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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