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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Toni Tornado – B.R. 3 (1971)

toni tornado

Toni Tornado
B.R.3
Released 1971 on Odeon
2002 reissue, Odeon Cem Anos

Another great album from Toni Tornado, the “James Brown of Brazil.” But first off — here is the deal with this CD pressing: There is a really annoying defect on the first track, Juizo Final (*not* the Nelson Cavaquinho song, by the way), where it skips obnoxiously within the first ten seconds. This is not a problem with the individual disc or the rip. How do I know this?? I bought two of them… Same exact skip in the same exact place on both of them.

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On the whole the album is less funky than his 1972 album that would follow this but it is no less soulful for it. The repetoire seems him giving soulful treatments to two Roberto Carlos / Erasmo Carlos compositions (Não lhe quero mais, and Papai, não foi esse o mundo que você valou); a song by Hyldon (O repórter informou) and of course the title track that was a big hit (penned by Antônio Adolfo and Tibério Gaspar). This song would gain awards at the annual Festival of Song, in 1970, after which his career took off. The title, B.R.3, besides referring to the highway that connects Rio to Belo Horizonte, is also street slang for an intravenous injection… Giving the refraine “A gente corre, a gente morre, na B.R.3” a different shade of meaning.

The heavy influence of American black music was truly revolutionary, but also very “foreign” for Brazil, leading to some amusing parodies on TV that Toni himself participated in, on the show Os Trapalhões. These clips give you the idea, no portuguese necessary

And this one, of horrible VHS quality but even more silly, performing B.R.3. Filmed around the time of this record, this one pokes fun at the Toni’s rather idiosyncratic way of dancing while singing the tune at this point in history, sort of an odd power-walk/march. Note all the wigs of cabelo “Black Power”….

Short bio of Tony Tornado from allbrazilianmusic. com , a site from UOL that I actually forgot existed!! I could have been saving myself time on translations lately!

Born in São Paulo, Antônio Viana Gomes moved to Rio at age 11, after his father died. He worked as a shoeshine boy and sold candy until turning 18 and joining the Army (as a parachutist). He initiated his career as a rock’n’roll singer, using the stage name Tony Checker. Then, he joined the music & dance group Brasiliana and toured the world for the next ten years. He lived in New York for 3 years, and there he met Tim Maia. He was arrested in Brazil, once, accused of reproducing the Black Panthers compliment. Back in Brazil, he continued as a crooner, being eventually discovered by songwriter Tibério Gaspar. Tibério and Antônio Adolfo chose Tornado to interpret their songs, “BR-3” at a very important music festival in 1970, and the success was overwhelming. Another huge hit was “Podes Crer, Amizade”. He also developed his acting career, mainly in the 80s and 90s.

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Toni Tornado – Toni Tornado (1972)


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Toni Tornado – Toni Tornado (1972) 320kbs
Odeon Records

This album has one major deplorable flaw — it is too damn short! Only 26 minutes of pure bliss may be all some of you can take, but I find myself playing this one twice in a row, and I almost never do that… Oh my what a fine record this is! Toni Tornado is associated with the Black Power movement in Brazil (the English phrase was actually used — even today, someone sporting an Afro here is referred to as having “cabelo Black Power.”) Along with people like Tim Maia, Cassiano, Hyldon, Jorge Ben, Banda Black Rio, *whew* I’m out of breath… Well, all these folks were taking cues from black music in the US, which made them rather polemical at the time, culturally speaking, in a place where the gatekeepers would scream bloody murder about cultural imperialism and “alienation” ever since the Jovem Guarda and “ia ia ia” bands started pulling out electric guitars and copying The Beatles. A variety of cultural nationalism that celebrated the heterogeneous population(s) of Brazil in a way that ironically promoted what in crucial ways was a homogenous image of “The Brazilian People” — this type of stance did not tolerate anybody pulling out claims of a distinct ethnic identity (except for Brazil’s indigenous people, who were not considered citizens until fairly recently.. but that’s another story). For the cultural nationalist, “The Brazilian People,” one and all, were ALL equally African-Indian-Portuguese. Brazilians were supposed to only listen to samba and chorinho and bossa nova. I am simplifying and being droll, as I am wont to do. Hey, it’s my blog.

So, embracing black music from North America was one way of shaking up this attitude and asserting a black identity in a place where people had always tended to aspire towards the ideal of whiteness, which is where and how social mobility happened. But all of what I have written here thus far is just cultural critique and interpretation, in very important ways it MISSES THE WHOLE POINT of great music like this, the kinetic energy, the movement.. Although you will hear a few yelps of “good gawd” ala James Brown on this record, songs clearly influenced by sixties and seventies US soul, by blues music, by more James Brown, and Toni Tornado looks remarkably like Al Green on the cover of this album — you won’t just be hearing imitation of music from the US, but innovation. This musical community, like others in West Africa and elsewhere, was building an aesthetic of its own, embraced and celebrated by the DJs of the big ‘funk’ parties of the favelas — as featured memorably in the film Cidade de Deus (City of God), this was Brazilian funk before its bundalização in the last few decades.*

What makes Toni Tornado stand out from his contemporaries is that his music is wilder, maybe even unhinged at times, more raw. This album, issued on CD in 2002, is already out of print again. Treat yourself, get twisting and do the Tornado!

*The term “bundalização” is a translation of the term “assification”, a neologism coined by The Frankfurt School in a treatise on cultural production titled “The Commodity Fetish and The Crappification of Everything.”

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