“La Onda Va Bien is a slang expression implying smoothness, hip-ness, and first rate quality. These characteristics are indicative to the music of Cal Tjader and also to the taste of those who listen.”
Recorded in San Francisco in July 1979.
This record lacks some of the fire of his Prestige work in the years leading up to this, with the ballads being a little too saccharine-flavored for me, but there are some real cookers on here too. Serengeti is an aural safari. The one Tjader original, Mambo Mindoro, is a natural centerpiece, with Poncho Sanchez on fire throughout, and also notable for its brevity as it comes in at slightly under four minutes. I’m rather fond of the very creative, liberal interpretation of the Edu Lobo/Ruy Guerra composition Aleluia. Of the slower numbers, I enjoy the Johnny Mercer tune “I Remember You” here, with the Rhodes giving just enough gritty texture to balance the sweetness, and a nice jazz flute solo that could only have been improved if Roger Glenn had played it shirtless like Herbie Mann. Mark Levine contributes a quietly smoldering original descarga jam in Linda Chicana, and the album ends on a high note with a composition from former Tjader band member João Donato, Sabor.
“La Onda Va Bien” apparently kicked off the “Picante” sublabel of Concord Records. Like all Concord releases the sound quality is flawless – and that’s not always great, because I like a few flaws in both recordings and performances to keep it interesting. Too much of the Concord catalog is so slick that it becomes sonic wallpaper. But Tjader and Company carry off a laid-back, final-set-of-the-evening-at-3 a.m. feeling here. This 80s-era CD pressing sounds stellar too, extremely warm with a ton of dynamic range. If you’re new to Cal Tjader this might not be the place to start, but it’s a very solid album.
Dora Lopes – Diploma de otário
Rubens da Mangueira – Estrangeiro no samba
Jackson do Pandeiro – Três pedidos
Carmelia Alvez – Eh! boi
Evaldo Braga – Não Atenda
Buddy Rich – Heaven On Their Minds
Los Wemblers de Iquitos – Un Silbido Amoroso
Tata VIega – Give It Up For Love
Sergio Mendes and Brasil 77 – Moçambique
Ronnie Laws – Tell Me Something Good
Tati Viega again – Give It Up For Love (reprise)
Joni Mitchell – Dreamland
Luiz Gonzaga – Festa
Monty Alexander – Sly Mongoose
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires – Hot Sweet and Jumpy
Libre – Tune Up
Jimmy Scott – When Did You Leave Heaven? Tommy McCook & The Supersonics – The World Needs Love
It is amazing how upset some people get over the idea of a cultural boycott. Perhaps that is because they actually make a difference. If they didn’t, the government of Israel and its lobbies would not be spending a boatload of money to defame the BDS movement at every turn as well as attempting to impose a gag order on artists, scholars, and intellectuals who endorse it. For that reason, I’m disabling comments for this post because I don’t have the time or energy to deal with the inevitable abusive trolls and propaganda-bots. The reality is that playing in Israel right now is on the same level as performing in South Africa during the 1980s when the full severity of apartheid could no longer be covered up by its facilitators in Europe and America. Plenty of artists continued to play in South Africa, either indifferent to the suffering or making the same type of excuses being made today by those who see no problem with performing in Israel.
As we approach the one year anniversary of the war crimes and mass slaughter of civilians in the Gaza strip, one which was openly described in genocidal terms by Israel’s far-right government, I’d like to ask you to consider signing a petition asking Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil to cancel their upcoming show in Tel Aviv. These two guys should know better than most people about the consequences of state-sponsored terrorism and censorship, having not only lived through a right-wing dictatorship (that was similarly propped up by US complicity and self-interest), but also for having paid the price for dissent, as both of them spent several years living in exile in London.
One of the interesting objections to cultural boycotts that one often hears is, “Why should the citizens of _____ suffer for the idiocy and repugnance of their government or leaders?” Well, my short answer to that might be “because they keep voting them in,” but let me try to be less crass and assume we are talking about that segment of a population, however small, that disagrees with those policies but happens to like a particular artist. This type of argument came up not long ago when American rock band Wilco chose to cancel a concert in Indiana when that state legalized the discrimination against LGBT persons as second-class citizens. It kind of blows my mind that anyone would consider the “deprived” Indiana Wilco fan as the victim in this situation. If they are really heartbroken die-hard fans, they can get in a car or buy a bus ticket and go an hour or two to the southeast or northeast and see the band perform in Cincinnati or Louisville or Chicago, or someplace else that hasn’t legalized bigotry. (“Back in the day” I actually traveled a greater distance to see an offshoot from that band, Golden Smog, play in a small Chicago club simply because they weren’t coming anywhere near where I lived.) My point is that, in spite of signs of increasing income inequality in Israel itself, its citizens are a heck of a lot more mobile than the people living in lock-down in the Occupied Territories. If they are really zealous about seeing Caetano and Gil, let them travel to do it, because they have that privilege.
If Caetano and Gil organized a concert in Gaza or the West Bank, perhaps making a public gesture towards a genuine two-state solution, a fundraiser for rebuilding, or some other act that recognized Palestinians and Israeli Arabs as worthy of being treated like human beings, then maybe I wouldn’t have a problem with a Tel Aviv concert. But of course, that is not going to happen. So the right thing for them to do is cancel. And presuming that they don’t, I encourage you to think twice about buying tickets to see them in other cities on this tour. I am sure the shows will be really good. I am also sure that a lot of you out there have seen both of these artists on numerous occasions. Consider letting this one pass and writing them a letter about why you will not be attending. You can write to their management here: Gilberto Gil (at Gege Produções), and Caetano Veloso.
B1 The Wine Is Bitter (But The Grapes Are Sweet) 4:08
B2 Touch 3:35
B3 Making Love In The Rain 3:15
B4 I Want You Back 3:12
B5 You Got Me Going In Circles 2:46
Producer – Hadley Murrell
Black Ice is: Antone Curtis, Gerald Bell, Cleveland Jones, Frank Willis, Ralph Lars
Associate producers: Ray Jackson and Eddie Horan
Arranged by Ray Jackson
Strings by Bill Henderson
Audio engineers: Angel Balestier and Dennis Sands (ALB Productions)
Mastered by Bob Mac Leod and Kevin Gray (Artisan Sound)
Distributed by Amherst Records, Buffalo NY
This is the sole sentence that somebody has entered into the Discogs entry for Black Ice: “A funk and soul unit from US who never sustained much commercial success or had any lasting aesthetic impact.” Ouch. Sounds like somebody who is owed royalties or is otherwise carrying around a grudge opened up a Discogs account just to write that. If I limited my listening habits only to artists who had a “lasting aesthetic impact,” my library would be much smaller. After all, all that ‘seminal’ stuff has to impact something, right?
Black Ice, who only made three albums spread out between 1976 and 1982, do come off a bit like a group in search of an identity, and their sound on this first record was slightly anachronistic. Although the perfectly-cropped erotic cover of this album may have still been contemporary with 1977, the music recalls the early to mid 70s, a combination of The Spinners and a less complex version of early Kool and The Gang. In fact a listen to the best-known (and best) track off of it, “Breakdown” – recorded and released as a single before the rest of the material – is likely to give the impression that you are in for a wilder, funkier ride than you will actually get. That song is a raw, uncut funk monster (which incidentally features a riff that is only a few sixteenth-notes shy of being Jungle Boogie). Although the remaining tracks on the record can get pretty funky too, there is nothing nearly as heavy, nor anything where the band are given the space to cut loose as they do on this track. So my own first reaction on buying this LP was a bit of anti-climax, based on the expectations of this first cut. Most of the other tracks are slower or mid-tempo ballads. But being influenced by or even emulating The Spinners or The Four Tops is not a bad thing at all, so it didn’t take long for me to readjust the parameters of my listening. The fact is that Black Ice were a really solid vocal group and these are solid songs.
The first three minutes of “Shakedown” can be found here (the album version is 7 minutes!)
As harsh as the anonymous Discogs critic might have been, he or she is kind of right. In the compressed time-space of popular music, this kind of group probably seemed a bit old-fashioned by 1977, and the sound of their next album, which didn’t come out until two years later – the wonderfully titled “I Judge The Funk” – reflects a consciousness of that and a desire to update their sound. This had mixed results. That record has its moments in the way of a few well-written ballads and at least one monster jam (the somewhat goofy ‘Play More Latin Music’), but there are also stabs at disco-funk that are not quite convincing.
Short of having a visionary in the group (or someone determined to leave “a lasting aesthetic impact), vocal groups frequently need a good producer to set an agenda and direction. The small HDR Records seemed to lack this, although most of the tracks on their first two records have a writing credit from “Associate Producer” Eddie Horan. I also don’t know anything about Horan, but he apparently recorded an album of his own in 1978 (which I have not heard), released on HDR but also picked up by TK Records out of Miami – oddly enough, a label that I would have recommended to Black Ice had I been around and had anybody asked me. I am not even a blip on the map of soul music crate-digger scholarship, so what do I really know. But TK Records (and their large family of affiliated subsidiaries) had a knack for taking artists who may have cultivated regional interest in clubs or local radio and getting some modestly-successful commercial recordings out of them. With no releases between 1979 and 1981, the intervening history of Black Ice is unknown to me. But their last album (also titled simply Black Ice) once again shows a stylistic shift, this time into the early 80s with bass synths and perhaps a mild influence of electro-funk – once again, these are elements that make up many a great record in my collection, but not ones which Black Ice were necessarily good at incorporating. In my imagined, filling-in-blanks history of the group, I propose a narrative of the group slipping into an undefined hiatus while some of them attempt solo careers, not having much luck, and then reconvening around 81-82 for one last reach for the stars. This final album also involved a switch to a new label, Montage, who with artists on their roster like Rose Royce represented a potentially higher profile for the band. Things didn’t seem to work out too well for them at Montage either.
Is this ’77 record a lost classic? I don’t know. But the opening track is pretty phenomenal, and the rest of it holds up well after repeated listens. My one gripe might be the gratuitous female groaning during “Making Love In The Rain” that is mixed twice as loud as the music and makes me reach for the volume knob if there is anyone within earshot with whom I am not getting freaky. It sounds like a producer’s afterthought, and the song doesn’t need it.
This was another vinyl transfer I had sitting on my hard drive for two years, reluctant to share because I didn’t like the audio quality. My copy is kind of crispy, my stylus and cartridge at the time were a bit on the bright side, and there is one track with the hi-hat mixed so high that it might kill you (“decapitation by hi-hat” was a finishing move I tried to pitch to the creators of Mortal Kombat but nobody seemed to think it was as cool as I did). While typing up this post, I noticed that one of the mastering engineers was a young Kevin Gray, which explains why (hi-hat on one track notwithstanding) the album actually sounds really good. Gray has gone on to become one of the most respected mastering engineers out there, and in particular has been working on stellar reissues lately released by a few audiophile labels.
To make my delay in this post even more shameful, a reader specifically requested this album after I played ‘Breakdown’ on one of my first podcasts. I told him I planned to get around to it… Well here it is!
Recorded at Somil (Rio de Janeiro) and Dó-Ré-Mi (São Paulo)
Cover photo – Micheloni
Lay-out – Impulso Marketing & Propaganda Ltda
Direção artistica – Paulo Rocco
Direção de Produção – Talmo Scaranari
Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 2496Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
As I have mentioned repeatedly in the sparse posts over the last six months to a year, it’s been a very busy time for Flabbergast, filled with momentous “real life” things that were extremely demanding and required all of my attention, and thus have kept me away from blogging. Foremost among these been the absorbing work I put into proposals for the Lego Ideas initiative whose mania is sweeping the nation! Unfortunately my efforts brought me nothing but frustration and headaches. My first attempt was a scale model of Motown Studios which I designed after one visit to their Detroit museum back in 1999 and a postcard that I’ve kept ever since as a souveneir. It was going pretty well – I even had the moveable drum riser, built out of Legos! – when I received a “cease and desist” letter from Berry Gordy’s estate and was forced to abandon the project. The last thing I needed right then, especially when trademarking my name back in 2013 failed to produce any revenue whatsoever, was a lawsuit. Sadly, litigation was exactly what I would get from my next project, a scale model of the Berlin Wall. The city kept telling me that I needed something called a “permit” and told me that the armed Lego guards were scaring the townsfolk. But what really killed the project was a lawsuit from both Phil Spector and ex-Pink Floyd guy Roger Waters, who had heard about my run-in with Berry Gordy’s people and automatically assumed my giant Lego wall must be music-related and so obviously somehow about them. I think I had a pretty good chance of winning the court case, but since I couldn’t find a lawyer who would accept payment in Reddit gold, I decided to just abandon that project too. For payback, I mailed Spector a Lego gun but apparently the prison deemed it an unacceptable gift. But don’t worry about me, I always land on my feet. I’m not interested in any trendy get rich quick schemes anyway, I’m a guy who likes to commit to the long haul. Legos! It’s such a fad, I’ll bet you twenty dollars (in Reddit gold or possibly Bitcoin) that nobody will even remember what they are five years from now.
Alright, so let’s just establish right at the outset that I bought this record because of the cover without knowing anything about it. It was definitely buying it just from the front photo – after all it has popcorn in it, sitting next to a bowl of ice! But then I flipped it around and saw that more than half of it was carimbó music, which would have sealed the deal had I not already made up my mind.
Rather fittingly for the cover, in the grooves is a so-so party record of tunes that will grow on you but that probably won’t end up on your regular party playlist. In spite of being called “Vol.3 – Lambada” there is only one tune which flirts with that genre here, the outright awful “Carimbó das Guianas.” The tightest thing here is the track Carimbo de Dezembro, a funky little number meant for celebrating New Years Eve, and which I included on Flabbergasted Freeform No.10 . The runner-up might be Carimbó da Crioula which starts out at a slower tempo and keeps speeding up until it’s pretty frenetic. Candango gets bonus points for authoring all his own tunes, with a handful of writing partners, including Pinduca on one track.
Mr. Candango has kind of a weird voice, one that is suited for the forró music here. Based on the range of his repertoire and his accent, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he might have been a Northeastern transplant to Pará, the birthplace of carimbó. A little lazy searching turned up the fact that he apparently lived for a while in Ilheús, Bahia. If he wasn’t a nordestino then he was certainly playing to an audience that appreciated the region’s music. Along with some genres native to Pernambuco (which is, as a matter of fact, where I found this record) like frevo and ciranda here, you also get fandango / marujada, and the aforementioned forró. But then he also takes a stab at a samba de roda. He seemed to be a jack of all trades, as further sleuthing turns up that he made at least one record of seresta / serenata music, as well as an entire album of fandango. But I know little else about him. He may have worked in construction of the modernist capital city of Brasília: candango is a name given to the construction workers there, and he seems to have been old enough to have done it. He could have invented this off-road Jeep, the Brazilian version of the German “Munga”:
If anyone wants to replace this speculative biography of the mystery man known as Candango do Ypê, feel free to leave a comment. Also feel free to click the links button!
Incidentally, as you will hear, this record wasn’t in the best of shape and neither was the cover. I did a little “restoration” on the glorious cover art, you can see the original state it was in here below. I left a little of the wear and tear to keep the “authenticity” in tact….