Various – Encontro Com A Velha Guarda (1976)

Diversos Intérpretes / Various Artists

Produced by Mazola
(LP/1976 – CD/1996)

01 – Saudade do passado (Mano Décio da Viola – Rubens da Silva) canta: Mano Décio da Viola
02 – Salário Mínimo (Hemani de Alvarenga) canta: Hernani Alvarenga
03 – Feliz é quem sabe esperar (Jota Palmeira – Noel Rosa de Oliveira) canta: Noel Rosa de Oliveira
04 – Ingratidão (Ismael Silva) canta: Ismael Silva
05 – Clara de ovo (Duduca do Salgueiro – Noel Rosa de Oliveira) canta: Duduca do Salgueiro
06 – É por aqui (Walter Rosa) canta: Walter Rosa
07 – Juizo final (Élcio Soares – Nelson Cavaquinho) canta: Nelson Cavaquinho
08 – Concurso para enfarte (Alvaiade) canta: Alvaiade
09 – Eu Vou Sorrir (Carivaldo de Morra – Iracy Silva) canta: Iracy Serra
10 – Reliquias da Bahia (Pelado da Mangueira) canta: Pelado da Mangueira

Here is a record that I’ve had in the cue to post for at least the last nine months.  The problem has been that this record is so good, every time I start to try and find something to say about it I feel unworthy.   This is one of the proverbial “desert island discs” and if I had to be stranded anywhere with only one samba album, this would be on the short list.  It probably even beats out that other amazing disc by a different Velha Guarda, Portela Passado de Glória.  So in the absence of excuses for delaying this post, I can only say “Feliz é quem tem paciência / Feliz é que sabe espera” (Noel Rosa de Oliviera)

This record features samba composers from the escolas de samba of Mangueira, Portela, Salgueiro, and Império Serrano.  All of these guys could be considered ‘godfathers’ of samba but of special note is Ismael Silva, frequent partner of Noel Rosa and co-founder of the very first samba school, Deixa Falar (Let Them Talk), and one contribution from certifiable genius Nelson Cavaquinho.

Occasionally I have written about one record or another and claimed that its only flaw was its brevity.  Given that the running time of the majority of classic Brazilian Long Players clock in right around the half-hour mark (this one is 29 minutes and 20 seconds!), this pithy observation was becoming a cliché.  I can’t fault anyone for brevity in an age where recording artists see fit to take at least a two-year break between recordings and then feel compelled to churn out tediously overlong records as if to atone for their absence.  This is a near-perfect album and I prefer it short and sweet than littered with filler.

From the first cavaquinho chords of “Saudade do passado” (Mano Décio da Viola, from samba school Império Serrano), the record takes on the auburn tones of a faded photograph that dominate so thoroughly they even bleed through the album cover itself.  It seems like no matter how far back you go in samba, somebody was always looking back further, commemorating and remembering, creating these perfect still-lifes of terça-feira de carnaval, the last day of carnival as the dust settles into Ash Wednesday.  These songs are a way of marking time as immutable as the lifelines of a tree trunk.  The poetry of the everyday fills nine of the ten selections, whether talking to us about the absurdity of trying to get by on Brazil’s minimum wage, or spinning tales of broken hearts, mágoas, being treated bad but putting up with it anyway because you adore somebody, and of course revenge real or imagined.  Many tunes exhibit what I might call a pragmatic melancholy, sad but never maudlin, and frequently with a dose of black humor like Alvaiade’s contribution here:

Saber sofrer                              //    To know how to suffer
Para mim é uma arte                //    For me is an art form
Mas aguentar você                  //     But putting up with you
É concurso pra enfarte            //     Is like a heart attack competition

… it’s better with the rhymes in it, in the original.

Ismael Silva’s song is great, with his voice that invokes the old days of samba when people sang without any microphones and plenty of vibrato.  Nelson Cavaquinho (card-carrying genius) brings one of his masterworks to the botequim table:  “Juizo Final” here is slightly less gratifying than the version on his own 1973 album, if only because here it is taken at a quicker tempo that robs it a bit of its stateliness.  Perhaps the big ‘deep cut’ for me on this record is Walter Rosa’s song “É Por Aquí.”  Rosa was a Portela stalwart and had a voice that was superficially reminiscent of Nelson, confusing me a bit the first time I heard this album.  He also had some heavy writing partners like Monarco and Manacéia, and has had his compositions recorded by the likes of Roberto Silva, Martinha da Vila, Elizete Cardoso, Zuzuca, and Beth Carvalho (who also recorded a great version of “Salário Minimo”).  A thorough analysis of this album ought to make a similar list for each of these great sambistas, because although each of them left a discographical legacy to greater or lesser degrees, where they really made their mark was as composers: leading their beloved samba schools to Carnaval victory with their songs, or providing the famous voices of MPB and samba with gems for their repertoires.  Many of these songs can still be heard at many a roda de samba.  Because music like this never dies.  The record ends in a slightly odd twist for one that is by and large an intimate affair:  a samba exaltação for Bahia and the city of Salvador, praising its illustrious churches, its acarajé, its candomblé, its Rui Barbosa; the first capital of Brazil, a symbol of national progress, and so on and blah blah blah.    A pleasant enough song (and sung by a Carioca, Pelado da Mangueira, not a Bahian), but kind of uninteresting. Although I’m unsure of the age of this song its zealous civic pride would fit naturally in the era par excellence for samba exaltação – the authoritarian, paternalistic, and uber-nationalist decades under Getulio Vargas.  It just seems an odd choice, given the short 29-minute running time of the record and the abundance of compositions available with all these guys in the same studio.  But I don’t want to be too hard on old Pelado – he wins HANDS DOWN the prize for best apelido (nickname, nome de guerra) and wardrobe of anyone on this record.  I really want his hat and shirt.  I think there is a better photo of him on the vinyl, now I will have to look and bring it here.

The album was produced by Mazola and has liner notes from Sérgio Cabral.
Immaculately recorded and mixed (on which count it scores points
on the tinny, thin sounding Portela album from 1970), this is one of
those rare titles where I own it both on vinyl and CD and I can say they
actually got it right  this time in the digital realm, retaining the
warmth and fullness of the original.  The music’s undying nature notwithstanding, the fact that this recording is
completely out of print is yet another example of malfeasance by an
industry that still views cultural patrimony as just another commodity to be extracted, packaged, and forgotten about.   I
guess the industry has been too busy putting together box sets for Cazuza or
whomever, to remember the sambistas they so gleefully exploited when classic samba was filling their coffers.

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  1. password:

  2. Beautiful writing as usual. Thank you for the music as well.

  3. You had me at "so goos". Thanks for the great write up. Listening now and so far it's excellent.

  4. damnit.

    Yeah, I never was one to pass up a goos record..

  5. this is fucking incrivel, flabber. brigadao.

  6. BTW – do you happen to have that Portela Passado de Glória for download?

  7. Its not here on the blog, but it could be. As should be obvious, I prefer to actually present these records when I have time to say something worthwhile about them. Otherwise this place would just be a repository of music, a supermarket for the curious — there are already more than enough blogs that serve that purpose, several devoted to Brazilian music. I won't name names but in my opinion, given the lack of context and what is usually horrible audio quality, I hope that someday those sites will become obsolete.

    I have quite a few posts I've been trying to get finished recently, but I'll make a note about the Portela record and try to get it here soon-ish.

  8. DA HORA Flabber!!! É bater na mesma tecla,mas aonde eu ia encontrar essa obra-prima pra vender ? Viva o download hahaha.
    Valeu irmão por mais uma bela ripagem!

  9. Thanks a lot Flabbergast


  10. flabber, do you think samba or sertaneja have more of the saudades for a time "before" this one, more nostalgia? it seems to me like samba has more; in fact of all the black atlantic musics – and i'll include hiphop and rap here – i don't see any genre that has more of that than samba. have you thought about this at all?

  11. Flabber, this is the first samba i've really listened to and it's fantastic! unfortunately, i have no idea of where to go from here? the genre seems so huge and intimidating, especially being that it's so culturally (and not being in english, linguistically) distant from me i have no idea where to start. I hate to be an amateur/ask obvious questions, but do you have any recommendations for where to go from here? if not records, then perhaps blogs/sites/films/etc

  12. Man, I am always asking for people to leave interesting comments, and here I get some and don't respond to them. Mr. Anonymous From Sept 9, your question is fascinating. I would say samba > than sertaneja in the saudades department. Thinking about it in terms of the Black Atlantic is provocative, though. I have to reflect on it some more. Sounds like you yourself might be doing a bit of that, maybe writing something interesting??

    Theo, I've been thinking about some recommendations for you over the last 48 hours and I promise to post a new comment tomorrow. Time for sleep now..

  13. Theo, sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. Yours is the type of question that sparks entire books, but I'll try to be succinct mostly because I'm short on time. Also, what appeals to you as a listener would largely determine what I would recommend, but since you fell in love with this fantastic record, it gives us a place to start.

    And I'll start with one word:

    Cartola. Although he wrote literally hundreds of sambas he only recorded four albums himself. The first three are flawless. I have posted 'Verde Que Te Quero Rosa' here on two different occasions and it's been struck down both times, so you won't be finding it here. Perhaps his records for the smaller label Marcus Perreira could drop by for a visit here, though.

    For others whose records should be more or less easily found if you search around, and who consistently recorded SAMBA as opposed to artists who worked in other idioms also —

    Clara Nunes. Her first few albums weren't actually samba but nobody really talks about those anyway. Anything from the early 70s on up to her tragic death is great, but the records 'Alvorecer,' 'Claridade', 'Forças da Natureza' and 'Guerreira' would be my, um, top four I guess.

    Paulinho da Viola, anything from the 60s or 70s. Nelson Cavaquinho (who is on this Velha Guarda album), again anything. Beth Carvalho, to whom Nelson was a mentor. Clementina de Jesus. Martinho da Vila, can't go wrong with any of his 70s records.

    Those names should at least get you started. There are also a lot of singers who made classic albums in the samba genre but also recorded in other styles, or in related styles like jazz-samba, bossa nova, or romantic music. Elza Soares or Elizete Cardoso have both recorded dozens upon dozens of albums, and while the majority are high quality stuff, mileage may vary on some of them. And depending on what you are looking for, picking up a random album by either of them may or may not satisfy you. I've been planning some posts by both of them for a long time, however, so maybe I'll try and move them towards the front of the 'to do' list.

    If you are in the US or Europe, you might be able to find a fairly recently album of the Velha Guarda de Portela called Tudo Azul. It was produced by Marisa Monte, who I generally don't care much for (and I've listened to all her records and seen her perform live… ultimately I just find her very contrived) — but she did a great thing in producing that record. It used to be relatively easy to find even in 'big box' stores in their world or Latin sections.

    The best English-language blog for samba is JThyme's listed in the sidebar, where you can find his cool compilations of 'Samba Showdowns' that bring highlights of samba in a variety of flavors. There used to be some good blogs in Portuguese but I'm not sure how active or well-maintained they are these days.. I confess I spend more time lately listening to my own collection than I do surfing the blogosphere, which is a shame because I always find new things but I have a backlog of records in my own house that I've hardly had time to digest. The old Loronix site (in English, but written by a carioca) was great but is no more — there is a site devoted to trying to restore his old posts with new links, but it's not the same. One place where you can find samba in a pinch is Um Que Tenha. I don't normally like to recommend it to people for two big reasons, a) no context or commentary and b) the sound quality is almost always pure shit. But in the supermarket or McDonald's mentality of a lot of internauts, those reasons don't mean much, so I usually just don't bother talking about that site. But it is rather encyclopedic in the sheer quantity of stuff there, so armed with a few names (like the ones listed above) you can at least get your feet wet!

    Thanks again for the comment and I hope you come back often! um abraço

  14. Love it! thanks for all those great albums!

  15. Bom mesmo é o "Encontro com a Velha Guarda"
    J.R. Tinhorão – Jornal do Brasil – 14/12/1976

  16. Pô, obrigado Edgard! O Tinhorão é um pouco fascista cultural e reacionário em muitos casos (por exemplo aquí, "esse moderno praga dos estúdios de gravação que se chama baixo eléctrico", rsrs) mas ele sabe seu assunto. Valéu

  17. Fantastic blog man! Great to see you back.When you get a chance could you re up this one?–sounds great.Muito obrigado stu from London UK.

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