Elis Regina – Na Batucada Da Vida (2006)

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ELIS REGINA
“A Batucada Da Vida”
DVD 1 in a series of 3
2006 // NTSC

– Garoto último tipo (Puppy love)
– Vida de bailarina
– O trem azul
– É com esse que eu vou
– Ladeira da preguiça
– Poema – Retrato do desconhecido
– Folhas secas
– Triste
– Gol anulado
– O mestre sala dos mares
– Bodas de prata
– Canto de Ossanha/ Deixa/ Lapinha/Vou deitar e rolar (Quá quá ra quá quá /Aviso aos navegantes
– O que tinha de ser/ Tatuagem
– Atrás da porta
– Águas de março
– Na batucada da vida

O difícil começo da carreira em Porto Alegre não foi diferente das
histórias dos demais membros dessa confraria a qual Elis pertencia – a
das pessoas determinadas a vencer. Ela tinha talento, sabia do seu valor
e só precisava enfrentar o mundo com coragem e determinação. Foi o que
fez. O resultado todos conhecem e está neste DVD. Um registro único de
interpretações memoráveis de Elis, incluindo a canção de Ary Barroso que
ela aprendeu com Tom Jobim e que dá nome ao DVD.
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The difficult beginning of her career in Porto Alegre was not any
different from the stories of the many members of the club to which Elis
belonged: of people determined to win.  She had talent, she knew her
she was good, and she only needed to take on the work with courage and
determination.  And that’s just what she did.  The result which everyone
knows is on this DVD.  A record of the most memorable of the unique,
singular interpretations of Elis, including the song by Ary Barroso that
she learned from Tom Jobim and which gives its name to the DVD.

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A blog reader recently asked if I was still alive.  Well I have a lot more interesting posts than this that I have been planning, but when people are worried about your health you have to give them a pulse.  However I’ve been busy with work lately, too busy to write worthwhile blog posts, and so I dug up this description I had written for this DVD over a year ago for someplace else, with some slight modifications:

This is a minor treasure-trove for fans of Elis Regina with some amazing live-in-the-studio performances that really illustrate her mastery of technique and her emotional sincerity.  That being said, I would much rather listen to Elis sing than watch her sing.  Her emotional connection with the material she sings is downright scary.   In the world of popular music there are so many people who give us fake theatrical emotion on stage (Marisa Monte anyone?) that it is unnerving to see someone in the throws of total surrender to a song — When the tune is happy, she is smiling and ebullient; when the song is sad, she cries; when it’s angry, her wrath adds a meter to her diminutive height and we back away…  It’s probably not a dramatic exaggeration to say that this highly emotional, ultra-sensitive nature combined with the roller coaster of fame and success ultimately killed her, as it has with other artists before and since.  When I first saw some of her live clips I questioned whether she was “for real” or just laying it on think.  My conclusion is that she was pretty real alright.

In the days before botox, a singer or actress could potentially achieve the same effect through plucking their eyebrows and imbibing a shit-ton of cocaine.  Elis seems to have flirted with this strategy during the 70s.  As I said, I would rather listen to her records than watch her.

The audio track on some of the material could be better, but presumably they did the best with what they had.  Some of it sounds greats, other parts not so much.
Another critique is that the earliest years of her career are relegated to an odd photo montage at the beginning and then we are launched right
into the 1970s.  Her recordings prior to 1965 are utterly forgettable, but the period from 1965-70 is the material that I find myself coming back to, much more than her slick 70s MPB.  Where is the footage of her regular program O Fino da Bossa (presumably, tied up for some legal reasons), her duets with Jair Rodriguez or Wilson Simonal?  You can find a bit of that stuff on You
Tube but it sure would be nice to have a clean, quality DVD of it.  For my tastes, her records from 1966-1970 were the peak of her creative power and the strongest in terms of repertoire, and we just don’t get any nuggets from that era.  Even so, this is essential for any fan of Elis Regina, as are the other two DVDs in the series.  And they are live performances, not video clips.

The clip with Tom Jobim is just downright weird.  They seem kind of, um, loaded on something or other.  The DVD notes claimed that Elis was learning the song from Tom, which I guess explains why she doesn’t join in the singing and we are left with his flat, low-key, take-it-or-leave-it vocal; this is followed by Elis singing the same tune, impeccably, years later.  But what I really don’t understand is the claim that Elis *learned* this song from Jobim — Ary Barroso is one of the most famous composers in Brazilian popular music, and ‘Na Batucada da Vida’ isn’t exactly an obscure song.  In other words, I just have trouble believing that someone of Elis’ musical background wouldn’t already KNOW this song by 1974 (when the footage in question was shot…).  But who am I to argue with liner notes written by someanonymous record label person?

 

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Som Três – Tobogã (1970)

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TOBOGÃ
SOM Três
1970 EMI Music 541831 2
Reissue 2002, ‘100 Anos de Odeon’
supervised by Charles Gavin

1 Lola (Lamartine Babo)
2 Irmãos coragem (Nonato Buzar, Paulinho Tapajós)
3 Bajar no México (César Camargo Mariano)
4 Eu já tenho você (Sabá, César Camargo Mariano)
5 Eu só posso assim (Pingarrilho, Marcos Vasconcelos)
6 O telefone tocou novamente (Jorge Ben)
7 Oh happy day (Edwin R. Hawkins)
8 Tobogã (César Camargo Mariano)
9 Mulher brasileira (Jorge Ben)
10 A volta da maçã (Toninho, Sabá, César Camargo Mariano)

In the years between Som 3’s first album and this, their last (as Som Três), the trio had been racking up quite a bit of famous credentials. They had been accompanying the likes of Chico Buarque, MPB-4, and Beth Carvalho at the important music festivals (they recorded with Beth on her first single, ‘Andança’). They had also become Wilson Simonal’s regular backing band, and even toured with him in 1970 in Mexico when the World Cup took place there. Simonal’s influence is in full force by the time of this LP, ‘Tobogã.’ Much like the amusement-park ride named after the winter-regions sled from which the takes its title, it eschews seriousness in favor of fun, variation, and surprises. But it also as spotty as a geriatric’s hands, as spotty as a teenager’s face, as spotty as a woman at that time of the month, as… I must stop myself now before my reputation is utterly ruined. But my tackiness is matched by that of this album itself. Blogosphere mimesis.

Without a charismatic singer like Simonal to lead the group in this direction, this album has so many weak points that I find it difficult to make it through from start to finish unless I relegate it to the background, a practice I am not fond of. The campy first cut, “Lola”, is a tune from famed composer of valsas, marchinhas, and football hymns Lamartine Bobo, whose own sense of humor is perhaps honored by the ‘whacky’ arrangement featuring gargling and silly voices, but personally I find it unlistenable even though the song turns tail and runs out in 30 seconds of very-believable salsa/descarga. If the song is a joke I suppose you just had to be there, but to me it is an awfully odd choice to open an album. Thankfully in the second track, ‘Irmãos coragem’, the trio redeem themselves with what is easily the most space-age and psychedelic track here. Opening and closing with judicious use of tape-delay on piano, organ, and electronics, the instrumental tune is driven by César’s organ and the playing of an uncredited percussionist on conga. The tune was also the theme for a successful telenovela at the time. The next track, ‘Bajar no México’, is perfect for painting your skin with day-glow and go-go dancing in a cage. “Eu já tenho você” is another unfortunate vocal number, and one of two cuts on the album to feature Toni Tornado who merely yelps and screams like a parody of James Brown, but also sings the bridge. (Some have said it is Gerson King Combo guesting on this album, which is a logical assumption given that he sang with Simonal’s band, but I have my doubts and will stick with my statement that I believe it to be Tornado). Maybe I need to lighten up and takes things less seriously, but I find this song pretty awful — although it ends up sticking in my head against my will. “O telefone tocou novamente” capitalizes on Jorge Ben’s success but ends up delivering a luke-warm and uninspired cover version. Again, it’s the unremarkable vocals that ruin this one for me — had the tune been a strickly instrumental cover version, I would probably like it a lot more, because Som Três were fantastic musicians. “Oh Happy Day” is the big surprise of the album. Originally recorded by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, this gospel tune went on to be an international hit recorded by artists as diverse from Aretha Franklin to Glen Campbell and Joan Baez at the time, and Som Três delivers a soulful, funky version that abandons any attempt at vocals except for the chorus of ‘Oh Happy Day’ dominated by female voices. It is triumphant, sweet, and worth the price of admission on this otherwise uneven album. The spell of enchantment is quickly interrupted, though, with another day-glow 60s soul number, Tobogã, which again features Tornado (or Gerson?) grunting, yelping and screaming like James Brown in a way that is hard to appreciate as anything but kitsch in retrospect. I suppose you could argue that it was important for breaking out of the straight-jacket of cultural nationalism in Brazilian music, but mostly its just silly. Another Jorge Ben tune, “Mulher Brasileira” is a hundred times more successful than “O telefone tocou..”, because it benefits from the soul-jazz cool vibe that Som Três was expert at creating. The low-key vocals even fit nicely on this one. The album closes with yet another throw-away piece of musical comedy, “A volta de maça.”

So while this album has its moments, only about half of its ten songs are particularly noteworthy, relegating the album to a footnote in the careers of everyone involved and perhaps a curiosity for the Simonal completists. It was probably a good place for Som Três to call it quits, in any case. Not exactly “quit while you are ahead” so much as “quit before you slide any lower down into mediocrity.” Perhaps that is the hidden symbolism of the album cover, the band slipping and sliding their way into musical obscurity…

Other listeners may react completely diffently to this album. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section. I like comments. Makes me feel like people actually READ the blog, you know?

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Som 3 – Som/3 (1966)

SOM / 3
SOM 3
1966 Som Maior (SMLP – 1518)
Reissue 2005 as Som Livre 0238-2

1 Samblues (César Camargo Mariano)
2 Canto de Ossanha (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
3 Na baixa do sapateiro (Ary Barroso)
4 O bôlo (Walter Santos, Tereza Souza)
5 Um minuto (Sabá, Antoninho)
6 Cidade vazia (Luiz F. Freire, Baden Powell)
7 Deixa pra lá (Luiz F. Freire, Sérgio Augusto)
8 Tema 3 (César Camargo Mariano)
9 Cristina (César Camargo Mariano)
10 O morro não tem vez (Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes)
11 Margarida B (César Camargo Mariano)

Before pianist Cesár Camargo Mariano would go on to greater fame as the keyboardist, arranger, and husband of singer Elis Regina, he also worked with Lenny Dale and Claudette Soares, and was a founding member of bossa jazz trios Sambalança (with Airto Morreira)and Som 3. This is the first-rate debut bossa jazz album from the latter trio Som/3 (later spelled Som Três) which was comprised of Mariano (piano), Sabá (bass) and Toninho (drums). All the tunes are rather short but still manage to incorporate some gripping jazz riffing. In particular, Baden Powell’s “Canto de Osanna” is given a really lovely treatment here. The classic Ary Barroso samba “Na baixa do sapateiro” gets a gorgeously laid-back swinging groove. Tom Jobim’s and Vinicius’ “O Morro Não Tem Vez” gets funkified full of blue notes and somehow manages to sound like samba in the end anyway. The album kicks off with a an original from César, the amphetamine-jazz of “Samblues.” The original pieces on the album, of which there are plenty, are all pretty excellent, and include one written exclusively by the Sabá and Toninho (Um minuto) that makes me wonder why they didn’t contribute more compositions. Som Três continued to put out albums until the early 70s, some of which are now very rare, and developing a more commercial style that incorporated vocals along with jazz-bossa versions of popular tunes (in particular some groovy versions of Jorge Ben songs). But for jazz fans, this first album is the place to start.

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