Airto – Seeds On The Ground / The Natural Sounds of Airto (1971) (2020 Real Gone Music) Day 4 of FV’s 12 Days of Xmas

Airto – Seeds On The Ground / The Natural Sounds of Airto
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/192 kHz | FLAC |  300 dpi scans | Jazz, Brazilian, Fusion
Original release, 1971 Buddah Recordhs / Reissue 2020 Real Gone Music / Sony Records

Day 4 of Flabbergasted Vibes’ 12 Days of Christmas finally brings us to Brazil.  Sort of.   I predict there will be much more Brazilian content on this blog in 2022.

The first couple albums from Airto Moreira could easily be co-credited to Hermeto Pascoal, since he played such a major role in them.  He wrote all but two of the tracks on this one. I once had a transcendental shamanic experience with this album while laying in a hammock in the middle of mountain forest.  But you don’t need such accoutrements  to be transported by the music here, it’s truly  the stuff of magic.  At turns moody, deep, and profoundly uplifting, sometimes all at once.  A young Flora Purim shines here too, and she channels Gal Costa’s tropicalista phase with aplomb on tunes like O Sonho / Moon Dreams, a tune credited to Livingston & Evans of “Que Sera Sera” fame and which is also on Flora’s “Butterfly Dreams” LP on Milestone from a few years after this.   It is also worth noting that Sivuca puts in an appearance on the accordion, and Dom Um Romão on the drums, as well as (honorary Brazilian?) Ron Carter on bass throughout.

A1 – Andei (I Walked)
A2 – O Sonho (Moon Dreams)
A3 – Uri (Wind)
A4 – Papo Furado (Jive Talking)
B1 – Juntos (We Love)
B2 – O Galho Da Roseira (The Branches Of The Rose Tree)
B3 – O Galho Da Roseira (The Branches Of The Rose Tree) Part II

A1    Andei (I Walked)
Bass – Ron Carter
Vocals, Percussion, Berimbau – Airto
Written By, Harpsichord, Flute – Hermeto Pascoal

A2    O Sonho (Moon Dreams)
Bass – Ron Carter
Drums, Percussion – Airto
Keyboards – Hermeto Pascoal
Vocals – Flora Purim
Written By – J. Livingston & R. Evans

A3    Uri (Wind)
Accordion – Sivuca
Acoustic Guitar, Voice, Written-By, Flute [Bass Flute] – Hermeto Pascoal
Bass, Cello – Ron Carter
Viola – Severino De Oliveira
Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Voice – Airto
Voice, Vocals – Flora Purim
Voice, Written By – Googie

A4    Papo Furado (Jive Talking)
Acoustic Guitar, Voice – Severino De Oliveira
Bass, Voice – Ron Carter
Percussion, Voice – Dom Um Romão
Vocals, Percussion, Voice – Airto*
Written By, Acoustic Guitar, Voice – Hermeto Pascoal

B1    Juntos (We Love)
Bass – Ron Carter
Drums, Percussion – Airto
Organ – Severino De Oliveira
Percussion – Dom Um Romão
Written By, Flute [Bass Flute], Piano – Hermeto Pascoal
Written By, Vocals – Flora Purim

B2    O Galho Da Roseira (The Branches Of The Rose Tree)
Acoustic Guitar, Accordion – Severino De Oliveira
Bass – Ron Carter
Keyboards, Written By – Hermeto Pascoal
Percussion – Dom Um Romão
Vocals – Flora Purim

B3    O Galho Da Roseira (The Branches Of The Rose Tree) Part II
Acoustic Guitar, Accordion – Severino De Oliveira
Bass – Ron Carter
Percussion – Dom Um Romão
Vocals – Flora Purim
Written By, Keyboards – Hermeto Pascoal

Art Direction, Photography By – Sid Maurer
Co-producer, Engineer – Tony May
Coordinator – Flora Purim
Creative Director [Director Of Creative Packaging & Merchandising] – Milton Sincoff
Design – Michael Mandel
Photography By [Back & Inside Covers] – Hal Wilson
Producer – Airto Moreira

Limited to 1000 copies

LINEAGE: 2020 Real Gone Music / Sony vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica Signet TK7E cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; Audioquest Black Mamba and Pangea Premier interconnect cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz;  clicks and pops removed manually with Adobe Audition 3.0; resampled and dithered using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

All resolutions of FLAC: 16/44.1, 24/96, 24/192

password: vibes

Gal Costa – Gal (1969) (Mono mix)

Gal Costa – Gal
1969 Philips R 765.098 L

The great Gal Costa released two classic Tropicália records in 1969, and this one is widely known as the mind-bendingly psychedelic monster of the two.  The version presented here is the original mono mix and not the stereo mix that appeared on the Gal Total boxset and later in a Polysom reissue.  Gal has always surrounded herself with musical heavyweights but she was keeping particularly heady company at this time: this record has substantial involvement from Gil, Caetano and Jards Macalé (who would serve as her musical director not long after this).  No less than two compositions from Jorge Ben are featured here, including the rather deep cut “Tuareg” in a particularly funky arrangement. Continue reading

Caetano Veloso & Banda Black Rio – Bicho Baile Show (1978)

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 Caetano Veloso and Banda Black Rio
Bicho Baile Show (1978)

1.  Intro
2. Odara
3. Tigresa
4. London, London

5. Na Baixa do Sapateiro
6. Leblon via Vaz Lobo
7. Maria fumaça
8. Two Naira fifty Kobo
9. Gente
10. Alegria, alegria
11. Baião
12. Caminho da roça
13. Qualquer coisa
14. Chuva, suor e cerveja

Producedy by Caetano Veloso and Banda Black Rio.  Recorded by Mazola at the Teatro Carlos Gomes, Rio de Janeiro, 1978

Long-time readers of this blog may be surprised to see this post, because there seems to be a mistaken assumption that I somehow strongly dislike work of Caetano Veloso.  This is not true but is a direct result of my “trolling” the public, and particularly the gringo public, by saying that I in general I would rather reach for a Jorge Ben record, any day of the week, over most Caetano records.  That statement was actually about Jorge Ben and the degree to which his music has not been regarded as “culturally significant” art as has someone like Veloso, but the ensuing comment thread turned into something completely different.  I still stand by the original statement, but I gave up “trolling” in my New Years Resolutions, so why not let’s have a blog post that treats Caetano a bit more seriously than all that.

In recent years it is not uncommon to hear fans of Caetano employing a “you have to be able separate the art from the artist” argument, which puts him in the same uneasy company as famous film directors accused of child molestation or rape, so I’m not sure if that is a line of reasoning that works for him in the long run.  And the fact is that this kind of compartmentalization might be more valid if the man himself didn’t insist on being such a public figure, and continuously baiting the Brazilian public with polemical statements.  Why can’t he just be the reclusive genius I want him to be?  Well, if he did that, then he also wouldn’t really be Caetano. Fair enough.  But artists who make a point to that kind of high profile are also fair game for a little malicious snark from the likes of bloggers, especially when these artists start spouting reactionary inanities and conservative bullshit.  Granted he has not gone all Ted Nugent or anything (yet) but  in the words of one Frank Vincent Zappa (in self-parody), “shut up and play your guitar” already.  Even Caetano’s own mother wished he would shut up and stop giving interviews.   I could ignore his provocations more easily if it didn’t seem partly a maneuver to stay “relevant” in the public eye long after his stopped creating music of any real consequence, records that more often than not are embarrassing to listen to, with attempts to sound contemporary by singing Nirvana songs, or “rapping” on his mediocre ‘Tropicália 2’ record with Gil, or be “alternative” by channeling 1980s U2 in a record made in the late-2000s.  When Bob Dylan suddenly converted to evangelical Christianity, he made a fantastic gospel-tinged album, so it was easier for me to swallow whatever nonsense was going on with him personally.   Perhaps this will sound laden with “ageism”, but flailing around on stage like a ragdoll and writhing on stage in near-fetal position (c.f. the film of Phono 73, his performance of  “Asa Branca”) is perhaps edgy performance art when you are in your twenties and its 1973 (emphasis on “perhaps”, by the way), but running around the stage and out into the audience and high-fiving audience members like some kind of faux-Tropical-Springsteen when you reach your 60s just seems kind of desperate (c.f. Caetano on his tour for the album “Cê”

Iconoclasm has always been a major weapon in Caetano’s trick bag, and for the most part it has served a useful and important function, engaging with contemporary debates about culture and authenticity and subverting orthodoxies.  He did this during the televised song festivals when he and Gilberto Gil “went electric” in the moment of Tropicália, angering cultural nationalists who thought of electric guitars as weapons of imperialism;  He did this during the Phono 73 concert by bringing Odair José, a famous singer of so-called “low quality” romantic pop-rock or brega on stage for a duet of one of Odair’s big compositions of the day; and he did it with his album Bicho from 1977 and the live show that promoted it.  Now regarded almost universally as a classic of 1970s post-Tropicália MPB, it may be difficult for the outsider to fathom how it could have caused controversy or polemic in it’s day.  Many critics and cultural gatekeepers seemed to hate it.  In an echo of complaints from similar quarters ten years earlier, objections were raised to his appropriation of “foreign” sounds, in this case funk or disco (sort of, but only from a disco-phobic perspective).  In fact both Bicho and Gilberto Gil’s Refavela were inspired by a trip to Lagos, Nigeria, for the Festival of Black Arts in 1977.  Gil’s record has a proto-world beat sound to it, and is celebratory, energetic, and uplifting in the way you might expect.  Bicho on the other hand tended to be more ponderous, sonically murky, and emotionally mood, but also full of inspired songs with engaging arrangements and brilliant lyrics (this goes without saying for Caetano, and is the one saving grace on even his most musically stale records).  (** see the important note at the bottom if you’ve never heard this album..)

I’m not sure how much of the live show for Bicho was planned before the album was released, or if the show was Caetano’s way of upping the ante even further with his detractors.  For his backing band he chose the ensemble Banda Black Rio.  Now, I happen to like Banda Black Rio quite a bit, but once again here was a group that challenged what it meant to make “Brazilian music” and had some commercial success while doing it (which music critics from seemingly all countries repeatedly used to marginalize or ignore certain kinds of music during the 70s and 80s).  Stylistically they shared as many similarities with Earth Wind and  Fire or The Crusaders as they did with Dorival Caymmi, making largely instrumental records filled with jazz-funk-fusion which they tempered with dendê and coconut.

I remember when I first heard about the existence of this record and was so excited to hear it, only to feel a big disappointment.  Had I just set my expectations too high? Maybe but I don’t think that’s all of it.   I think it is more that this collaboration was one of those ideas that sounds better on paper.  At first listen the whole show sounds almost kind of unrehearsed, but the musicianship is of course impeccable and there’s not really a note out of place – Brazilian musicians of this caliber just don’t “do” unrehearsed.  Maybe it was over-rehearsed to death, then?  It’s not so much like polishing a diamond as sanding all the facets down.  Banda Black Rio were maybe just incapable of injecting the needed emotion into their playing to make these collaboration work.  Their own first few albums were, by and large, instrumental affairs.  Several of the tunes here have these wonderfully moody intro bits that make you think you are about to hear some seriously heavy stuff, and then the song kicks in and just kind of stays at a plateau of sameness.  They get several pieces all to themselves where they stretch out and do that thing they do – playing classics of the canon like Ary Barroso’s “Na baixo do sapateiro” and Luiz Gonzaga’s “Baião” and turning them into funky rumb-shakers wherein their soloists let loose their formidable jazz chops.   It’s a shame they can’t muster the same level of presence into the material with Caetano, because these are some of his best songs.  The opening cut Odara ought to literally blow us away, but it just lacks the urgency of the album version, a track that is most likely the deepest funk Caetano has ever put his name to.  This live version sounds like Caetano performing with a pickup band in a casino, albeit in 1978 which means I still would have thoroughly enjoyed it.  Interestingly the next track, the mellow Tigressa, comes across much more convincingly and could be (or could have been:?)  my favorite thing on the whole record.  Perhaps because Caetano’s acoustic guitar sets the pace – the guy is a master of lilting downtempo stuff like this that isn’t quite a ballad but simmers along nicely.  His astoundingly well-crafted lyrics, and his way of working a melody all sustain this evocative portrait, and then Banda Black Rio even manage to fuck that all up by going into double-time at the end of the tune, instead of just staying in the same tempo and laying into it, swinging it a little harder.  These guys could have benefited from a summer camp retreat with Isaac Hayes (hell, who couldn’t?).   Now although I am putting the blame on them them here, I will admit that I wasn’t hanging around at the rehearsals, and I have no doubt in my mind that the arrangement would not be this way if Caetano wasn’t okay with it.  In fact he may have insisted on it:  here again might be that particular aspect of his iconoclasm that starts to try my patience, pushing an idea farther than it probably deserves to go in the interest of his larger masterplan, turning on the boogie with a song that plainly doesn’t need it.

 “London, London”, his most famous tune from his “exile” recorded under the colors of the Union Jack, works far better than it ought to given all the above circumstances.  Enough to rekindle my hope for this venture.  It’s solid.  Then three consecutive instrumentals from Banda Black Rio while Caetano goes backstage or maybe out in the alleyway to have sex in a taxi cab (he is fond of getting it on in taxi cabs, as seen here in this 1983 film).  BBB sounds damn good here on both the originals and reinterpretations.  Then comes another tune that seems ON PAPER like it would work really well.  “Two Naira Fifty Kobo” is one of my favorite songs on “Bicho,” and this … just… doesn’t… work.   Mind you, I saw Caetano perform the same song twenty-two years later with a different arrangement and that one sucked too.  Maybe I am just being a bastard here – How he dare he mess with MY song! It’s his and he can do what he wants with it, fair enough.  When I saw that show I thought his rendition of the song was watered-down and tepid and a product of a decade of drifting towards ‘world music’-isms; had I only known this 1978 version at the time, I would have realized he had managed to water it down plenty in just a year after first recording it. 

“Gente” is a song that naturally lends itself to the jazzed up execution of this band, but (not to repeat myself or anything) it just isn’t anywhere near as strong as the version performed for the Doces Bárbados show.  In fact this ventures into just plain cheesy territory with some of the choices of instrumental embellishments and flourishes.   But wait, there’s more – you haven’t yet heard the disco-funk interpretation of the song that forever changed the course of contemporary Brazilian music, “Alegria Alegria,” the anthem of Tropicália.  At this point I begin to suspect that Caetano is just trolling us and trying to piss people off.  (And hence, I don’t mind trolling a certain component of his devotees).  Is he serious?  One never knows with him.  This song serves no purpose unless it is to illustrate “we did it because we can.”  More instrumental tunes.  I’d like to think Caetano is offstage doing some blow but he was probably writing off editorials to send to the New York Times or Le Monde or something.  Then he comes back and they phone in a version of Qualquer Coisa, a perfectly good song from his album of the same name, but which in this version has all the period charm of the plaid wallpaper we used to have my basement in the house where I grew up.  If you looked at it while listening to music and let your focus go soft, you might sometimes have a vision of a kilted Scotsman sporting a giant afro.  If only this track left such an enduring memory.  Or any memory at all.  I’ve already forgotten it.  Then the album ends with a frevo, “Chuva, suor e cerveja,” which I think Caetano also recorded for that carnaval album he made with a whole bunch of frevo on it, I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to check right now.  Hell if you actually made it this far into “Bicho Baile Show” and still care, you win the Stalwart Listener Award and I tip my hat to you.

Of course don’t let ME tell you what to think, give it a spin!  I feel badly now, like I should attach a motto to this blog, “Ruining Your Favorite Music Since 2008.”  I swear I thought I was going to write a fairly positive piece about this album when I decided to blog about it, reassuring my readers that I do in fact have a healthy appreciation for Mr. Veloso.  I thought I’d pick a less obvious choice, but I guess there is a reason why this record is seldom talked about.  I promise to pick a better one next time.

Fun drinking game, at least?  Take a shot of your favorite artisinal cachaça (Caetano won’t be having any Pitú) every time he meows like a cat or yelps like a dog!  Just don’t drive home, kids.  Take a taxi.  And hope Caetano isn’t in the back making out with anybody when you climb inside.

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 ** Note:  If you have not yet had the pleasure of hearing ‘Bicho’, which is truly a great album, do yourself a favor and make sure you seek out the *original* mix and now the godawful travesty that is the last reissue of the record.  This is not just me being a purist here –  As murky as the original mix might have been in certain spots, it is far superior to what he did on remixing it.  In part, that remix involved splashing everything with reverb to presumably make it sound more “modern” than the very dry 1977 mix, and the drums sound like they could have been re-recorded (although I don’t think they were) with an awful gated-drum sound that could have come off a record from 1991.  The result is a completely different aesthetic experience, so seek it out in its original.  

Paulo Diniz – Eu Quero Voltar Pra Bahia (1970)

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Paulo Diniz   
1970 Odeon MOFB 3664
Reissue 2007 Odeon Classics

1 Piri Piri
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
2 Um chope pra distrair
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
3 Ninfa mulata
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
4 Quero voltar pra Bahia
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
5 Felicidade
(Lupicínio Rodrigues)   
6 Marginal III
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
7 Chutando pedra
8 Chega
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
9 Canseira
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
10 Ponha um arco-íris na sua moringa
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)   
11 Me leva
12 Sujeito chato
(Pedrinho, Paulo Diniz)   

What a lovely little record this is from Paulo Diniz!  The title song, dedicated to an exiled Caetano Veloso, was a counter-culture anthem at the time, a big hit in the summertime of 1969/70.  And the  twelve tracks here are suitably saturated in an understated incense-and-maconha haze while still remaining completely lucid.  Whether distracting oneself with a cold beer, or frolicking with mulata nymphs washing clothes by a river (his imagery, not mine..), it may be the perfect recreational sunny day album.  Almost.

Vocally and melodically, Diniz borrows a lot from Roberto Carlos and especially Wilson Simonal, even if he couldn’t approach the swagger or emotive range of either.  Songs like “Canseira” could have been written for Simonal. In fact I can image them singing it together as a duet, except with Diniz being the voice for a Muppet version of Neil Diamond singing with Simonal on TV.  He could have been more popular than Mug! 

Which brings me to what may have jumped out at some listeners right away, others perhaps not so much: Diniz’s voice, which on this record is frequently distracting.  Before I say anything further, have a listen to this gorgeous album “E Agora José” over at Jthyme’s blog.  It is less of a rock record, and Diniz doesn’t sing like a Muppet Neil Diamond.  He actually has quite an expressive voice on that album, which only makes his choices on this one more beguiling.  It’s fair to say that the “José” record is a more mature artistic statement overall: for one thing, the title track is a musical interpretation of Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s famous poem with the same title, and he makes it sound completely natural.  Kind of brilliant actually, and in terms of songwriting most of that album is a quantum leap beyond this one.   Maybe the interval of two or three years left Paulo in better command of his voice and his art, or perhaps it’s a reflection of the vision for the record.  I mean just LOOK at the cover of “Eu Quero Voltar Pra Bahia” – trippy, right? I mean, you have to sing it like you mean it if you are going with album art like that.   Pernambuco since the 1970s seems to have a pattern of yielding interesting and important musicians and songwriters who can’t sing worth a shit (see: anyone associated with ‘Mangue Bit’ and its progeny), and I have been trying to pin down just exactly when that weird tendency started.  Maybe it was with Paulo Diniz?  Well at least he got better over time.  The thing is, his over-driven throat blowing works on about half of this material, but on the rest – in particular on some slower tunes like “Chega” and “Canseira” but also some up-tempo ones like football homage “Me leva,”  it is distracting if not outright annoying.  “Um chope pra distrair” strikes a nice balance between his two singing styles.  In fact this tune is one Diniz’s most famous compositions and rightly so.    Muppet-voice aside, the tunes on this record (all of them original except an odd
interpretation of a Lupicínio Rodrigues number) are well put together, with good lyrics, and
the arrangements and musicianship are top notch.  Some nice harpsichord too, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Novos Baianos F.C. DOCUMENTARY (Solano Ribeiro) 1973

Novos Baianos F.C. (1973)
Directed by Solano Ribeiro
co-produced with TV Bandeirantes with German TV (?)

Another Carnaval is over and I am free to write about non-Brazilian music but I’d been thinking of posting this for months and months now, so here it goes.

This 30-minute documentary filmed at Novos Baianos’ own commune in the western part of Rio de Janeiro, a place they called the ‘Sitio de Vovô’ in Jacarepaguá, is a riveting glimpse into this once-in-a-universe band at the peak of their creative and musical powers. A musical band deciding to ‘drop out’, go “off the grid” or whatnot, and live communally is not in itself unique. I refer the reader to any of the coveted albums of Father Yod and The Source Family. However while those albums are mind-blowing in their utter unworldliness, with some of them falling squarely in the ‘outsider artist’ category and verge on sheer unlistenable excruciating aural abuse, Novos Baianos made some of the most coherent, flexible, and just damn beautiful music you’re likely to ever hear. They were all top notch musicians with a profound knowledge of and respect for their musical predecessors in Brazil, but expanded on those roots with all the splendor of a sprawling jaqueira or pé de manga tree. Perhaps one that’s been injected with 1000 µg of LSD-25.

Although this documentary made the rounds at some film festivals a few years ago, I have yet to know about an official release of this valuable relic. So instead I am presenting here the full documentary in the same quality you can find on YouTube, sadly, but at least here it is all in one place for ease of viewing. And the sound is pretty decent as well.

There are some interested interview segments but the highlights are the musical performances. Even though the segue from futebol into an ‘impromptu’ performance of ‘Preta Pretinha’ seems utterly contrived and staged to me, I still think it’s cool as hell and some great film-making. Incidentally, the film ends (after the final credits) with a full-tilt acid rock jam that as far as I know never appeared on any albums and which I suspect may not even have a name. It wouldn’t sound out of place on an Amon Duul album. It’s pretty jarring, with some bizarre still shots of the band hanging around doing nothing particular besides sitting in window frames or behind potted plants or other oddities.

Oh yes, I have to mention that I find Baby Consuelo incredibly sexy throughout the entire thing. Even though she seems to have ingested a half pound of Psilocybin before filming, and I suspect I would probably have had a hard time finishing a conversation with her, I don’t really care. She was beautiful and completely unique, just totally charismatic in the way she seemingly just didn’t give a shit about how an MPB star or rock singer was supposed to comport themselves. Also, she is from another planet, which is always a turn on for me.

Novos Baianos continued to make great music during the rest of their existence as a band, but this is a truly special document of a time before egos and business got in the way of it all.




*note that some sources (including the overlay on this file itself) put the date at 1975. Perhaps that was the broadcast date but I have no doubt that was filmed around 1973.

Tom Zé – Estudando o Samba / Correio na Estação Brás (1975, 1978)



1976 Continental (1.07.405.303)

1 Mã (Tom Zé)
2 A felicidade (Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes)
3 Toc (Tom Zé)
4 Tô (Élton Medeiros, Tom Zé)
5 Vai [Menina amanhã de manhã] (Perna, Tom Zé)
6 Ui! [Você inventa] (Odair, Tom Zé)
7 Doi (Tom Zé)
8 Mãe [Mãe solteira] (Élton Medeiros, Tom Zé)
9 Hein? (Tom Zé, Vicente Barreto)
10 Só [Solidão] (Tom Zé)
11 Se (Tom Zé)
12 Índice (José Briamonte, Heraldo do Monte, Tom Zé)

Arrangements by José Briamonte
Produced by Heraldo do Monte



Tom Zé (1978)

1 Menina Jesus (Tom Zé)
2 Morena (Tom Zé e Domínio Público)
3 Correio da Estação do Brás (Tom Zé)
4 Carta (Tom Zé)
5 Pecado original (Tom Zé)
6 Lavagem da igreja de Irará (Tom Zé)
7 Pecado, rifa e revista (Tom Zé)
8 A volta de Xanduzinha [Maria Mariô ](Tom Zé)
9 Amor de estrada (Washington Olivetto, Tom Zé)
10 Lá vem cuíca (Tom Zé, Vicente Barreto)
11 Na parada de sucesso (Tom Zé, Vicente Barreto)

Arrangements by Otavio Basso


Reissued 2000 on Warner/Continental – Série Dois Momentos – Vol.15 (857384832-2)
Remixed by Roberto Marquest & Charles Gavin
Mastereed by Ricardo Garcia & Charles Gavin
Supervised by Tom Zé

This is the second volume that Continental dedicated to Tom Zé (Vol.14 is on its way!). According to legend, Estudanto o Samba was the album that introduced David Byrne to the music of Tom Zé, and it was understandably like nothing he had ever heard. It’s not just that Tom desconstructs the traditions of samba composition and playing — he actually does, in fact, put it together in a cohesive way in the universe according to Tom Zé. The album was undertaken in the spirit of a project of research. Based mostly in acoustic instrumentation, but occasionally incorporating found sounds from detuned radios or televisions or even the clacking of a typewriter. His unorthodoxy manages to be reverent at the same time, and if you need any proof you can look at the compositions he co-wrote with “respectable sambista” Elton Medeiros on this record, or the respectful liner notes written by Medeiros on the inner sleeve. As he relates, Tom Zé emerged from the University of Bahia’s conservatory of music, and in spite of critical praise upon critical praise, still hadn’t received the type of recognition he deserved (never ‘winning’ at any of the many festivals of song, for example). And although Medeiros doesn’t mention it here, the sales for his brilliant Todos Os Olhos, widely considered a masterpiece, were disappointing. “For this, without losing any time, he decided to create this album, where he looked to reunite the variety of rural and urban types and forms of samba, giving each song the presentation he found most adequate,” writes Medeiros. Elton also says that Zé had told him that if THIS album doesn’t “circulate”, this will probably end the “research side” of his career. And in a way his prediction was true. Although he never stopped experimenting, he never really attempted another project quite like this until the more recent ‘Estudando o Pagode’, with this album as an explicit reference.

Zé’s interpretation of the Jobim/Vinicius classic “A felicidade” is also one of my favorites out there.

Unlike his contemporaries in Tropicália, Tom only put out records every few years. I like to say that this is what makes his body of work devoid of the embarrassing discographical titles found in the catalog of a Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil. He has never released a bad album, and even his luke-warm ones are well worth your time.

CORREIO DA ESTAÇÃO DO BRÁS is not “luke-warm” by any stretch, but it has been somewhat ignored by those of us reappraising the career of this maverick genius (either because we missed it the first time, like most of the public, or — as in my case — we weren’t even born yet when he was tossing some of these early gemstones into the either). Although the album is of very high quality and consistently, it is overshadowed by the powerful bursts of creativity that went into his previous two albums, and so in a way it is understandable that it’s been overlooked. If you are looking to “turn someone on” to Tom Zé, this won’t be the album you will reach for first. But it’s filled with compelling music. It opens with the heavy social critique of ‘Menino Jesus’ that portrays a Northeastern migrant leaving his rural life for the big-city life in the south with its dreams and obsessions of consumerism, of battery-powered radios, of TVs, and wristwatches… The lyrics, composition, arrangements are all first rate on this record. The production is a bit slicker and professional than his other work from the 70s but nowhere near approaching the sterility that was beginning to afflict so much MPB of the time. More highlights are his reinterpretation of a traditional tune, “Morena,” “Pecado original” probably the most experimental cut on here, “Pecado, revista, e rife”, and “A Volta de Xanduzinha”, and “Lá vem cuica.” There is even something approaching a ‘brega’ on “Amor de estrada.” We are treated with a surprisingly tuneful Tom Zé throughout this album, on what might be loosely-called a concept record about a neighborhood in São Paulo comprised of primarily Northeastern immigrants, which in the liner notes he says on market days takes on the semblance of any small town in the northeast interior. It’s a record I would almost describe as “sweet”, and it would be another six years before Zé would make another album.

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