Luiz Gonzaga – Canaã (1968)

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Luiz Gonzaga 
Canaã
Released 1968,  RCA-Victor  BBL-1434
 
01. Canaã (Humberto Teixeira)
02. Pobreza por pobreza (Gonzaguinha)
03. Festa (Gonzaguinha)
04. Nordeste pra frente (Luiz Queiroga / Luiz Gonzaga)
05. Valha Deus Senhor São Bento (Antônio Almeida)
06. Erva rasteira (Gonzaguinha)
07. Diz que vai virar (Gonzaguinha)
08. Baião polinário (Humberto Teixeira)
09. Saudades de Helena (Antônio Barros)
10. Tic-tac tic-tac (Antônio Almeida)
11. Canto sem protesto (Luiz Queiroga / Luiz Gonzaga)
12. Chico valente (Rildo Hora)

A rather mellow, atypical album from Gonzagão here.  It’s a pleasant listen with some very melodic tunes on it, but it’s also a confused mess of a record when you stop to really look at it.  It definitely suffers from the relative absence of his most renowned songwriting partner from the period, Humberto Teixeira, who only contributes two songs here that are also arguably the best ones.  (Strangely, he was corralled into writing the liner notes, but more about that later).   What immediately makes this record stand out is that Luiz Gonzaga’s son, Gonzaguinha, wrote a bunch of the songs here.  Part of the student protest-song movement, Gonzaguinha would go on to become a respected MPB star in the seventies while still retaining his ‘engaged’ stance, putting out some real solid records as well as a few clunkers like everyone else.  But however poetic the lyrics might be here, the famously dour, humorless flavor of 1960s protest music just doesn’t sound natural coming from the ebullient and emotive elder Gonzaga.  Hearing him sing lines like “It’s always the same hunger / that drives me to despair. / It’s always the same hand / that lives to exploit me,” is really awkward.  This song, “Pobreza por pobreza”, was rerecorded by Gonzaguinha the following year for the theater group Arena, for which it seems more fitted.   This sort of didactic, literal approach to a socially-engaged song-craft is in many ways the best argument for why a song like “Asa Branca,” with its flowing, evocative, and multivalent imagery of drought, migration and redemption – is a tremendously more powerful statement than anything the self-defined protest singers could dream up.  In fairness to historical accuracy, it should be noted that Father and Son stood at different points of the political spectrum and, in a common effect of the generation gap of the time, this finds Gonzagão occasionally defending the military takeover of the country while his son was of course outspokenly against it.

I’ve included samples of both the Gonzaguinha and Gonzagão versions of this song by way of illustration, reversed chronologically so you can it hear performed by the songwriter first.

Gonzagão’s version is noticeably less stiff and more agreeable to the ear.  Gonzaguinha finally did find the right tempo and approach to make the song work better several years later, in 1972  (you can check it out here).

 Two of  Gonzaga Jr.’s contributions to Canaã feature the rhythms of maracatu nação, the afro-Brazilian tradition tied to the xangô temples of this region, similar to but distinct from Bahian candomblé, and something that was (and still is) celebrated as an emblem of cultural resistance by the artistic and intellectual elites.  Introducing this rhythm into the godfather of the baião’s repertoire is an interesting thing to hear, but it comes off a bit quaint, and in the end I’d rather hear him play a good xôte or arrasta-pé.  The sound of nação maracatu has been drawn on by a variety of artists making records for the commercial market, most effectively by Chico Science and Nação Zumbi who managed to both retain and translate its thundering urgency, but here it just sounds polite and slightly ponderous.

The non-Gonzaguinha tunes here are also a mixed bunch.  The closing track, Chico Valente, is a bit of a classic, and was penned by Rildo Hora who incidentally has a bunch of arranging and producing credits, including on some albums that I plan to share here soon.  There are two songs co-authored with Luis Queiroga, a humorist and radio personality who had written tunes with Gonzaga as far back as the 1950s (and whose son is currently a recording artist).  “Nordeste Pra Frente” begins as a light-hearted deposition to an imaginary journalist about how much the Northeast has changed into a happening, groovy place with girls who wear miniskirts, men with long hair, hotels that serve Scotch and country people with Japanese radios.  But the tune quickly devolves into political propaganda.  By the time of the second verse, where Gonzaga praises the progress and accomplishments of various cities in his native Pernambuco, I began to think “Jesus, this sounds like SUDENE propaganda,” and sure enough by the third verse he is singing the praises of that organ of the state.  SUDENE, for those who don’t know, was the development agency charged with analyzing and addressing the Northeast’s perennial problems of drought, poverty, illiteracy and overall “under-development.”  Originally populated by leftists like the economist Celso Furtado, the organization was pretty thoroughly co-opted after the 1964 military coup and reoriented towards big capital-intensive projects through which they courted foreign investors in the same strategy used throughout the dictorship’s “economic miracle” more generally.  (In fact I have some odd and slightly unnerving archival photos that I took of some SUDENE material from this era found in a special collections section of the state archive of Pernambuco, a small book published in English and specifically targeted at the US and English business communities).   The song goes so far as air the “common sense” opinion of the dictatorship’s apologists – that the “old” SUDENE wasn’t accomplishing anything until the new military government took it over.  So while this song might be upbeat and kind of “cute,” it is also creepy and that makes it hard for me to get behind it.   My friend Bertha also points out that the title is uncannily similar to a propaganda phrase used during the Medíci years of the dictatorship, as found in this “cute” little ad that would run before feature films or in between TV commercials:

The penultimate song, “Canto Sem Protesto,” is also co-written with Luis Queiroga.  Artistically it is definitely an improvement over “Nordeste Pra Frente.”  It also adds further to the cognitive dissonance that has been building up during the album, in that it is basically a rebuttal to his son’s generation of university-based protest singers.  It illustrates in very plainspoken, earnest terms the aforementioned generational divide, saying that his role as a singer is not to make social commentary but to bring people joy.  This of course touches on a debate that never goes away about the role of popular music and entertainment.  But as expressed in this song, it’s part of a pretty profoundly conservative worldview:  “He who has hate in his heart doesn’t sing / And I wouldn’t want to hear them sing anyway” he says in the first verse, presumably alerting us to the likelihood that he probably wasn’t going to embrace punk rock when it came around, and then follows this with “Since the time of Pilot / Jesus protested / but since he wasn’t a singer / there’s weren’t big crowds // Since then there is always something / that needs to be protested / But that’s not my song / My place is to bring joy.”    Say what you will about the point of view here, but this is pretty clever, managing to get in a dig about the inevitable self-aggrandizement of socially-engaged ‘pop’ music while also giving them a bit of genial sympathy.  On the one hand it represents a typically “traditional” worldview in the Northeast, one that is acquiescent about the region’s injustices and even openly supportive of the social hierarchy that undergirds them.  On the other hand it also expresses the opinion – completely legitimate, in my view – that protest music just wasn’t Gonzaga’s style and he wasn’t going to change simply to keep up with fashion.  Pity he didn’t stick to that position while recording this album…  There is more going on here than just the pressures on an artist with more than twenty years of career behind them to stay “relevant” – that is something that we find in all times and places.  The debate here is particularly weighty because of the role that the Northeast has played in the country’s cultural politics, taking center stage as a nexus of artistic creation in clusters and bursts of activity since the 1930s.   The stark inequalities of the region, and the resilience of its stalwart residents to find ways to survive them (if not necessarily overcome them), made Northeastern themes a favorite of the mid-60s protest song movement.  And here was Gonzaga, the best-known singer from the region whose image hinged on the notion of his own authenticity, and he was taking a different point of view.

In a way, all of these things combine to make an otherwise unremarkable album, one that was barely on my radar, into a sort of time capsule of all the contradictions and tensions in Brazilian society and their corresponding dynamics in the world of popular culture.  The album’s liner notes, as I pointed out earlier, were written by Humberto Teixeira, in spite of him only having contributed two songs here.  These notes are somewhat beguiling because they are largely addressed to people standing in the wings of contemporaneous debates, not exactly illuminating anything for the casual listener in 2015.  In them, Teixeira suggests that baião was by nature always a type of “protest” song in the most pure sense, in that simply to sing about the Northeast at the time it came on the scene was to shed light on the lives of a forgotten people.  At the same time that he contextualizes the contribution of the baião to the idea of a national song-writing tradition, he also inadvertently seems to be interring it in a museum, speaking of its history in a way that comes off kind of like a eulogy.  And there is no denying that the golden age for baião and forró had in fact come and gone – the vast majority of canonical classics and staples in the repertoire date from the 1940s to the early 60s.  Of course there would be people like Domiguinhos to carry the torch and contribute some more immortal compositions, or groups like Trio Nordestino to heat up the dance floor.  But the time of composers like Teixeira and Zé Dantas, who churned out hundreds of songs that remain classics to this day, was already receding in the rear view mirror at this point.

 In fact it would fall upon the brilliance of artists like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil to reclaim that “contribution to national song” on its own terms:  they embraced the work of Gonzaga, Jackson do Pandeiro and others without the need to ventriloquize them into mouthpieces for political activism.  Just as they did with samba, the Tropicalístas’ irreverent treatment of this body of work ends up being the most sincere homage, decentering and subverting the use of these styles of music as vehicles for any kind of over-arching political ideology, whether from the right or the left.  Gonzaga and Jackson owed a debt to the Tropicalístas for the resurgence of interest in their music which enabled them to have productive and lucrative “final acts” in their late-in-life careers.  I say this, too, as a non-Brazilian who was introduced to their songs by way of albums from Gal Costa, Caetano, and Gil.  The first time I heard Gal sing “Sebastiana” I nearly crapped myself, and wasted no time in tracking down the original.  Naturally when I heard Jackson do Pandeiro’s version my first reaction was a bit of “WTF?!”, as Gil’s arrangement had drastically dismembered and reconstructed it into a tropical Frankenstein.  And yet somehow those crazy baianos were tapping into the essence of these songs.  They were certainly getting closer to the spirit of these Northeastern genres than their contemporaries in the student protest song movement, with whom they had a notoriously antagonistic relationship.  Meanwhile many of those Northeastern artists with roots in the student movement ended up rising through the music business ranks and coming back with a less strident approach during the mid-70s, in the careers of the new generation of MPB singer-songwriters like Belchior, Fagner, and of course Gonzaguinha.  That stuff has it’s place, and I will defend the early albums from all those guys from their detractors.  Gonzaguinha, who group up carioca in Rio de Janeiro rather than the Northeast, would eventually collaborate as a performer with Gonzaga Sr. in the late 70s and throughout the 1980s, releasing some very commercially-successful albums where they were given equal co-billing.  But in an alternate 1968, I would much rather be listening to Gonzaga singing songs with “Veloso/Gil” in the composer credits than Gonzaguinha or, for that matter, Luis Queiroga.  Instead, we have this confused, conflicted jumble of pleasant songs.

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Luiz Gonzaga – São João na Roça (1962)

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Luiz Gonzaga
São João na Roça
1962 RCA-Victor
01. São João na Roça (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
02. Fogueira de São João (Luiz Gonzaga / Carmelina Albuquerque)
03. Festa No Céu (Edgar Nunes / Zeca do Pandeiro)
04. Olha Pro Céu (Luiz Gonzaga / José Fernandes)
05. Noites Brasileiras (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
06. São João Antigo (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
07. São João no Arraiá (Zé Dantas)
08. O Passo da Rancheira (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
09. Dança da Moda (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
10. Lenda de São João (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
11. Mané e Zabé (Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas)
12. São João do Carneirinho (Guio de Morais / Luiz Gonzaga)

Well the festas juninas have been in swing in the Nordeste for a few weeks now, and the midsummer holiday of São João (June 24) is rapidly approaching.  This is, in essence, a holiday album.  I believe it is the first long-player of what would turn out to be many LPs that Gonzagão released to commemorate / cash-in on this prototypically Northeastern holiday.  I am not a fan of “holiday albums” of any stripe, to be honest.  If I had to rank them, the list would probably mirror pretty closely how I feel about the holiday in question.  Hence Halloween, Carnival, solstices and equinoxes near the top, Christmas would be at the bottom near Talk Like A Pirate Day, and São João would be somewhere in the middle with New Years Eve and Groundhog Day.  It’s a lovely holiday, stretched in typically Brazilian fashion to encompass all of June and into the first week of June.   But as readers of this blog know, I am by nature cantankerous and curmudgeonly, and maintaining cheeriness for such a prolonged period of time is very exhausting.  Also, I’ve never been interested in marriage and I can only eat so many things made from corn.
This is the type of record that you pick a few tunes for your party playlist but don’t typically listen to from start to finish.  And I think that’s fine, especially since it is actually a collection of 78s recorded and released between 1950 and 1960.  In fact this appeared twice as an LP with this title: once in the late 50s and then again in 1962 with a few added tracks.   LOTS of Zé Dantas here, who was Gonzaga’s most important songwriting partner aside from Humberto Teixeira.  Highlights for me include Dança da moda  and the wistfully melodic Noites brasileiras.  I may gravitate to the latter because it is the only thing approaching a mid-tempo song here.  Why do Pernambucans all have to play music so damn fast?   They talk fast too.  Can’t they slow down once in a while?  Get off my lawn!
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Luiz Gonzaga – Quadrilhas e marchinhas juninas (1965)

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QUADRILHAS E MARCHINHAS JUNINAS
Luiz Gonzaga
1965 RCA
This vinyl rip from a 1973 RCA Dynaflex repress
(107.0152)

1 Pot-pourri Instrumental:
Fim de festa (Zito Borborema)
Polca fogueteira (Luiz Gonzaga)
Lascando o cano (Luiz Gonzaga – Zé Dantas)
Pagode russo (Luiz Gonzaga)
Fogueira de São João (Luiz Gonzaga – Carmelina Albuquerque)

2 Olha pro céu (Instrumental)
(José Fernandes, Luiz Gonzaga)
3 São João na roça (Instrumental)
(Luiz Gonzaga, Zé Dantas)
4 Fogo sem fuzil
(José Marcolino, Luiz Gonzaga)
5 Quero chá
(José Marcolino, Luiz Gonzaga)
6 Matuto de opinião
(Gonzaguinha, Luiz Gonzaga)
7 Boi bumbá
(Gonzaguinha, Luiz Gonzaga)
8 O maior tocador
(Luiz Guimarães)
9 Piriri
(Ary Rangel, João Silva)

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; 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&Rename.

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Well I had hoped to get this post done yesterday but it just didn’t happen. Yesterday was the official day of São Pedro but since today is the very last day of June, I am barely saved from being a day late and a dollar short. There are still festas juninas going on the northeast, and if you are at one you obviously don’t need this LP, but for everyone else you can entertain yourself with Luiz Gonzaga. Gonzagão must have made a dozen São João-themed LPs in his lifetime (including a “volume two” to compliment this particular record a decade later, which I’ve never seen). The first side of the LP is entirely instrumental, including a medley that rips through tunes both familiar and arcane from his catalog. Gonzaga’s playing never fails to stun but if instrumental forró is not your thing, you might find yourself checking your watch as you wait for the second half. Side Two features six short and sweet vocal tracks. Although none of these probably make it on a ‘best of’ collection (I’m not sure about the CD boxset, which one of these days I will invest in), but I had heard at least a couple of them somewhere before picking up this album. Boi Bumbá and Piriri are Gonzaga at his finest, the latter being a fantastic São João song with a chorus that will stick in your head for hours.

The former track, Boi Bumbá, has a great extended verse/bridge section where the singers divide up cow and deliberate on which parts go to whom. This is actually a vocal duet, trading off with another singer, whose identity is unknown to me. I could try to find this out by reading a biography on Gonzaga, but I am basically lazy and do not know how to read. So I will appeal to any blog followers here for information – does anybody know? It is a double mystery in that the song also has a writing credit (along with preceding track `Matuto de opinão’) given to a Luiz Gonzaga Junior. My first reaction to seeing this was — this CAN’T be Gonzaguinha, the adopted son of Gonzagão who had his own brilliant recording career in the 70s. Well, checking on his birth date, I discovered that he actually would have been twenty years old by 1965, so technically it is possible. But Gonzaguinha’s own work would totally eschew the kind of rustic regionalisms that form the backbone of his father’s repertoire in favor of jagged social commentary and political engagement, having over 50 of his compositions censored by the military government. Even though his recording career had yet to begin in 65, as far as I know he was involved with the student movement of the time and I just can’t imagine him having anything to do with these two tracks. So, it must be a coincidence, right? Or maybe not. Anyone with clues please leave them in the comments here.

I felt so badly about the mediocre O Cavaquinho no Forró album earlier this week having been the only ‘celebration’ for São João or the festas juninas on the blog this year, that I thought I would make it up to you by getting this post up just under the wire. Please accept my peace offering.

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Pra onde vai a barrigueira?
Vai pra Miguel Pereira
E a vassoura do rabo?
Vai pro Zé Nabo
De que é o osso da pá?
De Joãozinho da Fornemá
E a carne que tem na nuca?
É de seu Manuca
De quem é o quarto trazeiro?
De seu Joaquim marceneiro
E o osso alicate?
De Maria Badulate
Pra quem dou a tripa fina?
Dê para a Sabina
Pra quem mando este bofe?
Pro Doutor Orlofe
E a capado filé?
Mande para o Zezé
Pra quem vou mandar o pé?
Para o Mário Tiburé
Pra quem dou o filé miõn?
Para o doutor Calmon
E o osso da suã?
Dê para o doutor Borjan
Não é belo nem doutor
Mas é bom trabalhador
Mas é véio macho, sim sinhor
É véio macho, sim sinhor
É bom pra trabaiá
Rói suã até suar
Ê boi, ê boi
Ê boi do mangangá..

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Luiz Gonzaga – São João Quente (1971) 24-96khz vinyl

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Luiz Gonzaga
“São João Quente”
1971 on RCA Camden (107.0097)

1 Fuga da África
(Luiz Gonzaga)
2 De Juazeiro a Pirapora
(Luiz Gonzaga)
3 São João do Arraiá
(Zé Dantas)
4 O xote das meninas
(Luiz Gonzaga, Zé Dantas)
5 Macapá
(Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)
6 Impertinente
(Luiz Gonzaga)
7 Vira e mexe
(Luiz Gonzaga)
8 O coreto da pracinha
(Risério Valente, Altamiro Carrilho)
9 Ovo de codorna
(Severino Ramos)
10 Dia de São João
(Rildo Hora)
11 Coronel Pedro do Norte
(Nelson Valença)
12 Lulu vaqueiro
(Nelson Valença)
13 O urubu é um triste
(Nelson Valença)

Vinyl RCA-Camden (107.0097) -> 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 -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1 and Tag & Rename.

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A São João party record from the king of baião, this might be a minor entry in his vast discography if not for a few curiosities. The entire first side (tracks 1 – 7 here) is one long instrumental, fifteen-minute jam where Gonzaga reminds us he’s equally adept at xôte, valsas, quadrilhas, and just showing off his instrumental prowess on the difficult 8-button sanfona (accordion). It’s pretty entertaining, and he makes it a point to touch on some of his successes like ‘O xote das meninas’ and ‘São João do Arraiá’, but it all lacks his booming, commanding voice. This is rectified on the second side of the LP which is split into individual compositions. Aside from Rildo Hora’s “Dia de São João” (which sounds an awful lot like a certain composition by Gonzaga’s protege, Dominguinhos), the rest of these tunes are fairly unknown. And the particular surprise comes at the end: Gonzaga, known for his famous parternships with Zé Dantas and Humberto Teixeira, chose to record not just one but *three* songs from an unknown Pernambucan composer, and put them all together at the end of the LP. Nelson Valença, who seems to have been born, lived, and died in the town of Pesqueira in the agreste of Pernambuco, never had much of a professional career in music, and his biggest claim to fame is having these compositions (and a precious few more that would follow in years to come) recorded by Gonzagão. The first of the them “Coronel Pedro do Norte” is a light satire of the archetypical ‘coronel’ of an interior town, a guy with a big mustache who seems to own everything and everyone, and who just can’t come to terms with the ‘new generation’ and its shaggy-haired youths, and is particularly flustered when his own daughter pays a visit home and steps off the train holding hands with one of these hairy delinquents (cabeludos). “Lulu Vaqueiro” is quite a beautiful ballad, and “Um urubu é um triste” brings us back in that particularly northeastern territory where humor and profundity mix with infectious dance-ability. It is quite a homage to have three of your compositions close out an album by the great Gonzagão, and I would like to find out more someday about the back story on what let up to this – chance encounter, friendship, or whatever. Whatever the case may be, this album must have got a lot of spins in Pesqueira, and these tunes rescue what is otherwise a bit of a bland album from the master.

(*note that in the fielset I have mistakenly dated this album as 1972 thanks to not paying attention to the actual label on the vinyl… sorry about that).

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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Luiz Gonzaga – Canta Seus Sucessos com Zé Dantas (1959)

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LUIZ GONZAGA CANTA SEUS SUCESSOS
COM ZÉ DANTAS
Luiz Gonzaga / Zé Dantas (1959)
1959, RCA Victor

1 Sabiá
2 O xote das meninas
3 Vem morena
4 A volta da asa branca
5 A letra I
6 O forró de Mané Vito
7 A dança da moda
8 Riacho do Navio
9 Vozes da seca
10 Cintura fina
11 Algodão
12 Paulo Afonso

All songs by Luiz Gonzaga and Zé Dantas

The season of Festas Juninas began a week ago in Northeastern Brazil, building up to the holiday of São João on June 24 (midsummer’s eve in the northern hemisphere) . If I had more energy I would provide you with some penetrating insights into the sociocultural significance of this annual festivity, its inextricable ties to regional history and identity, and its ramifications in securing a place for the Nordeste in the national imaginary. But for now, I will just say it has something to do with lots of funny hats and food made out of corn.

I almost did a vinyl transfer of this record from a 1970s repressing on one of those rubbery RCA “flexi-discs” they were making during the oil crisis, which has a bright orange ugly cover completely different from the original, before I realized I also had it on compact disc. This is a case where I will opt for the digital over the analog option… Released in 1959, it’s a collection of songs that had been released previously, mostly on 78’s if I’m not mistaken, in the period of 1949 to 1955 and that had Zé Dantas as co-writer. Zé Dantas (José de Sousa Dantas Filho) is probably Luiz Gonzaga’s most famous writing partner after Huberto Teixeira, and every song on this is great. Comprised pretty much entirely of “baião” and “xôte” tunes, it’s a pretty relaxing listen for such a danceable record. As the title of the record suggests this is a collection of hits of greater or lesser fame. I’ve posted two audio samples below. “Xôte de Meninas” is so damn catchy that it will actually blot out the complete butcher-job done on it by Marisa Monte from your brain if you were unlucky enough to have heard that version. “A volta de Asa Branca” is just what it would imply – a revisiting of Gonzaga’s famous anthem of the Nordeste. It’s not as good as the original “Asa Branca”, written with Teixeira, basically just a continuation of the story of the retirante but it’s still quite good, and in later years Gonzagão would often play the two songs back to back.

ze dantas

Most of the volumes in the Coleção Luiz Gonzaga reissues by RCA have precious little in the way of information, but this time they’ve graced us with the original liner notes from Zé Dantas, who has a little to say about every song on here. Very nice.

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