Jorge Ben – Salve, Jorge! Inéditas e raridades (2009)

jorge ben
jorge ben

Finally, here it is — The grand finale, the 2-CD ‘bonus’ of the Jorge Ben boxset. Two discs of material that is either unreleased or only available on rare compilations or on B-sides, all from Ben’s golden years of genius and productivity. For Ben fans this is the most anticipated part of the box, since he has never had any similar releases of rare stuff. My only gripe is the FUGLY packaging (*for non-native English speakers, that is Fucking + Ugly). With all this rare audio, there is not a single rare photograph in the booklet, no real liner notes, and the graphic design gives me a migraine headache.

I am cranky and curmudgeonly today. I am blogging on autopilot this week and I don’t like it. I had hoped to post this when I had some pithy remarks and observations. I moved recently (for the third time in as many years) and had managed to prepare the rest of this box before the tumult overtook me, while this two-disk set needed a bit more TLC. It’s new enough that the tracklists do not exist in the online databases like freedb so everything had to be manually entered in. Normally I also like to restore the orthographic characters to the Portuguese titles in the ID-tags, so that the proper orthography is visible in your digital music player. I have also taken to putting composer’s names in the ID tags. I am not sure if anyone notices or appreciates this type of obsessive-compulsive fussiness or not, but it keeps me going. However sometimes it, er, holds things up. I have received nearly daily requests for this collection of rarities since the first posts from this box-set appeared at Flabbergasted Vibes. For those who have been patiently waiting, I hope you find it was worth it. I think you probably will.

Perhaps I will post some of my pithy comments and witty observations about the actual music, sometime in the near future, in the comments section here.



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Jorge Ben – África Brasil (1976)


Jorge Ben
——————————
África Brasil

1976 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:



 
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Gil & 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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Album cover from the US release on VERVE RECORDS:

Jorge Ben – Solta o Pavão (1975)

jorge ben
jorge ben

Jorge Ben
SOLTA O PAVÃO
Released 1975
Phonogram / Philips (6349 162)

This reissue, Salve, Jorge! Boxset

1 Zagueiro
2 Assim falou Santo Tomaz de Aquino
3 Velhos, flores, criancinhas e cachorros
4 Dorothy
5 Cuidado com o bulldog
6 Para ouvir no rádio (Luciana)
7 O rei chegou, viva o rei
8 Jorge de Capadócia
9 Se segura malandro
10 Dumingaz
11 Luz polarizada
12 Jesualda

I was lucky enough to find a vinyl copy of this album years ago for the price of a sandwich or maybe just a bag of chips. It was a near-perfect copy marred only by a single skip on one track. But a combination of wanting to preserve this relic, and as much as I love vinyl I must admit this: the convenience of CDs, led me to rather ignore this album in favor of its predecessor, the famed “A Tábua de Esmeralda”, which has been available in various pressings much more so than this title.. I also thought A Tábua was a better album, the best he ever made. Well now I am not so sure. Since getting this new boxset I have been playing the hell out of this CD more than the others. The songs may not reach out and pinch you like “A Tábua” does I think the album is for the most part the equal of its “twin”. The album even has a similar weak spot — the slightly-annoying “Cuidado com o bulldog” is the equivalent of A Tábua’s “Brother”, i.e. a song that you often just want to skip over. Except that “bulldog” is structurally more interesting and band rocks the fuck out of it. (I keep locking horns with people over the song “Brother”.. Okay, it’s not *that* bad.)

Musically there is a frenetic energy and tension to some of the songs that differs from A Tábua, in a way leading into the funk overdrive of his next album, Àfrica Brasil. The production from Sr. Tabajos is once again brilliant. Woodwind arrangement on ‘Dorothy’. Enough said. The drums on that tune and some others suffer a little bit from the mastering, which sounds like it was sent through a Manley tube compressor running warm enough to reheat my soup. “Assim falou Santo Tomas de Aquinas” is a thing of beauty infused with inner light. The track Jorge de Capadócia is a sonic orgasm bringing timbales, analog synths, and an odd coda with repeating plucked guitar string heavily phased and tremolo’d in a way that reminds me of “Future Days”-era Can..(I have no idea why everything has been reminding me of Can lately, seeing as I have not listened to them in quite some time. Maybe its a sign to dig those records out..). Jorge’s occasionally odd mix of profundity and levity is just irresistible to me. He wants to save the senior citizens, the flowers, the children, and the dogs. All in the same song. How can I argue with that? The album kind of peters out at the end, the final tracks sort of lose your attention, but it never wears out its carpet and I’ve found myself wanting to play it over again when it ends. And I never do that.

The beguiling subject matter is very much an extension of “A Tábua”, diving further into the mystical, the arcane, the heraldric symbolism and imagery of alchemy, and influenced by the writings of St.Thomas of Aquinas. The sparse liner-notes on the back cover treat this somewhat lightly, noting (correctly) Jorge’s own alchemy at combining these interests with the cotidian life of Rio de Janeiro and his love of futebol and so on. But it’s also a very serious thing. What I wouldn’t give to have seen this boxset released with a real, comprehensive BOOKLET: where are the rare photos? the interviews? The narratives and stories behind each of these records? I want to know his favorite movies and books and invite him as my Facebook friend.. Wait a minute, that´s not actually true. But the stars know I paid enough for the box, and the least they could do is give us a few photos of Ben looking cool.

Perhaps Jorge himself is reluctant to talk about these ideas that were bubbling in the cauldron of his mind and spirit while creating the most interesting albums of his career. I don’t know if there are any interviews where he talks about them, or if any journalists or biographers have shed any decent insights on these albums ( África Brasil is part of the ‘trilogy’ of esoteric masterpieces, thought not always considered as such). If anyone happens to know of anything like this, let me know!

There are full musician credits on this one, for a change. You can read them yourself in the artwork. In the tradition of the Ohio Players, all the musicians have their astrological sign listed. There are just too many musicians to list, but I will pay homage to the rhythm section of Dadi Aroul Flabi (bass) and Gusta Von (drums) who are just massive all throughout.

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O REI CHEGOU, VIVA O REI!!!

Jorge Ben – Força Bruta (1970) [2009 remaster]


FORÇA BRUTA
1970 Philips (R 765.121 L)
2009 Reissue, Salve Jorge! Boxset
1 Oba lá vem ela
2 Zé Canjica
3 Domenica Domingava num domingo linda
4 Charles Jr.
5 Pulo pulo
6 Apareceu Aparecida
7 O telefone tocou novamente
8 Mulher brasileira
9 Terezinha
10 Força brutawith Trio Mocotó

I don’t typically like to make posts here that only a feature a review someone else has written. But I have been too otherwise preoccupied to post here lately and I realized I had gone amiss in my vaguely chronological presentation of the new Jorge Ben box by skipping ahead to 10 Anos Depois (but then, we started with Negro é Lindo, so it doesn’t matter..) Also, this album already received a post once, way back when this blog first started (it is still here, if you search for it, featuring the Dusty Groove label’s reissue).

So here is Força Bruta, Ben’s first great album in a decade of really great albums for him. The track “Pulo, pulo” would be covered by Elza Soares in 1972 in a great samba-soul sendup. And then there’s all the other tracks, which are … all great. I will let the aforementioned review take it from here, courtesy of Sylus Magazine. Well written and better than the trite garbage found on most of the websites people use to copy-and-paste music ‘critique’, I quite enjoy this guy’s write-up. And, it also manages to emphasize once again that Caetano Veloso is a douchebag.

It might sound like a slight to call Jorge Ben Brazil’s most genteel offering
from the early ’70s—he didn’t have a beard; he didn’t go to jail—but it
shouldn’t, per se. Gentility—a kind of aesthetic gentility, at least—is one of
those oddly polarizing qualities in Brazilian music: some people find it
soothing and soulful, others hear it as limp and indifferent. Even Ben at his
most rugged (1976’s África Brasil) doesn’t have the haywire quality of Gilberto
Gil’s work from the same time, a difference in approach all the more obvious
when the two collaborated in 1975 for Gil e Jorge (Gil is usually the one
screaming). Nah, Ben always seemed like the mannered one of his generation, but
sacrificing some passion in a bargain for consistency isn’t a crime—I’d rather
listen to an OK Ben album than a Caetano Veloso album that annoys me, and there
seem to be more of the latter than the former.

By the time Ben recorded
Força Bruta at age 30, he was already a legitimate pop star in Brazil; he’d
crossed over into the States via a Sergio Mendes cover (“Mas, Que Nada”) when he
was 23; and he’d already had hits backed by Trio Mocotó (who played with him on
this record). It’s in the context of history that the laid-back quality of Ben’s
music becomes refreshing, almost bulletproof: it’s hard to imagine one of our
own pop stars at the height of his or her popularity being self-assured enough
to make an album as loose as Força Bruta, not to mention using a cover photo of
them playing the harmonica with their eyes half-closed. Ben was chill as hell
and did not mind letting you observe.

But it all proceeds as you’d
expect: demure samba-rock laced with sliding strings, an agreeable, samey
atmosphere, no strife on the horizon. Ben manages to be soulful without being
gritty; any hoarseness in his voice is a play, part of his overall finesse.
Again, this could be a bad thing for you—I’m preferential to 1974’s A Tábua de
Esmeralda because it’s a little less accommodating—but it also seems like a
ridiculous thing to really lodge a complaint about. When Ben was relaxing with
Força Bruta, other prominent musicians of his generation were freaking out over
a new military dictatorship and making big, declarative artistic statements.
Gentility might not always be a flattering word, but temperance and
consideration usually are—and Ben was nothing if not both.

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Jorge Ben – A Tábua de Esmeralda (1974)


Jorge Ben
A Tábua de Esmeralda
Released 1974
Philips / Phonogram (6349 083)

This reissue – Salve, Jorge! Boxset (2009)

1 Os alquimistas estão chegando os alquimistas

2 O homem da gravata florida

3 Errare humanun est

4 Menina mulher da pele preta

5 Eu vou torcer

6 Magnólia

7 Minha teimosia, uma arma pra te conquistar

8 Zumbi

9 Brother

10 O namorado da viúva

11 Hermes Trismegisto e sua celeste Tábua de Esmeralda

12 Cinco minutos

I realized just the other day that I completely skipped over the marvelous ‘Força Bruta’ in my presentation of this new Jorge Ben box. Not sure how that happened, but I will remedy the situation soon (although the DGA reissue IS here, in fact it was one of the first posts ever on this blog).

This album obviously merits more spilled ink than I have given it here, but I am exhausted and this is a good album for rejuvenation, and it speaks well enough for itself. Many people think this is Jorge Ben’s best album ever. I am one of them, although I have decided of late that it is impossible to consider it as a separate entity from the two albums to follow. Taken as a hole, they are all equally mindblowing. ‘A Tábua’ is brilliant in every way. Not a bad track on it (although the song ‘Brother’ often gets skipped over by me…). From the first notes, this album casts a spell on you fit for a hermetic magician. It is one of Ben’s most experimental album and also one of his most accessible. All of the songs are classics but the one that I know for sure has stuck around in his live sets is the hit, Zumbi, named after the last leader of the famous quilombo Palmares. Caetano Veloso, being the royal douchebag that he is, managed to completely mangle and destroy this song on one of his many bullshit records over the last ten years. If you have been subjected to that version, I apologize. But if you have never heard Ben’s original then at least you have this to look forward to. I have an aquaintance who worked in Brazil, and when I met her she thought that Jorge Ben was some old guy who made shitty records. I think maybe she was confusing him with Caetano. Admittedly, Jorge doesn’t make too many new records of interesting material, but his live shows are a blast precisely because he doesn’t try to stay ‘relevant’ to the flavor of the moment but gives the people what they want — classic Jorge Ben tunes, all night long… This aquaintance who formerly poo-pooed Jorge Ben now goes around singing songs off this album, and I haven’t even received as much as a ‘thank you’ although I hold myself largely reponsible for her conversion. At least, I know that I told her that he was not some lame douche-y guy making bad music. THAT guy, I insisted, was Caetano Veloso.

I had always thought that ‘Zumbi’ was the only track to really become iconic off this record, although obviously the whole album is ‘classic’ in the way we tend to mean that when talking about popular music. However, I was corrected by a friend who pointed out that the opening cut, “Os alquimistas estão chegando os alquimistas” was something of a stoner anthem. Now, this guy is a bit younger than I am and he might be basing this entirely on a film he mentioned in the same conversation — a rather awful-sounding summertime coming-of-age film set in 1980 called ‘Pode Crer’, which I haven’t seen — where the song was used prominently in a goofy drug scene. Still, he might be correct. Because I also have another friend who says she woke up to this album every day for a year, and she is kind of a stoner who hangs out with a lot of rock stars and artists, so perhaps there is more to this anthemic song than bad Globo-produced films. (Wake ‘n Bake, maybe?)

This album is a serious work of art and I am not treating it seriously enough. I will attribute this to the unbelievable heat and the fact that I slept for 13 hours after not sleeping at all for a few days, which does peculiar things to my  coherence. But even if I could muster the lucidity to tell you what lucre this album is in terms of artistic vision, integrity, production, and beguiling lyrics, I would only be detracting from what your own ears can tell you. This album does not need mediation via music critics. If you have heard it already, you already know all that you need to know. If not, you must place yourself in the crucible of transformation.

I must mention that I was also rather obsessed with alchemy at one point in my life.   If you want to gaze at some trippy, old works of alchemical art, check out this great online resource — this guy has tons of stuff in his galleries, including work from Nicolas Flamel (where the cover of this album originates..)

http://www.levity.com/alchemy/amcl_astronomical_material.html

(not the main page, just a sample of some cool stuff)

For some material specifically on Nicolas Flamel, check here

http://www.alchemywebsite.com/flamel.html