“Verde Que Te Quero Rosa”
1977 RCA Records
Angenor de Oliveira, otherwise known as Cartola, was without doubt one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived. You don’t need the many tribute records with star-studded lists of participants to know this. You just need to listen to the man perform his own music. A founder of the Mangueira Samba School and the composer of their first samba, Cartola was a prolific composer in the 30s and 40s, with artists such as Carmen Miranda, Mário Reis, Francisco Alvez, and Silvio Caldas all recording his songs. He was esteemed by Hector Villa-Lobos, who invited him to visit with and perform for Leopold Stokowski when that composer visited Brazil in 1940 and wanted to know the “authentic” popular artists of Brazil. He recorded “Quem me Vê Sorrindo” on that occasion, on the S.S.Urugai! Cartola was also responsible for running the famous but short-lived samba venue Zicartola (a combination of his name with his wife’s, Zica, who ran it with him). Sadly, in a story all too similar to many a North American blues or jazz musician, Cartola himself dropped out of musical visibility and ended up working odd jobs such as a clerk for the Ministry of Agriculture and at a car wash. It was at the latter where he was “rediscovered” by a musical journalist and old friend who brought him back into active involvement with the music world.
A classic. An essential. A staple that your home should no more be without than rice, beans, or OxiClean products. And in fact in many Brazilian homes this album is just as common as arroz or feijão and is kept on the same shelf. (OxiClean, on the other hand, stays under the sink).
This album, the third long-player he recorded, was his first record for RCA, and features material ranging from 1958 up to its release in 77. The majority of tunes are written by him, some with cowriters like his old friend Carlos Cachaça. One exception to that is “Pranto de Poeta” written by Guilherme de Brito and Nelson Cavaquinho, with Nelson sitting in on the performance.
The record was produced by music writer Sergio Cabral. My first impression of this album, after hearing the first two released on Discos Marcus Pereira, was that it was too slick and overproduced. On subsequent listens I found it to be….. still too slick and overproduced. But I have to admit that it actually does not distract from the merits of the incredible songwriting and strong performances throughout. However, you can take a wonderful song like “Autonomia” and orchestrate it, open it with an intro on a (very well-recorded) grand piano, and it sounds beautiful. But you can also take it to its bare knuckles, like on the posthumous EP-length album “Documento Inédito.” It’s up to the individual preference I suppose, but I prefer the latter. As much as the album might be over-produced, nothing is *ruined* here. There’s no synthesizers, or rocked-out drums, or any number of other things that could have been done to mangle it. Sergio Cabral’s intention, as insinuated in the liner notes, was to give Cartola the magisterial, kingly treatment and carinho that so many felt he deserved. And the record successfully does that. I hesitate to make such a broad generalization, especially as an ‘outsider’ to a culture, but if there was ever an artist and songwriter in Brazil who seems to have left virtually nobody untouched in a deeply meaningful, emotional way with his music, that would be Cartola.
“Verde que te quero rosa” also has one of the best album covers of all time in any genre.
If you are still not convinced, watch THIS CLIP
Cartola playing the song “Os Dois” for his wife Zica, for whom he wrote it on the eve of their marriage. One of the many amazing moments in the documentary CARTOLA: MUSICA PARA OS OLHOS, recently released on DVD (finally!!).