2009 Reissue: Salve, Jorge! Boxset

1 Ponta de lança africano (Umbabarauma)

2 Hermes Trismegisto escreveu

3 O filósofo

4 Meus filhos, meu tesouro

5 O plebeu

6 Taj Mahal

7 Xica da Silva

8 A história de Jorge

9 Camisa 10 da Gávea

10 Cavaleiro do cavalo imaculado

11 África Brasil (Zumbi)


People keep asking me when this one is coming, and since it is my birthday today, I feel like giving back to the world. I could ramble on and on about how incredible this album is, or I could let it’s mysterious majestic funk speak for itself. The culmination of the preceding two albums’ forays into hermetic mysticism, alchemy, umbanda, and futebol, this album is a magnum opus and also something of a swan song — Jorge Ben would never again come anywhere close to making an album this good! I was astonished to learn last year that it has been out of print for a while. I have the old ‘Samba & Soul’ series pressing, and shared it once around the corner. I am fairly certain it has been here before too. This album is essential, essential, essential listening! And on this record, we get full musician credits:

Mirror 1 //

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Gil e Jorge – Ogum Xango (1975)

Jorge Ben & Gilberto Gil
Gil & Jorge / Ogun Xango

Released 1975 Phonogram (9299 453/4)
This reissue: Salve, Jorge! Boxset 2009

LP 1

1 Meu glorioso São Cristóvão
(Jorge Ben)
2 Nega
(Gilberto Gil)
3 Jurubeba
(Gilberto Gil)
4 Quem mandou (Pé na estrada)
(Jorge Ben)

LP 2

5 Taj Mahal
(Jorge Ben)
6 Morre o burro, fica o homem
(Jorge Ben)
7 Essa é pra tocar no rádio
(Gilberto Gil)
8 Filhos de Gandhi
(Gilberto Gil)
9 Sarro
(Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil)

Since this album was reissued on the Verve label for years, and thus available domestically in the US, it was actually the first Jorge Ben I had ever heard in my life. Note: if you have your 3-D glasses left over from Avatar, the original album cover of this was apparently designed to be viewed in 3-D. Far out.

I remember not knowing what to think the first time I put it on. The songs were so loose, so long and jangly and laid back — just not what I had expected after everything I had heard about Jorge. Also Gilberto Gil is doing his thing and being, well, Gil — his vocal whoops and falsetto vocalizations can be a little weird and grating. In fact in some ways this might possibly the most ‘psychedelic’ album either one of them recorded. I don’t know if I can back that statement up if you haven’t heard this. This has nothing to the production of this record — very straight-forward recording of a jam session with some slight delay and reverb added to the vocals and guitars. Some bass guitar on one track only. But it’s free-flowing improvisational acoustic attack, with little regard for conventional song structures in the commercial sense, this could almost have the same vibe as an Amon Duul (Mach I) album, albeit with actual talent involved. I have said this before and will repeat it here — I wouldn’t recommend this as an introduction to Jorge Ben, or Gil for that matter. Not because it’s bad, just because its well… kind of weird and atypical. But there is a reason why its a classic. There is great music from start to finish, and songs by both artists that don’t appear anywhere else. ‘Filhos de Gandhi’ is one of my favorites, and unique to this record. Essentially a slowed-down afoxé minus the percussion, its title is taken from one of the more famous carnaval blocos of Salvador, Bahia. Gil tells the story himself on his own website, which I will leave untranslated out of pure laziness, for the moment at least:

“Chegado de Londres, em 72, eu fui passar o carnaval na Bahia, e encontrei o Afoxé Filhos de Gandhi sem massa humana na avenida, reduzido a apenas uns quarenta ou cinquenta na Praça da Sé. O bloco, tão vivo na minha memória, tinha sido um dos grandes emblemas da minha infância e era o mais antigo da cidade. Começou a sair em 49, quando eu tinha sete anos; os integrantes passavam pela porta de casa no bairro de Santo Antonio, todos de branco, com turbantes e lençóis, palhas de alho trançadas e fita na cabeça, e com um toque que era diferente do samba, da marcha, do frevo, dando uma sensação de espaço sagrado (depois viemos a saber que o afoxé era mesmo um toque religioso do candomblé). Eu tinha veneração pelo Gandhi, e ao revê-lo numa situação de indigência, me deu uma dor seguida de um arroubo de filialidade, de amor de filho, arrimo de família; resolvi dar uma força. A primeira coisa que fiz foi me inscrever no bloco – para ‘engrossar o caldo’. Depois fiz a música, e continuei saindo – saí treze anos seguidos. As fileiras foram aumentando, e o Gandhi se recuperando. Os jovens ficaram entusiasmados com minha presença, e os velhos se sentiram mais estimulados a trabalhar; enfim, foi um estímulo geral.”

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password: vibes

Album cover from the US release on VERVE RECORDS: