Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light settings, sometimes turned off; 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.
There are dozens of Brazilian musical genres that are not only mostly unknown outside its borders but also fail to garner the respect of the gatekeepers of taste that comprise the music-critic establishment (with some notable exceptions). There are dozens of factors in their critical invisibility, and geography is one, but you could boil them all down to the Brazilian elite’s ambivalent relationship to “the popular,” a term laden with racial baggage and class distinctions, and the stubborn refusal of o povo (’the people’) to like what the gatekeepers tell them they are supposed to like, whether it was the CPC or José Ramos Tinhorão or others. It bears reminding the foreign cultural cybernauts here that the “popular” in MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) has nothing to do whatsoever with record sales (it comprises a relatively small portion of the total) or demographic distribution (its consumption is pretty solidly restricted to the middle classes upwards). The construction of the category itself is fascinating and, for the curious, I highly recommend Sean Stroud’s recent book. In all fairness, though, it’s also not as if every musician’s overriding goal was to get a feature interview in O Pasquim magazine either, or that the vast majority of musicians cared passionately one way or another if Tinhorão thought electric guitars were the Devil’s imperialist plaything. However, since the guitarrada of Mestre Vieira and his band (subject of this blog post, believe it or not) was played on amplified electric guitar, it’s no big surprise that it took years before the critics reluctantly took any notice.
In any event, in the late 1970s while the carioca middle class was at home drinking wine to their Djavan and Ivan Lins records, or out being seen at the Canecão, up in the north of the country there was a thriving music scene around the city of Belém, Para, and its environs: genres like carimbó and sirimbó, siriá, guitarrada, lambada and more. In spite of vowing to roll out some of this stuff over the last three or four years, I have been negligent in bestowing attention to it on this blog. There have been a couple stumbling blocks: first is that I find most of these records in average to poor condition from street vendors (the stuff is by and large “party music,” and thus typically much-played and poorly cared-for), and my obsessive-compulsive quirks – one of which is insisting on presenting the audio here in as good a state as I can get it – seem to get worse as the years progress. So I look at this pile of records, play them with their crackles and pops, and put them away again. The second major stumbling block is my own lack of context – hell, I still haven’t been to visit Belém! So what can I authoritatively say about what made these records resonate with their public, enough to sustain some of these folks with careers that spanned decades? How can I account for this “regional” music being popular enough to still regularly turn up on the sidewalks of Recife two thousand kilometers away and yet barely registering as a blip on the radar of most accounts about Brazilian music? Why does some of it sometimes remind me of Peruvian chicha, or cumbia or merengue, of soukous or calypso, or even West African jùjú music? Can I say such things without the musicological technical wherewithal and jargon to back it up?
I’ve resolved to put those qualms aside and just share some of the music. The impetus for this is profound, originating in a spiritual epiphany I had while under the spell of a viral video about goats yelling like people, while recording one of my podcasts, and deciding to play a song about a goat off this album. Serendipity! This is the second album by one of the founders of both the guitarrada and lambada genres (in fact he is pretty much The King of guitarrada), Joaquim de Lima Vieira, born on October 29, 1934, in the city of Barcarena, in the state of Pará. He is still alive and kicking too, here is a recent photo:
(this gorgeous photo on the bottom was taken by Luciana Medeiros, and I will take a wild guess and say it was probably taken inside Belém’s famous opera house.)
This is animated music and should be an interesting and even an exciting listen, especially for the guitarists out there. The rawness and rough edges are refreshing in an era when MPB had lost any shred of spontaneity and punk rock hadn’t quite arrived yet in Brazil to give folks a shot in the arm, with the band playing cheap instruments that have trouble staying in tune, and a vocalist to match. The only virtuoso here is Vieira himself and that is fine by me. The drummer cracks me up: half the time he engages in sloppy tom-tom fills that remind me of my first garage band, while the rest of the time he pulls off these bad-ass tight snare fills and turnarounds that sound like he’s been listening to ska and rocksteady all day. Check out the intense interaction with the guitar in Lambada do Maringuari (in the Soundcloud player below). He even injects some sambalanço into the final track, “Sambista Brasileiro,” which also features some tamborim (small drum played with a stick in samba music). A lot of the record is comprised of instrumentals, and of the tracks that do have vocals the lyrics run the narrow range of romantic/lovelorn songs (Mariazinha, Ela Voltou, Você Se Afastou de Mim) to humor and wordplay (Duas Línguas, Melô do Bode, and Maringuari, this last being about a creature that is sort of the Amazonian Bigfoot). Even the instrumentals have a sense of humor, with ‘Bicharada No.2’ featuring some guitar runs intended to evoke farm animals. I mean in terms of sonic resemblance, not as in evoking with a magic circle chalked on the ground and some incantations. That I suppose that could work too. Another good instrumental is the brega-seresta of “O Seresteiro”As I mentioned earlier, this record was pretty ‘well-played’ in its time, a polite way of saying it’s pretty beat up. (Check out that awesome seam split repair on the front cover!) This being the case, I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to clean up the audio (although probably a lot more time than you would believe after hearing it..). Do you really need this in 24-bit? Not really, it’s pretty certainly overkill unless you want to take a stab at going through it with a fine-toothed comb and cleaning up it better for yourself. But I offer it here anyway. Until I pick up a better copy, this will have to do for now!
QUERO VOLTAR PRA BAHIA
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)
6 Marginal III
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)
7 Chutando pedra
(Odibar, Paulo Diniz)
(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.
Brother To Brother
Let Your Mind Be Free
Turbo Records (TU-7015)
A1 Let Your Mind Be Free 3:28
A2 Visions 6:52
A3 Chance With You 4:46
A4 Phattenin’ 3:28
B1 Groovy Day 2:54
B2 Take My Love 6:07
B3 Leavin’ Me 6:17
B4 Joni 3:15
Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue
Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio
Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click
Repair light settings, sometimes turned off; 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
Bass Guitar – Jonathan Williams
Congas, Voice, Other [Special Thanks] – Craig Derry
Drums – Clarence Oliver
Orchestrated By – Sammy Lowe
Producer, Arranged By, Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Clavinet, Organ, Voice – Billy Jones
Producer, Piano, Synthesizer [Moog, Arp], Clavinet – Bernadette Randle
Voice – Billy Brown, Joan Abbott, Linda Parker, Tommy Keith, Walter Morris
Design , album artwork – Dudley Thomas
Engineer – Allan Tucker, Richie Corsello
Other [Special Thanks] – “Shag” Taylor, Al Goodman, Barry Diament, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Robinson
Recorded and mastered at Platinum Recording Studios, Englewood, New Jersey. All songs published by Gambi Music, Inc. (BMI)
A Division of All Platinum Record Group
Platinum Record Co. 1976
Doc Tucker Yes, Billy Jones!! [Etched “shout-outs” runout area A]
Bernadette Says Hi, Too Tucker [Etched “shout-outs” runout area B]
Imagine yourself walking into a decent-sized club in 1976 to catch a
Kool and The Gang show only to find out that the bus carrying the horn section was broken down on the highway a hundred miles away. The band perseveres and puts on a great show anyway. That imaginary scenario
is a little bit like what my first time listening to this record. But
it’s an unfair characterization, because Brother To Brother does have
their own sound, and could really write some great tunes. The lack of a horn section gives lots of room for
the other instruments. In particular this is an analog keyboard-lovers
wet dream. The band had two keyboard players (both of whom double on other instruments in this largely studio-based project), and there are lovely textures of Fender Rhodes coupled with
clavinet, Hammond organ, and even a dreamy Moog and Arp instrumental track. The
band is tight and lean but never showy, and there are a few long tracks that
really stretch out, like the languid Latin-Soul of “Visions” and the
fired-up funk of “Leavin’ Me” which was apparently released as one of
Why did these guys never make it big, or at least
bigger? Well I don’t know much about them. The group was based around multi-instrumentalists Billy Jones and Bernadette Randle. Their only big hit was a cover
of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Bottle”, which ended up on their debut album. Their albums were released on
the Turbo imprint which was part of the Platinum family of labels founded
by Sylvia Robinson, who also gets a co-writing credit on the only ballad
here, “Take My Love.” Platinum (sometimes known as “All Platinum”)
eventually folded but Robinson reemerged with the famous and seminal Sugar Hill Records. In 1976, the music world was flooded with
funk, making these guys just a couple more fish in a big ocean. I can testify that I have a lot of records with a few
great tunes on them but a lot of filler, yet this album doesn’t have any turkeys. “Chance With You” should have been a hit song, and “Leavin’ Me” is a monster although its length would probably keep it off the radio. And it gets better with repeated listens.
The only ballad on the album,
“Take My Love,” has a really nice vibe but could have used a bridge section to break up its
six-minute length. I think that’s a pretty minor quibble, though, especially given the obligatory inclusion of questionable ballads on funk albums by this point. The cluster of inverted chords in the progression gives this is a
nice midwestern-soul-jazz inflection. I dig it. The only other quibble is with
the mastering of the LP: there doesn’t seem to be any. I know that
here in the digital realm we tend to bitch and moan about digital CD
remastering. Well in this case we’re brought back to the original point of LP mastering in the first place –
to give the tracks more consistency as a whole and give it all that
little extra shimmer and magic. The tracks are all recorded and mixed
really well. In fact I really like the production choices. But some of
the tunes fail to “jump out” at you like they deserve. The obvious
concession for a shot at a crossover single, the Sly & the Patridge Family Stone-styled “Groovy Day” (the only song with horns, by the way), is the quietest song on the record, volume-wise. And the difference between the quietest tune
and the loudest tune on each album side is HUGE. These mixes could have benefited from being run through a good tube limiter, or at least some adjustments of overall track levels and a little
EQ to give the mixes some ‘air’ in the top end. Oddly enough, a young Barry
Diament gets a `thank you` on the album jacket, and he has an
engineering credit on their next album. Did he stop by the studio and
give them some pointers? Help set up their studio? Because this was
all recorded, mixed, and mastered in-house from the looks of it.
The song with the heaviest
“vibe” on the whole album is undoubtedly the Latin opium dream of
“Visions,” which must be why I chose to play it on my podcast a while back. I’ve come to just love this whole album.
A lot of variety on here. The last two songs have some incredible bass guitar tones, with just the right amount of over-driven amplifier, and the instrumental “Joni” features fuzzy guitar runs and a weird
Flabbergasted Freeform Radio Hour No.4 – May, 2013
Also, feel free to donate at Flattr or Paypal. I don’t like soliciting for donations but it occurred to me that a Premium account at Soundcloud would enable hosting a few of these podcasts together and simultaneously. Right now I am limited to 2 hours on a basic account, which means it’s necessary to delete each installment before sharing the next. But, you can also get the previous installments on the dedicated page here in case you missed them.
abraços, abrazos, besos, beijos, y xoxo
Doris Duke –I’d Do It All Over You
Wilson Simonal – Na Baixa do Sapateiro
Paulo Diniz – Quero Voltar Pra Bahia
Arsenio Rodriguez – Bruca Manigua
El Gran Combo – Las Três Marias
100% Pure Poison – Puppet On A Chain
Linda Lewis – Come Along People
Black Ice – Love Shakedown
Tyrone Davis – Let Me Back In
Little Milton – Woman You Don’t Have To Be So Cold
Charlie Mariano – F Minor Happy
Pete Rodriguez – I Like It Like That
Los Destellos – La Pastorcita
Lord Nelson – Immigration
Ary Lobo – Eu Vou Pra Lua
Caju e Castanha – Casamento do vovo
Syreeta – Tiki Tiki Donga
Richie Havens – Run, Shaker Life
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & Trinity – Indian Rope Man
Voices of East Harlem – Run, Shaker Life
Itamar Assumpção – Não Vou Ficar
A1 Spirit Dance A2 The Tenth Pyramid A3 John Coltrane Was Here A4 Ballad For Mother Frankie White B1 Samba B2 Unlocking The Twelfth House B3 Praise Innocence
Bass – Ray Drummond Percussion, Flute [Bamboo], Vocals – Baba Omson Piano – Ed Kelly Producer, Photography – Ed Michel Violin, Vocals – Michael White Vocals – Makeda , Wanika King
Engineers – Ken Hopkins, Rick Stanley Mixed By – Baker Bigsby Artwork and Photography – Philip Melnick
Pneuma (Part 1) 5:16
Pneuma (Part 2) 4:57
Pneuma (Part 3) 4:11
Pneuma (Part 4) 4:13
Pneuma (Part 5) 1:52
Ebony Plaza 9:18
Journey Of The Black Star 2:53
The Blessing Song 6:25
Bass – Ray Drummond
Engineer – Baker Bigsby
Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Piano – Edwin Kelly
Producer – Ed Michel
Violin – Michael White (2)
Vocals – D. Jean Skinner, Faye Kelly, Joyce Walker, Leola Sharp
If you are a person for whom jazz violin is an acquired taste, then the notion of “free jazz violin” will probably send you running or at least reaching for the earplugs. I confess that I am personally still grappling with the finer nuances of Leroy Jenkins and occasionally undergo a self-imposed “music appreciation course” at my house featuring his recordings. So you could say I appreciate the fact that Michael White’s music is not nearly as abrasive as Jenkins and in fact often crosses over into the downright accessible and melodic. White has a lengthy resume that includes sideman gigs with people as diverse as John Handy and Sun Ra, but it was his electric proto-jazz-rock band The Fourth Way that led me to seek out these two albums. Well neither “Spirit Dance” or “Pneuma” sound anything like The Fourth Way but if I felt any disappointment at that discovery, it didn’t last long. These are both excellent records.
Initially the listener is likely to be struck by what the records lack as opposed to what they offer – the absence of any horns whatsoever, as well as a traditional trap drum kit. The versatile percussionists (Baba Omsun for “Spirit Dance,” Ken Nash for “Pneuma”) manage to let you hardly miss the drums, and as for lack of reed or brass instruments.. well you’ll just have to deal with it, because the tonal palette is a bit thin in the upper register at times. The upside is that when he lost the horn charts, White gained not only a unique sound but also the flexibility that makes his avant-garde and free jazz flourishes more focused. Considering the technical designation of the piano as a percussion instrument, Michael White is often the only voice here that isn’t in the rhythm section, which liberates him to switch between riffing on melodies and freaking out at will. The stuff stays grounded, though – there are quite a few shortish compositions with audible roots in blues and gospel, and the group often leans more towards modal jazz than free jazz. Note the very brief use of an overdubbed violin at the end of the first track “Spirit Dance” here, too. The turgid tabla of The Tenth Pyramid reminds me of the few months that I took tabla lessons – is this in tintal? – but it only lasts for four minutes so if sloppy faux-Indian jazz annoys you then at least your suffering will be brief. “John Coltrane Was Here,” besides having a great smile-inducing title for a tribute to the late deity, is a lovely modal piece with the almost requisite quotations from ‘A Love Supreme.’ It satisfies your nagging curiosity about what a violin-jazz invocation of Coltrane’s spiritual vision would sound like. Now that you know, you can finally sleep at night. Again there is judicious use of overdubbing – is this cheating? I’m not keeping score so I’ll let it slide. Another interesting piece here is the unimaginatively titled “Samba,” which may leave you scratching your head until you hear the congas and the electric bass guitar whose notes accent the downbeat where the surdo drum would be. The abstract sandbox of “Unlocking The Twelth House” is a great closer for the album. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually end the record, but since I usually just skip over the last track, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – this is a great way to end the record. However if atonal wordless vocals sung by children are your thing, by all means crank up “Praise Innocence.” After all you may have been hoping to annoy your neighbors with this album, and up until now you may have not succeeded. This ought to do it.
I usually don’t listen to the two records included on this disc back to back, in order to “maximize their efficacy” or something like that. While “Spirit Dance” manages to keep things fun, “Pneuma” actually ranks a bit higher for me. It may be a bit more sombre but it also seems more fully-realized, like he went into the studio with a more single-minded approach to make a statement, as opposed to recording a collection of pieces. The original first side of the LP is comprised entirely of the “Pneuma” suite. For a spiritual jazz homage to the breath of life, it actually boasts a pretty traditional jazz arrangement, with each instrument getting equal time to lead the group after the primordial swells and slow, sustained crescendos of the opening. First White’s violin, then the bass (acoustic this time, which is a welcome choice), then piano, and finally percussion before wrapping the whole thing up. It’s pretty brilliant and if you are only going to listen to one “side” of this two-on-one release, I would pick this one. The second half of “Pneuma” is just as impressive, with the additional textures of vocal arrangements on “Journey of the Black Star” and “The Blessing Song.” The latter is just downright catchy and merits a place on a compilation of that ill-defined ‘genre’ referred to as “spiritual jazz.” It’s a beautiful and sweet resolution to the little musical journey Mr. White takes us on, which is one where his intensity is balanced by warmth that is often missing from these styles of jazz. Solid stuff. And check out The Fourth Way if you don’t know them.
Paulinho da Costa AGORA Released 1977 on Pablo (2310-785) OJC Reissue 1991
A1 Simbora 8:44
A2 Terra 4:23
A3 Toledo Bagel 5:50
B1 Berimbau Variations 3:50
B2 Belisco 6:54
B3 Ritmo Number One 8:27
Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).
Recorded at Kendun Studios, Burbank, California (August 6 through 16, 1976). Includes liner notes by David Griffin and Paulinho Da Costa.
Recording information: Kendun Studios, Burbank, CA (08/06/1976-08/16/1976).
Arrangers: Erich Bulling; Claudio Slon ; Paulinho Da Costa; Steve Huffsteter .
Paulinho da Costa (vocals, whistling, berimbau, tamboura, ocarina, congas, bongos, cuica, guiro, pandeiro, reco-reco, shaker, surdo, triangle, wood block, percussion, waterphone);
Octavio Bailly, Jr. (vocals, bass);
Claudio Slon (vocals, synthesizer, drums, water drum, timabales, percussion);
Larry Williams (saxophone, flute);
Gene Goe (trumpet, flugelhorn);
Mike Julian, Frank Rosolino (trombone);
Greg Phillinganes (acoustic and electric pianos); Lee Ritenour (guitar).
Nothing mind-blowing here but this is a solid record from a guy with a lot more album credits than he has records as a bandleader. Having played with Brazilian greats like Elza Soares and Martinha da Vila, by this time Paulinho da Costa was well entrenched in the slick LA jazz studio-musician scene. That slickness threatens to over saturate this entry on the Pablo label but Paulinho’s energy on percussion manages to pull it back from the brink more often than not. The opening “S’imbora” may not hook you immediately with its crystalline jazz-funk fusion but by the end of it you would be hard-pressed not to admit they are cooking something savory. “Terra” is one of two percussion-centric cuts here, this one consisting of a dinner-party Santeria or Candomblé groove; the other, “Ritmo Number One” is a samba freakout and easily the most energetic thing on the album. “Toledo Bagel” lets Paulinho prove his mettle as a salsero. “Berimbau Variations” is more than what its title implies. It opens up with an otherworldly swell of notes and features an interesting flute riff in a pretty tightly-composed piece clocking in a three and a half minutes. The band here are all more than capable but somewhat lifeless and restrained for the material, perhaps due to their California studio habitus they just can’t manage to break out. Keys player Greg Phillinganes (who has some sweet credits with Roy Ayers, Syreeta, Harvey Mason and others) gets some good runs on the electric piano but doesn’t really cut it playing salsa on the acoustic piano. Larry Williams (Seawind, Shiela E., Michael Jackson) has a nice solo on “Belisco” but elsewhere his playing tends towards nondescript. Steve Huffsteter (Willie Bobo, Shorty Rogers, Moacir Santos and many more) is under-utilized here in my opinion although he gets to employ his arranging skills to great effect on “Belisco.” Lee Ritanour is still Lee Ritanour. Drummer Cláudio Slon is a fine drummer and also played with Paulinho in Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’77 group, so it is kind of surprising that they don’t sound more ‘in the pocket’ here. I think the issue is the mix: Cláudio’s drum kit is tucked away under the other instruments, foregrounding Paulinho – it is his session, after all – but I think if they had pushed him forward a few decibels it would have given the tracks more impact.
All in all this is a strong record. His Pablo release “Muito Bem!” with Joe Pass gets a “pass” from me in spite of seeming like it might be a promising record. His second record as a bandleader, “Happy People” (not to be confused with the Brazilian-themed Cannonball Adderley album) is also pretty good.