Poly e Seu Conjunto – Saia Vermelha (1963)

Poly e Seu Conjunto
Saia Vermelha
 1963 / 1976 Continental

 SUKIYAKI  (Ei Rohusuke, Nakamura Hachidai)
BONANZA  (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans)
NÃO ME DIGA ADEUS  (Paquito, L. Soberano, J.C. da Silva)
É BOM PARAR (Ruben Soares)
LAMENTO BORINCANO (Rafael Hernandez)


 LA POLLERA COLORA (SAIA VERMELHA)  (Juan Madera, W. Choperena)
THAT HAPPY FEELING (Vento do Mar)  (Warren)
El Suco Suco  (Tarateño Rojas)
EL MANISERO  (Moises Simons)
PARA VIGO ME VOY  (Ernesto Lecuona)
Here is an album from Poly e Seu Conjunto, Saia Vermelha, probably from 1963. I say “probably” because the copy in front of me is a reissue on the Continental/Phonodisc label from 1976, and discographical info on Poly (sometimes spelled “Poli”) is hard to find – but two tracks off this LP were released as the A and B side of a single in ’63, so it’s safe bet. I speculated as to whether this might be a collection of material actually assembled in the mid-70s, but the brief liner notes and the fact that these songs sound as if they were recorded all around the same time and with the same musicians makes me stay with that bet of early ’60s.

Poly himself is somewhat enigmatic: a multi-instrumentalist, he was best known for his electric guitar and in particular, his LAP STEEL guitar work. A great deal of his recorded output preceded the arrival of rock and roll on Brazilian shores, years before the iê-iê-iê and jovem guarda movements would turn the use his preferred instrument into a lightning-rod for bitter polemic about cultural authenticity and Brazilian identity. Not having anything to go on, I can’t really speculate how his music was received by the Brazilian listening public, but I will hazard a guess that his work was astutely ignored by the music critics. His body of work from the 1950s and 60s demonstrates a stylistic willingness to record anything and everything that was on the hit parade charts of the day, from the popular Brazilian genres of samba-canção, música sertaneja, baião, boleros and ‘fox’. Which would make his records unremarkable amongst hundreds of others, except for the fact that his all-instrumental recordings often featured the lap steel – known as the “Hawaian guitar” in those days. I find myself making comparisons of Poly as some kind of Brazilian mix of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and Les Paul’s early records when he was experimenting with recording his guitar at different tape speeds. By the time the songs on Saia Vermelha were being recorded, Poly had also embraced early rock and roll (with a distinctly ‘surf’ edge), genres popular in Latin America like cumbia and rumba, and hit songs from Bolivia (El Suco Suco), Cuba (Para Vigo Me Voy), or Puerto Rico (Lamento Borincano). But the 78-rpm single which is duplicated at the outset of this Long Player sort of says all you need to know about this transnational genre-hopping musical musical chameleon/opportunist – one side featured the Japanese hit “Sukiyaki” which to this day is the only Japanese-language song to crack the U.S. top forty, and the flip side featured the theme to the TV show ‘Bonanza.’ His accompaniment throughout this disparate repertoire is usually comprised of some combination of string bass, piano, cavaquinho, acoustic guitar, accordion, and percussion.

Apparently Poly also worked for a time at Universal Pictures’ Brazilian studios as part of their orchestra, and this quite likely influenced his choice of songs. At least that’s the case for the last tune on here, known to most North Americans as “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” but which is given the title of “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You”, with the subcredit “as heard in the film “Assim Caminha a Humanidade.”) This struck me as so odd that I had to look this up, and learned that this was the name of the Brazilian release of the Hollywood film Giant (Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean) and that a song by the title “The Eyes of Texas” exists as the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin, sung to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

The best stuff here is when Poly is on the lap steel / Hawaiian guitar. In fact when he’s NOT on the steel guitar, the material can be kind of forgettable. Here are two of the stand-out tracks:

Não Me Diga Adeus


Lamento Borincano

I’m not crazy about the audio quality of this rip and I just may redo the whole thing someday. I’ve had three copies of this vinyl at one time or another and I can’t even be entirely certain which one I used for the source. While editing this I found myself getting annoyed, thinking that my stylus should have been cleaned better or something – however it’s quite likely likely that that the distortions are on the original record, since these 70s repressings on Phonodisc are sort of notoriously inconsistent, not to mention that at least portions of this LP were sourced from 78’s to begin with…

(Process) Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply, cork ringmat); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

Charles Earland – Intensity (1972)

Charles Earland
Released 1972 on Prestige
OJC Release 1999 (OJCCD-1021-2)

Happy ‘Cause I’m Goin’ Home
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Cause I Love Her

Charles Earland: organ
Lee Morgan, Virgil Jones, Victor Paz, Jon Faddis: trumpet, flugelhorn
Dick Griffin, Clifford Adams: tenor trombone
Jack Jeffers: bass trombone
Billy Harper: tenor sax
William Thorpe: baritone sax
Hubert Laws: flute, piccolo
John Fourie, Greg Miller, Maynard Parker: guitar
Billy Cobham: drums
Sonny Morgan: congas

Recorded February 17, 1972 at Englewood Cliffs, NJ, by Rudy Van Gelder

This is sort of a lazy post – I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m not going to say much about this record because I agree pretty much entirely with Doug Payne’s take on it. I’ll just mention that I kind of like the “needless fuzz guitar”, and that the Goffin/King Shirelle’s hit “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” gets a righteous soul-jazz treatment. Also I’d like to give some applause to Billy Harper on sax, whose own Black Saint albums are essential listening.

Published: August 1, 1999

For 1972’s Intensity, Charles Earland’s fifth of ten Prestige discs, the Mighty Burner seemed to be aiming toward something a little different than his usual collection of soulful tenor-organ jams. The presence of two songs from the rock group Chicago and a small trumpet-dominated horn section indicate that jazz-rock was the goal. The result, the LP’s four original tracks plus two tracks from the same date originally released as part of Charles III, is one of his very best.

Unfortunately, though, Intensity has the notorious reputation as the last recording trumpeter Lee Morgan participated in (done two days before his girlfriend shot him to death). But Morgan is perhaps the least notable aspect of what makes the record work well. His playing here – and elsewhere at the time – sounds rather indifferent, sometimes sloppy and far less stellar than the glowing commentary he offered up on a string of excellent Blue Note records throughout the 1960s (evident on his own lackluster “Speedball,” also included here).

What does stand out is Earland’s strong performances, especially on two lesser known Chicago tunes (“Happy Cause I Love You” and a “Lowdown” that is not Boz Scaggs’s more famous hit, as the disc’s liners imply). Both are punctuated for effect with a needless fuzz guitar. But it doesn’t detract from the attractive energy the Earland-Laws-Morgan triumvirate achieves.

Earland also contributes two of his own above average originals: the wonderfully melodic medium tempo swinger, “Cause I Love Her,” and the cooking “Morgan” (named after the fact of death, but neither a Morgan feature nor specifically dedicated to him).

One notices, too, the interesting sound spectrum engineer Rudy Van Gelder achieves here. The occasional trumpet punctuation (arranged by Earland and the underrated trumpeter Virgil Jones) shimmers, even though its glory-hallelujah harshness seems a bit overheated. But the combo tracks are superbly captured. Compare the sound here to any one of Laws’s Van Gelder engineered CTI dates. Then listen to any one of Morgan’s Van Gelder engineered Blue Note dates. The difference is remarkable. Unfortunately, though, Billy Cobham’s exceptionally vibrant drumming sounds as muffled and in-the-next-room as too many Van Gelder sessions did during that time.

The Prestige records Earland made between 1969 and 1974 remain his finest work. Intensity certainly ranks among the best, capturing a fine player at the very top of his game and easily recommended to those who seek meaningful organ jazz and of equal appeal to fans of the ever-diverse Hubert Laws.

Noriel Vilela – Eis o "Ôme" (1969)


Noriel Vilela
Released 1969 on Continental CLP 11565
Reissue 2011 EMI/COPA 0095

1 Promessado
(Carlos Pedro)
2 Saravando Xangô
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
3 Só o Ôme
(Edenal Rodrigues)
4 Meu caboclo não deixa
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
5 Pra Iemanjá levar
(Delcio Carvalho)
6 Samba das águas
(Josan de Mattos)
7 Eu tá vendo no copo
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
8 Acredito sim
(Avarése, Edenal Rodrigues)
9 Peço licença
10 Cacundê, cacundá
(José de Souza, Orlando)
11 Acocha malungo
(Sidney Martins)
12 Saudosa Bahia
(Noriel Vilela, Sidney Martins)


Here’s a genuine relic. The sole album from the somewhat mysterious Noriel Vilela. It seems that not a whole lot is known about him. He had a basso profundo voice. He sang with a vocal group in the early 60s, Nilo Amaro e Seus Cantores de Ebáno, whose American doo-wop and gospel-influenced songs featured a huge all-black chorus where he sang alongside three baritones. The group only recorded one 78 and one long-player that I know of, and it was Noriel’s memorable bass voice that carried their biggest hit, “Leva o sodade,” where he sang lead on two verses.

After the Cantores de Ebáno kind of dropped out of circulation in the mid to late 60s, Noriel attended to his family and his job as a machinist, until being encouraged to approach Continental Records about recording his own album.

The result couldn’t be more different than the music of Nilo Amaro. The album is a nonstop upbeat blast of sambalança , samba-rock, and sometimes just plain samba. Accompaniment of funky sixties organ, drums, brass and woodwinds, and an occasional electric guitar that gets a solo on the finale. Smartly there is some baritone sax and bass clarinet to play off of Noriel’s voice. And the lyrics of pretty much every tune treat themes tied to the syncretistic Umbanda religion of Brazil. Devotional prayers to the orishás Xango and Iamanja never swung so hard as they do here. The title track is loaded with the mystique of crossroads vows, cocks crowing at midnight, and getting your problems resolved with, um, a little help from your friends. It’s a scorcher of a tune. Then there is the fairly straightforward sambas of “Meu caboclo não deixa” and “Acredito sim,” which is a simple but effective proclamation of faith in an often stigmatized religion. Which brings me to another interesting thing about this record. In the late 60s and throughout the 70s there was something of a niche market for umbanda records. All the ones I’ve come across were on small labels or specialized subsidiaries of larger labels. They tended to feature mostly batuques, traditional or stylized recordings intended for ceremonial contexts even if listened to for leisure on a hi-fi. There were exceptions, like the album I borrowed from a friend that has a swinging cover of “Jesus Cristo” by Roberto Carlos. But mostly it’s ritualized, ceremonial music, and not shot through with swinging pop elements like this album from Noriel Vilela. Of course, the genre of samba has a rich symbiotic relationship with the terreiros of Afrobrazilian religious traditions, and references both subtle and explicit can be found throughout the history that music’s sung poetry. But this album isn’t straight up samba. In fact it seems more aimed at the discotheques than the botequins. So although the title cut may have been a hit, there was probably a limit as to just how far a record like this could penetrate the mainstream, and it almost surely was regarded as something akin to novelty-music or kitsch by the snobbish gatekeepers of MPB at the time.

Perhaps it’s telling that Noriel’s biggest hit had nothing whatsoever to do with umbanda. It was also not even on this LP. Released only as a single, his rendition of Tennesee Ernie Ford’s hit “Sixteen Tons” was a smash and has become something of a cult hit over the years. Here it is on Youtube

16 Toneladas

As you can hear, it’s pretty badass. The lyrics also have nothing to do with the original from Ernest Ford (via Merle Travis), but are just a celebration of how groovy and badass their samba and sambalança is.. If the producers of these reissues had any sense it would have been included here. Probably a complication with publishing rights or the desire not to pay them by the record execs.

Because Noriel has nothing to say on the subject. He died young in 1974, apparently from an allergic reaction to anesthetic at a dentist’s office. His recording career seemed to already have been at a standstill by then, but I’d like to think that if he’d lived longer he would at least have been cast in the role of a singing frog in an animated film. At least, that’s often the bizarre image that pops into my head. An animated frog singing about umbanda.


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