Poly e Seu Conjunto – Saia Vermelha (1963)

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Poly e Seu Conjunto
Saia Vermelha
 1963 / 1976 Continental
                                                                                                                
SIDE ONE

 SUKIYAKI  (Ei Rohusuke, Nakamura Hachidai)
BONANZA  (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans)
NÃO ME DIGA ADEUS  (Paquito, L. Soberano, J.C. da Silva)
É BOM PARAR (Ruben Soares)
LAMENTO BORINCANO (Rafael Hernandez)
BIBELOT  (Poly)

SIDE TWO

 LA POLLERA COLORA (SAIA VERMELHA)  (Juan Madera, W. Choperena)
THAT HAPPY FEELING (Vento do Mar)  (Warren)
El Suco Suco  (Tarateño Rojas)
EL MANISERO  (Moises Simons)
PARA VIGO ME VOY  (Ernesto Lecuona)
THE EYES OF TEXAS ARE UPON YOU (OS OLHOS DO TEXAS ESTÃO SOBRE VOCE)  (traditional) Photobucket
Here is an album from Poly e Seu Conjunto, Saia Vermelha, probably from 1963. I say “probably” because the copy in front of me is a reissue on the Continental/Phonodisc label from 1976, and discographical info on Poly (sometimes spelled “Poli”) is hard to find – but two tracks off this LP were released as the A and B side of a single in ’63, so it’s safe bet. I speculated as to whether this might be a collection of material actually assembled in the mid-70s, but the brief liner notes and the fact that these songs sound as if they were recorded all around the same time and with the same musicians makes me stay with that bet of early ’60s.

Poly himself is somewhat enigmatic: a multi-instrumentalist, he was best known for his electric guitar and in particular, his LAP STEEL guitar work. A great deal of his recorded output preceded the arrival of rock and roll on Brazilian shores, years before the iê-iê-iê and jovem guarda movements would turn the use his preferred instrument into a lightning-rod for bitter polemic about cultural authenticity and Brazilian identity. Not having anything to go on, I can’t really speculate how his music was received by the Brazilian listening public, but I will hazard a guess that his work was astutely ignored by the music critics. His body of work from the 1950s and 60s demonstrates a stylistic willingness to record anything and everything that was on the hit parade charts of the day, from the popular Brazilian genres of samba-canção, música sertaneja, baião, boleros and ‘fox’. Which would make his records unremarkable amongst hundreds of others, except for the fact that his all-instrumental recordings often featured the lap steel – known as the “Hawaian guitar” in those days. I find myself making comparisons of Poly as some kind of Brazilian mix of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and Les Paul’s early records when he was experimenting with recording his guitar at different tape speeds. By the time the songs on Saia Vermelha were being recorded, Poly had also embraced early rock and roll (with a distinctly ‘surf’ edge), genres popular in Latin America like cumbia and rumba, and hit songs from Bolivia (El Suco Suco), Cuba (Para Vigo Me Voy), or Puerto Rico (Lamento Borincano). But the 78-rpm single which is duplicated at the outset of this Long Player sort of says all you need to know about this transnational genre-hopping musical musical chameleon/opportunist – one side featured the Japanese hit “Sukiyaki” which to this day is the only Japanese-language song to crack the U.S. top forty, and the flip side featured the theme to the TV show ‘Bonanza.’ His accompaniment throughout this disparate repertoire is usually comprised of some combination of string bass, piano, cavaquinho, acoustic guitar, accordion, and percussion.

Apparently Poly also worked for a time at Universal Pictures’ Brazilian studios as part of their orchestra, and this quite likely influenced his choice of songs. At least that’s the case for the last tune on here, known to most North Americans as “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” but which is given the title of “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You”, with the subcredit “as heard in the film “Assim Caminha a Humanidade.”) This struck me as so odd that I had to look this up, and learned that this was the name of the Brazilian release of the Hollywood film Giant (Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean) and that a song by the title “The Eyes of Texas” exists as the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin, sung to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

The best stuff here is when Poly is on the lap steel / Hawaiian guitar. In fact when he’s NOT on the steel guitar, the material can be kind of forgettable. Here are two of the stand-out tracks:

Não Me Diga Adeus

 and

Lamento Borincano

I’m not crazy about the audio quality of this rip and I just may redo the whole thing someday. I’ve had three copies of this vinyl at one time or another and I can’t even be entirely certain which one I used for the source. While editing this I found myself getting annoyed, thinking that my stylus should have been cleaned better or something – however it’s quite likely likely that that the distortions are on the original record, since these 70s repressings on Phonodisc are sort of notoriously inconsistent, not to mention that at least portions of this LP were sourced from 78’s to begin with…

(Process) Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply, cork ringmat); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

Academia da Berlinda – Academia da Berlinda (2007)

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The conjoined-twin-cities of Recife/Olinda in Brasil boast one of the diverse music scenes in a country full of musical diversity. The bad part is that you only have to be there about ten minutes before you have half a dozen hipsters in plaid pants and oversized sunglasses harangue you with the facts about how great and diverse their scene is. If you had to chose one commonality to highlight as a collective characteristic, it would be the ability of most of these artists to draw on various strands of regional ‘roots’ music and reinvent them, rescuing them from the staid museum-preservations of “folklore” and incorporating them as a vital component of the cultural life of Pernambuco and Brazil. However, such artistic vanguards are (as they have always been in most places) the concern of the upper middle class; In spite of the working-class background of a figure like Chico Science, you would be hard-pressed to find a pedreiro (bricklayer, mason) attending a Mundo Livre show.

A great deal of the artists in these cities have been basking in the stardust glow of the comet known as Chico Science, who died tragically in an auto accident in the late 90s at the age of 30, and at the peak of his creative success. His name was synomous with the Mangue Beat (or Bit) scene that also included the plastic arts, cinema, and literature, and whose musical component would include truly original talents like Mundo Livre S/A (some of the time), Mestre Abrosia, Comadre Fulozinha and others. Unfortunately, when movements in popular music begin to issue “manifestos” to the press and the world, you know they have begun to take themselves a bit too seriously for their own good. In the wake of that initial burst of innovation and creativity surrounding Chico Science and his coconspirators, “the scene” ends up devolving into the fate of most such ‘local’ scenes — a perpetual circle-jerk of musical inbreeding where nobody is inclined to call each other out when they’ve slipped into mediocrity, and where “Six Degrees of Chico Science” seems to be a popular parlor game. Although the contemporary scene there may still be more interesting than the majority of Brazilian cities, that in itself does not say much, and in a substantive way were are talking about “Big Fish in a Small Pond.” The spectrum runs from scenester veterans Mundo Livre, who hit the mark about 50% of the time with some brilliant songs in between bombastic turns of pseudo-post-punk (sounding more like angsty 90’s grunge) and the overbearing pretentious lyrics of their frontman Fred 04; to Nação Zumbi sans Chico Science, for whom I could cut some slack to since they have to walk in that giant’s shadow, but have yet to make any records that I find all that interesting; to the disappointing and often outright unlistenable solo albums from all the principle artists that comprised Comadre Fulozinha, albums that either leave no more permanent impression than a passing breeze, or else make you want to smash your radio into tiny bits like the recent record from indie starlet Karina Buhr. (Edit: I have to try and be nicer – the albums from Alessandra Leão and Isaar are at least listenable, they just don’t do anything for me personally and I don’t find them compelling. The album from Karina Buhr however is just terrible, leading me to wonder “Why would anybody actually listen to this?” In fact I have conducted semi-scientific tests with this record on people who live in Recife: unlike some albums that tend to ‘grow on you’ with repeated listenings, unveiling their charms slowly, Karina Buhr’s album is actually the REVERSE of this process — On first listen is seems kind of bad but possibly worth your time; as you listen to it more, it just gets worse and worse as you realize it’s true mediocrity. I personally can’t make it through the whole record — this test was conducted scientifically on willing participants who claim to enjoy the Recife music scene. I swear.)

There are groups that work better as concepts than actually listenable music, like the now-defunct Cordel de Fogo Encantado who had brilliant lyrics but godawful music; to the empty iconoclasm of DJ Dolores’ electronic globalisms; and then there are a smattering of dull, pedestrian acts like “Otto,” “Eddie” (a band, not a person, whose music is about as interesting as their name), Original Olinda Style, or Orchestra Contemporania de Olinda, and some other Olinda-centric acts, nearly all of whom share musicians and a proclivity for the redundant.

Amidst all this inbreeding of mediocrity, you would probably expect any new-born progency to be cross-eyed and genetically-challenged. This is NOT the case with Academia de Berlinda, who for my money are above and beyond all of the aforementioned acts, even though they are comprised of musicians who have participated or continue to play with a bunch of them. Perhaps because they began essentially as a sideproject from all the musician’s “main gigs”, they didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and have been creating music that is engaging, well-written, and fun as hell. The first time I heard them, I had a similar reaction to my first encounters with Stereolab — it sounds good and it’s very catchy, but mostly I felt like I was listening to a band whose biggest asset was that they owned extensive and very hip record collections. In the case of Academia de Berlinda I was confronted with cumbia, Peruvian ‘chicha’, Cuban salsa (there is even a track named ‘Bela Vista’ in honor of a proletariat neighborhood that hosts a ‘Cuban night’ of music and dance frequented by the cultural elite), African hybrids, rock and roll, Brazilian brêga, carimbó from Pará… But contrary to Stereolab, who in spite of their many albums and impecable taste in plundering sources just never really moved me much, I found something different with Academia de Berlinda — an excitement and passion they bring to their work that manages to overcome the lurking sense of irony and kitsch. There is definitely some hipster-irony going on here, which may or may not include the laconic and somewhat off-pitch vocal delivery, but also a clear sense that they believe in what they are doing. It is often said of bands that produce highly-danceable music that you have to experience them live to get the full effect. The Academia’s live performances are certainly well worth it and often transcendent in their ability to work a room, although they have a Tim Maia-like propensity to hit the stage remarkably late.. But what is more amazing is that this excitement managed to actually get translated to a recording. A great of deal of the Recife/Olinda music suffers from over-production, an over-ripeness that comes from too much fussiness and not enough spontaneaty in the recording studio (a criticism I also level at contemporary Brazilian music in general). But this album has a very ‘live,’ raw, and very analog sound to it, while still taking advantages of the studio. When I used to work occasionally as a DJ either at parties or on the radio, I would usually try and play a tune off this album (Cumbia de Lutador and Ivete being my favorites to spin) — and I invariablly receied positive feedback and questions: somebody coming up to me (or calling me up, when I was on the radio) asking, “Who the hell is this? Where can I find it?” And I really have to say that, even in the case of Chico Science and Nação Zumbi, I haven’t received that type of reaction from playing much ‘contemporary’ Brazilian music to a non-Brazilian audience. Perhaps it is the ability of Academia de Berlinda to blur genres without being pedantic about it, to push boundaries in a subtle way that never sacrificies substance to style. But something about this music resonnates with people, whether it’s in the crowds that flock to hear them play in cramped bars or in spacious open-air venues during Carnaval, or in someone listening on the low-wattage radio waves in Detroit. In general terms of cultural production, Brazil has often had a historical tendency to refuse to see itself as part of Latin America, often preferring to distance itself from the contributions of its neighbors (even when appreciating or appropriating them) in favor of turning inward and reflecting on its own endless complexities. Brazil’s own hugeness – geographically, culturally, intellectually – has in some ways hampered its ability to stand in solidarity with The Americas and earmarked it as an imperial power to its neighbors. Academia de Berlinda is certainly not the first to break out of this pattern (fellow Recifense Nana Vasconcelos standing an an important remarkable exceptions and innovator in this regard), but it is nonetheless refreshing to hear a group of young, seasoned musicians break out with such a rich, textured work as is found on this this album, a record that draws upon so much without ever being gratuitous in their eclecticism. Oh, except for the final track, which is a pointless remix of the opening eponymous song – but I will forgive them for that, since superfulous, gratuitous and usually boring remixes are a sign of the times.

Another cool thing about this band is their embracing of digital distribution. This album was available on their website for a long time. The post here is audio extracted from an actual physical CD, with art scans taken from the original packing (except, oddly enough, the cover, which seems to have been deleted from my computer before I stored the disc in my bunker in the Kayman Islands). Academia de Berlinda may just be one of the most under-achieving bands in all of this overly-busy music scene, another thing I find sort of charming about them. Founding in 2004, finally put out a record in 2007, and are releasing their second album in 2011. Apparently it is already available online, but I have yet to listen to it — In truth, I wanted to write down my thoughts about this album, before complicating it by listening to their follow-up. As has been said by others and elsewhere, a group’s second album adds a dynamic self-reflexivity that begins to play with the identity of “who” a band or an artist is. When they only have one record out, it is pretty easy to say “who they are” — that one record is generally a fair representation of that identity. With subsequent releases, that identity becomes complicated and multifaceted. I don’t particularly expect their new record to depart from this winning formula overmuch — at least, I hope that they do not. In the mean time, I hope some people who wouldn’t otherwise have encountered this album benefit from this post, and enjoy this band as much as I have.

in 320kbs em pé tré

in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76

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Colombia! The Golden Age Of Discos Fuentes. The Powerhouse Of Colombian Music 1960-76
Various Artists
Soundway Records (SNDWCD008)
Every Soundway compilation is a labor of love and this one is no exception. This collection focuses on the Fuentes label of Colombia, which has been active there since the 1930s. Covering a mighty chunk of stylistic territory and a span of over fifteen years is no mean feat and it’s remarkable the collection holds together as well as it does. It has its flaws but they are relatively minor and far outweighed by the fact that Soundway is making this music available to a wider audience that to a large extent have not had much access to it.

Trust me when I say you do not want to be in the middle of a conversation between a Puerto Rican, a Cuban, a Venezuelan, and a Colombian about who was the best salsa music or, Lord have mercy, it’s origins. This release does nothing to clarify that contentious morass. In terms of the salsa and descarga jams on this collection, the influence of the Nuyorican sound is definitely in force, not too surprising given its enormous popularity during the time period, as well as merengue and mambo. And while these tracks are excellent, what really interests me here is the costeña music, the sounds from Colombia’s pacific coast with its heavily African and indigenous elements. Particularly cumbia but also fandango, mapalé and other variants, this stuff is the shit you want off this compilation. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough of it to satisfy me.

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And you thought Colombia’s finest export was.. oh, nevermind

The liner notes by Costa Rican music scholar Roberto Ernesto Gyemant start out beautifully with a compelling narrative of his experiences as a crate-digger and fanatic of Colombian music trying to track down some of these records and the people who made them. They provide a lot of historical and cultural context for which I am always grateful, and a fair amount of detail. Unfortunately that detail starts to bog the text down after a while, and is perhaps catering to musicologists and specialists. After the strong initial pages the text takes on a hurried, somewhat sloppy quality, as if the writer was rushing to meet a deadline. Exhibit A is the sentence appearing at the end of one paragraph that says merely, “Sentence about cienaguera,” obviously a note the author made to himself… I know I am an asshole for pointing that out but it cracked me up. Besides, I am dying to know what he was going to write about cienaguera, it keeps me awake at night, restless and anxious.

The text also spends a lot of time focusing on Fruku e sus Tesos (see photo below) and The Latin Brothers to the exclusion of other artists included on the disc. Some of the personalities involved in this part of Discos Fuentes story went on to have huge international hits, none of which are included on this collection. Thus in a way, for the relative outsider to this scene it is as if you are missing some important elements of “the big picture”, as I imagine that some of those smash hits are still generating royalty revenue for the artists and are were thus not available for inclusion on a comp such as this.

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The tracks included by Wganda Kenya (the farfisa-driven “Tifit hayed” and the highlife of “Elyoyo”) are pure delight but relegated in the text to the last paragraph, where we are told this sound was popular in the mid-70s but nothing else beyond that declaration. (Actually Wganda Kenya is described as relying on “a new generation of synthesizers”, none of which are present on these two tracks..) I would really, REALLY like to know more about the band Afrosound, whose sole track here closes out the compilation and brings a genuine creole fusion of African and Latin American musical greatness.

The album jackets included in the booklet are one of the best things here, a visual feast of kitschy contemporary design and layout. However the lovely sultry cover featured above appears to be unrelated to any of the music on the album, although I’m not about to complain about it’s inclusion.

On the whole this is not as organized and coherent a collection as Soundway’s Panama compilation (actually, there are three volumes now but I only have the first one and can’t comment on the others in the series). There is still plenty here to sink your teeth and ears into, so those who are interested should most certainly check this out.

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 in 320 em pee tree

 FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

**P.S. There are typos in the archive folder that originated in the freedb (Free Database) information from which tracks and artists get downloaded within EAC. Thus, they are not my fault, I swear!! I know better than to spell Colombia with a “u”. However I will take the blame for not noticing it until now. I will probably rename the folder and rehost it, because I am obsessive-compulsive that way. Until then you can do it yourself. Just highlight the folder and press F2….

(password / senha in comments)