Elis Regina – Ela (1971)


Elis Regina
1971 Phonogram
CD Reissue 1998 Philips

1 Ih! meu Deus do Céu
(Ronaldo Monteiro, Ivan Lins)
2 Black is beautiful
(Paulo Sergio Valle, Marcos Valle)
3 Cinema Olympia
(Caetano Veloso)
4 Golden slumbers
(McCartney, Lennon)
5 Falei e disse
(Baden Powell, Paulo César Pinheiro)
6 Aviso aos navegantes
(Baden Powell, Paulo César Pinheiro)
7 Mundo deserto
(Erasmo Carlos, Roberto Carlos)
8 Ela
(César Costa Filho, Aldir Blanc)
9 Madalena
(Ronaldo Monteiro, Ivan Lins)
10 Os argonautas
(Caetano Veloso)
11 Estrada do Sol
(Dolores Duran, Tom Jobim)

Produced by Nelson Motta
with studio assistance from Roberto Menescal
Arrangements by Chico de Morais
Front cover by Aldo Luiz

Today, January 19, marked 30 years since the death of one of Brazil’s most beloved divas, Elis Regina. The last few years of her career saw her recording lots of crap, but during the 60s and the better part of the 70s she had a long string of solid records, even if the quality of her repertoire (and the number of songwriters from which she drew) dwindled over time. I’ve picked this record not because it’s representative or a masterpiece or anything like that — it’s neither – but because I think it probably gets overlooked since it is chronologically sandwiched between a couple of her other records that overshadow it.

I always considered this sort of a weak effort but the album has grown on me over the years. It is sort of Elis’ foray into the nascent Brazilian soul movement of the time, a genre for which she wasn’t particularly well-suited. There were two big hits off it – Madalena from Ivan Lins, and Black Is Beautiful from Marcos and Paulo Sérgio Valle. The former is classic Elis Regina and deserved to be a smash hit; the latter is much better on the original ‘Garra’ album from Marcos Valle. The lyrics are so bizarre by today’s standards (and rather politically incorrect, although kind of hilarious) that I really can’t picture anyone other than Marcos Valle pulling it off. The thing about the Brothers Valle is they could be very clever, subtle, and ironic without seeming to be any of those things, and I’ve speculated elsewhere on the different interpretations a listener could give their song ‘Black Is Beautiful’. But with Elis’ schmaltzy, cabaret-style version, what you get is an over-literal, superficial reading of the tune that drags on for at least a minute too long. And like many things superficial, it was a bigger success.

In fact this album stands out for Elis and/or Nelson Motta’s choice to tackle material that was pretty strongly associated with other popular artists. The most obvious of these being, naturally, her taking on The Beatles` “Golden Slumbers”. Although I didn’t like it the first time I heard it, I`ve changed my mind about it and now think its damn cool and is one of the strongest cuts here. Her version of Cinema Olympia, a song written by Caetano Veloso but associated with Gal Costa after appearing on one of her first records, is kind of redundant and pointless, although I appreciate the funky wah-wah guitar. And, sure, Elis could sing the phonebook and I would be happy, but when taking on material associated with one of her peers as esteemed as Gal, she ought to bring something more to the song, instead of less… Much better is her irreverent recording of Caetano’s, “Os Navegantes”, which appeared on his “white album” recorded as something like a Portuguese fado. Here, the verses are sung like a soul ballad, and the choruses are organ-fringed lounge jazz. The tune never takes off with the fire that Elis was capable of imparting to it, but in a way it’s her restraining of herself that makes it work. Not sure about the lounge arrangement though; this song makes me wonder what the whole album would have sounded like with Erlon Chaves on arrangements, who had done some wonderful work with Elis. The song “Mundo deserto” by Erasmo and Roberto Carlos is pretty bad ass. I like Elis singing their songs. Probably the most unexpected tune is a Jobim/Dolorus Duran piece that closes the album, `Estrada do sol`, which is almost outrageously bombastic and pretty goddamn original. It’s a great closer for a bit of an uneven album that I continue to appreciate more over time.

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Elis Regina – Em Pleno Verão (1970)


Elis Regina
“Em pleno verão”
Released 1970 Philips (R 765.112 L)
Reissue 2005 (811 467-2)

1 Vou deitar e rolar (Quaquaraquaquá)
(Baden Powell, Paulo César Pinheiro)
2 Bicho do mato
(Jorge Ben)
3 Verão vermelho
(Nonato Buzar)
4 Até aí morreu Neves
(Jorge Ben)
5 Frevo
(Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes)
6 As curvas da estrada de Santos
(Erasmo Carlos, Roberto Carlos)
7 Fechado pra balanço
(Gilberto Gil)
8 Não tenha medo
(Caetano Veloso)
9 These are the songs
(Tim Maia)
10 Comunicação
(Édson Alencar, Hélio Matheus)
11 Copacabana velha de guerra
(Sergio Flaksman, Joyce)

This is a fun album that sees Elis taking herself a bit less seriously than would be the case in years to come. Beginning with the beautiful photo on the album cover, it’s sunshine all the way through. Recorded and released in 1970, it sits on a precipice of musical history sort of like the proverbial time capsule left for the extra-terrestrials to tell them about contemporary MPB. With consistently interesting and flawless arrangements from Erlon Chaves, Elis rips through a repertoire of songs that couldn’t get much better spanning Bossa Nova, Jovem Guarda, Brazilian Soul and Tropicália and spinning them into a weirdly unified whole. A delirious take on “Vou deitar e rolar (Quaquaraquaquá)” from Baden Powell and Paulo César Pinheiro has Elis unable to restrain herself from laughing through most of it, which is a cue to the listener to lighten up a bit. Two fantastic tunes from Jorge Ben nestle nicely with tunes from Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil – “Fechado pra balanço” stands out in particular and is a testament to the stylistic strengths of both composer and interpreter here, as their different personalities are completely intermingled and simultaneously distinct, a talent that was an uncanny ability of Elis. She also continues her tradition of lifting up new talented writers by concluding with a song by a young Joyce (“Copacabana velha de guerra”) and especially the inclusion of Tim Maia’s “These Are The Songs” on which she brought him into the studio to sing. This was the same year that Tim’s debut album would come out, and his inclusion on an album by the reigning queen of MPB helped him to explode on the scene.  But for all the great material on here, currently my favorite cut is “As Curvas da Estrada de Santos” in which she is able to out-swagger Roberto Carlos, with big help from her backing band who really work it out. (Wilson das Neves on drums?? I don’t have musician credits for this one..) Although this album doesn’t seem to have any of the titles that would come to be Elis’ “signature songs” associated with her during the remainder of her short life, it’s a nice solid slab of great music in her discography.

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Roberto Carlos – Roberto Carlos (1969)


Roberto Carlos – “Roberto Carlos”
Released December 1969 on CBS (1-37645)
Reissue on CD mid-1990s

1. As flores do jardim da nossa casa (3:11)
2. Aceito seu coração (3:40)
3. Nada vai me convencer (2:50)
4. Do outro lado da cidade (3:42)
5. Quero ter você perto de mim (3:07)
6. O diamante cor-de-rosa (3:19)
7. Não vou ficar (3:00)
8. As curvas da estrada de Santos (3:33)
9. Sua estupidez (4:55)
10. Oh! meu imenso amor (2:05)
11. Não adianta (3:49)
12. Nada tenho a perder (2:48)


This album deserves a better write up than I can give it. The cause for this situation is that I have listened to it twice today and I am all broken up, emocionado.

I will admit it. As an ignorant outsider, I didn’t “get” the obsession with Roberto Carlos at first. He seemed like an uglier Brazilian version of Julio Iglesias (as my friend Celia put it… I added the ugly part). Really, an analogy to Elvis Presley might be apt as well: both are known as the “King” and both starred in a lot of silly films aimed at teenagers, even if Roberto’s films were modeled more on The Beatles cinematic misadventures.

But then I discovered the records from this period in question which have since become very precious to me. By the late 60s, Roberto Carlos had come a long way from ‘Splish Splash’, which is a fun record, actually, but utterly derivative. In the 1970s he would become the king of romantic ballads in Brazil, but here we are in December of 1969 on the cusp of change… wait, wait, what do we have here, that music journalist cliché of the “transitional album”?? Well, maybe or maybe not. But the fact is that the songwriting and performances on this record are a lot more mature than the early burst of Jovem Guarda albums, and yet they haven’t arrived at the rather drippy sentimentalism and over-production that would start to characterize his work as he continued at his unending (até hoje) labor of selling tons of records and selling out huge stadiums where women of all ages through their undergarments on stage.

This album has more than a few of the best songs of the guy’s career, and particularly some of the best writing from Roberto and his brother Erasmo. The opening cut “As Flores do Jardim de Nossa Casa” is a masterpiece, and an example of one of the facets of pop music that have always intrigued me the most: if you put these lyrics down on a piece of paper, of flowers dying from the absence of your lost love, they might come across to many people as complete drivel. But put those same words to this melody and this more-than-perfect arrangement and orchestration and they become pure fucking poetry. The first time I ever heard this song was the moment I finally “got” Roberto Carlos. This is it. This is why they call him O Rei.

With the exception of the ungainly and irritating “Oh! meu imenso amor”, everything else here is wonderful. The record is dominated by its ballads but never manages to feel “slow” by grace of Roberto’s ability to hold an audience. The song “Quero ter você perto de mim” begins with him singing a capella for half of the first verse before each instrument comes in slowly, one at a time, building Roberto’s melancholic castle of saudades. Listening to it, I can imagine the musicians, engineers, producers all huddled around the control room listening to an earlier take of the song where they all begin together, and Roberto abruptly interrupting the playback. “No. Stop the tape. This isn’t the way this song should sound. Let’s go back and do it one more time. Like this…” Of course this is a total fantasy of an idle mind since I have now listened to this album THREE times today while going about my daily business. But, you know, it *could* have happened that way.

This tune is followed by an oddly cathartic slow instrumental tune, written by Erasmo and Roberto but sounding like it was found discarded in Ennio Morricone’s front lawn. Its beautiful and lyrical and wordless. And, in an example of perfect album sequencing, it is followed by heavy funk of “Não Vou Ficar,” written by none other than Tim Maia and here injected with all the pent-up energy of a person who’s suffered all the heartbreaks detailed in the last six songs. We even get Roberto giving a few soul-music “ahh! uhhh!” shouts during a brief drum-and-bass break. (The song “Nada Vai Me Convencer”, from earlier in the record, is oddly reminiscent of this tune but without half of its charm.) As I said in the post on Tim Maia’s 1971 record, people fight about whose version is better. They are both damn good, I can’t say any longer. I am biased differently today, because I have listened to this record THREE TIMES. Oh, and Tim basically had to threaten Roberto with a kidnapping to convince him to finally answer his calls and record one of his songs. Perhaps a bit of magoãs after being fired from the Sputniks…

“As curvas da estrada de Santos” finds a middle ground between the slower melancholic tunes and the “I’ve had enough of you” swagger of ‘Não vou ficar’, but definitely lean toward the latter. A Ciéncia de Cornologia começa aqui, minha gente, nesse disco.

Next is “Sua estupidez” which surely ranks pretty high in the list of ‘greatest songs ever written.’ It has something of the spirit of Dylan’s “Idiot Wind” (to come five years later, obviously) but much less acidic and bitter, simpler and more direct and tender in its message. Nothing I can say about it would do anything than detract from that simplicity. Just listen to it. If you don’t understand the lyrics, the music should still grab you.

The song probably should have gone at the end of the album. At least, I don’t have anything left to say about the rest the remaining three songs after listening to “Sua estupidez”. I already mentioned that I find “Oh! meu imenso amor” abrasive. “Não adianta” is actually a really great tune, that oddly enough opens with the same chord progression as “Everybody’s Talkin'” of Fred Neil/Harry Nilsson fame. Then the closer, “Nada Tenho a Perder” pulls back a notch on the quality/intensity level, perfectly fine song but nothing too special about it. Maybe it was intentional, this sort of running-out-steam rather than going-out-with-a-bang. Because it sort of makes you want to play the album over again. Like, three or four more times.

If nothing else, this album is proof that Roberto Carlos had moved from the art of making hit singles, to the art of the Long Playing record, or LP. I have recently decided that is what this blog has its roots in — the pleasures found in the almost-lost art of listening to the LP…


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