It’s a Halloween DOUBLE FEATURE at Flabbergasted Vibes!
It seems as if, at some point, Goblin became the Game of Thrones of progressive rock: it’s cool to like them even if you’re generally dismissive of the genre. A revival of interest in this Italian group includes a burst of recent activity, including a few books about their music, a box set collecting six of their albums, and a concurrent (or was it subsequent?) reunion and tour. They are undoubtedly most famous for providing soundtracks for director Dario Argento, who worked extremely closely with them. As my friends can tell you, I’m much more of a music head than a cinephile, with yawning gaps in my cultural literacy when it comes to film. As such, I was familiar with these Goblin records without being familiar with the films. This includes even the hugely famous Dawn Of The Dead from George Romero, which I only saw last year for the first time. And just for this post, I got hold of a gorgeous Blu-Ray of Suspiria and watched it last night. The overall foreboding has not yet worn off.
The music that Goblin produced for these films is central to their entire aesthetic, the score is almost present as it were a separate character, having an impact on the plot more than providing a setting or acting as a reflection. This feeling of urgency isn’t all in my head, apparently, because according to the liner notes the music for Suspiria was actually recorded before they began shooting, and was at times blasted through PA speakers on the set to provide the proper ambiance.
Both Suspiria and Zombi are pretty nightmarish records. The sense of brooding unease never lets up. As on all their record, the group blends organic sounds (percussion and stringed instruments like lutes or zithers or dulcimers) with analog electronics (synthesizers, oscillators), whispers and shrieks and other creepiness. They’ll swing from the soundscapes called up from terrifying bad-trip psychedelia, then switch suddenly to a galloping jazz-funk jam that offers a way out of the dream, or a jaunty prog workout in an off-kilter time signature, anthems of chase or pursuit depending on your luck or misfortune, or perhaps some gentle acoustic guitar or mellow saxophone to lull you into a temporary state of relaxation. Some sort of throat-singing type chant provides the bedrock for another track’s dissonant organ chords and yammering, hallucinatory voices. Considering how cliché-laden the twin genres of horror and prog rock can be, it is kind of amazing how these soundtracks retain a sense of fresh unpredictability throughout them. There is a questionably “tribal” passage on Zombi seemingly meant to invoke white peoples’ fear of Afro-Caribbean percussion, or more precisely the ritual uses to which it often lends itself, but even that somehow manages not to cross over into tackiness territory. Overwhelmingly instrumental (there are obligatory wordless choral bits here and there, in accordance with the 1974 International Agreement on Horror Film Soundtracks), these two soundtracks work well as self-contained records, but when I finally saw the films they belonged to, they seem more fully realized and deliberate. Suspiria was actually the band’s second soundtrack for Argento, the first being “Rosso Profundo”, which is included in the box set on the Bella Casa label, as is the later collaboration for the film Tenebre. Two albums not related to films are also in the box – Roller (1976) and Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bargarozzo Mark (1978).
I’d like to thank my friend Cheshire Tom for sharing the box set with me and being okay with this post. I guess whether or not these two albums end up on your Halloween party playlist tonight largely depends on who you’ve invited over. See the comments section for more info. Regardless of how you chose to enjoy them, I advise you to keep some soothing tunes handy to follow them. I recommend The Best of Bread.
Lalo Shifrin is an artist I have wanted to post about here for a long, long time, and as often seems to be the case on this blog, his first appearance here is with a record that I “don’t recommend as the place to start” in his prolific discography. Not that there is anything really wrong with it – it’s just not a particularly significant thread in the many-colored tapestry of his career, in my opinion. But Halloween is upon us, and it’s a soundtrack for an iconic (if not particularly great) horror film, so let’s celebrate!
One reason why a Lalo post is long overdue here is because his oeuvre defies easy categorization and snubs its nose at any folks still clinging to notions of ‘high brow’ vs. ‘low brow’ in art. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, educated there and in Paris, but based in the United States for around half a century, one glance at his credits and accomplishments will quickly demonstrate that this guy does not need to pad out his CV to impress anyone. How many people can boast that they have worked with both Dizzy Gillespie and Dirty Harry? Bruce Lee and bossa nova? Cool Hand Luke and classical concertos? I’ll stop now before I alliterate myself to death, but the message is clear: Lalo Schifrin apparently is not the type to sit around twiddling his thumbs, and seems to stay compulsively busy. All of this soundtrack work was done while he also wrote, recorded, arranged, and performed on more “serious” records under his own name or with other artists.
Schifrin’s film and TV scores are known for frequently dropping some heavy jazz, funk, or Latin grooves in the midst of more orchestrated pieces. Well, we won’t be getting much of that here. The only groovers on this OST are the disco-tinted opening track, “Amityville Frenzy,” and the light-jazz/funk of “Juke Box.” They are both pretty horrific. Another thing Schifrin’s soundtrack work is known for is that you will often find some heavy hitter musicians in the credits. Well, we won’t be getting much of that here either. The truth is that I have no idea who plays on these two aforementioned tracks, but the ensemble playing is pretty generic, and in fact the end of “Juke Box” kind of falls apart completely. The rest of the tracks are orchestral works of the claustrophobic variety that you expect in a horror film, with subtle track titles like “Bleeding Walls,” and occasional creepy wordless female vocals. Oh and there is a little bit of Bach thrown in for good measure and as an excuse to bring out a harpsichord.
So, obviously, my opinion is that this soundtrack isn’t going to threaten Komeda’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” Penderecki’s work for “The Shining”, or a handful of other horror soundtracks that are works of art in their own right. But this topical and timely blog post will stand as a public Post-It note for Flabbergast to share some of Lalo’s more intriguing work in the near future. There is certainly no shortage of it. Otherwise, The Amityville Horror soundtrack is something of a rarity, never getting an official CD release. This vinyl rip is not mine, and in fact I can’t say anything at all about the lineage other than it was sourced from a French pressing of the LP (no info on the equipment used, etc.). But it sounds really nice and gets my thumbs up, and thanks to the mysterious and anonymous person who put the time into digitizing it.
Dolores Duran – Canta Para Você Dançar…
1957 Copacabana CLP 11011
2010 reissue EMI 967873-2
(F. Albano, P. Vento)
2 Por causa de você
(Dolores Duran, Tom Jobim)
(Kurt Feltz, Heinz Gletz)
4 Quem foi?
(Jorge Tavares, Nestor de Holanda)
5 Feiura não é nada
6 Que murmuren
(Ruben Fuentes, Rafael Cardenas)
7 Coisas de mulher
(Dunga, Jair Amorim)
10 Se papai fôsse eleito
11 Mi último fracaso
13 Only you
(A. Rand, B.Ram)
14 Estatuto de boite
Remastered by Luigi Hoffer and Carlos Savalla
Dolores Duran (1930-1959), not only had an unforgettable voice but also composed a lot of her best material. A central figure in the early bossa nova scene, she succumbed to the occupational hazards of the bohemian lifestyle, dying in her sleep from a heart attack at 29 years old after an evening of music, drinking, and barbiturates. Her lamentably short career left an solid recorded legacy but, having left this world so young, she is less celebrated outside Brazil than some of her bossa nova contemporaries who lived long enough to benefit from the global infatuation with the genre. Here is a recording of her singing a song she co-wrote with Tom Jobim, released in 1957 on the LP featured in this post.
But Duran’s professional career reached back before the dawn of bossa to when a nightclub singer had to be able to sing a little of everything and have a broad repertoire. That is reflected in choice of songs included here, which span foxtrots, boleros, rumbas, and of course samba. Stylistic variation blurs into cosmopolitan sophistication too, as you realize that she sings in no less than six languages here. In addition to her native Portuguese, she sings in Italian, Spanish, French, English, and Scat. I don’t speak all these languages and am in no place to judge her
elocution, but as far as music is the language of love I deem Dolores to
have been more than fluent. One fantastic track among these, which I highly recommend for your next dance party, is the French rumba number (how can you go wrong?) “Viens.” The only English song is a rendition of The Platters “Only You.” Here’s some side-by-side listening for you:
Oh and why the hell not, one more for good measure (sorry Ringo!):
I think Dolores’ version carries its weight quite well, and her English is lovely (although a Portuguese rewrite would have made it stand out more, and of course automatically make it more romantic, because it’s a Latin language, yo). Apparently Duran had none other than Ella Fitzgerald in the audience at one of her performances, who complimented her version of “My Funny Valentine.” Man what heady days to have been hanging around the nightclubs of Rio.
The notes assert that the selection is culled from the most popular numbers in her repertoire, tried and tested in clubs, on the radio, at festivals, in films, and wherever else she could perform. I believe it. Everything here is sung with an easy confidence and charm of someone who knows her audience. Her charm is so infectious, and her talent so seemingly effortless. In addition to the collaboration with Jobim above, she also interprets first-rate sambas by the Titulares do Ritmo (“Coisas de Mulher”), and Dunga with Jair Amorim (“Conceição, originally recorded by Gaúcho vocal group Conjunto Farroupilha but immortalized by Cauby Peixoto a year before Dolores’ made her version). There are two tunes penned by Billy Blanco here. The first is “Feiura não é nada” (or “Ugliness ain’t no thang”), a satirical take on vanity, the transformative powers of the cosmetic industry, and its noble fight to eradicate world ugliness. As far as I know the song was written specifically for Dolores to sing, which is the only way it comes off as humorous. Blanco is brilliant but the humor in this song bugs me a little as a write this, but perhaps I am a bit tender on the topic of chauvinist, machista humor lately. Have you seen the guy in the 50’s? Here, have a look at Billy:
It may be just because there is a currently a hedgehog with a hair-weave running as a
candidate for Leader Of The Free World right now, and I’m burned out on
casual sexism, but I don’t think Billy was in any position of aesthetic or sartorial superiority.
There is very little footage of her performing live aside from some scenes in musical chanchada films, but I can imagine her commanding a room with her presence. I also wonder about the impact of her passing on the other rising divas of the day. As young as Dolores was, she was actually five years older than contemporaries like Maysa and Alaíde Costa and, as we know, in young person time that made her, like, way old, dude. Was she a figure that these other singers looked up to, or were they rivals? I suppose I will have to read Rodrigo Faour’s biography to find that out.
Like many successful Long Player collections of the day, this one had a “part two” which I just may share with you in good time. Meanwhile, one last comparison. Here is Cauby Peixoto, before he became the inspiration for Austin Powers, singing “Conceição”, followed by Dolores’ version.
I don’t have a tremendous amount to say about this album, which is a collection of material from Inezita Barroso’s first few decades as a performer. But she passed away earlier this year at the dignified age of 90, and I have a few of her LPs on vinyl so I might someday digitize them for this place if there is interest.
Inezita Barroso was Brazil’s long-reigning queen of música caipira and traditional sertaneja, music from the rural interior associated with southern Brazil. This genre of music has a similar symbolic valence as other “folk” musics in other parts of the world, so naturally when she passed away there was a lot of eulogizing about how she represented the “authentic” and “real” Brazil. Born in São Paulo to a wealthy family, but spending much of her childhood on the many coffee plantations they owned, she was college educated, married young to a lawyer, formally trained in music – sociologically she was about as “caipira” as Pete Seeger was a freight-train hopping hobo. Having played in talent-show type affairs in theaters since she was a young girl, her first paid performance came when she was asked to interpret some songs collected by Mario de Andrade during his famous ethno-musicological field trips of the 1930s. That’s an old folk music “tradition” of its own: (re)presenting the music of rural people in a cleaned-up package, sung in dialect, that is more amenable to urban, middle/upper-class aesthetics.
But none of these musical ad hominem observations really matter too much, because she was indeed the most visible proponent and advocate for this type of music, and hence an inspiration to many less famous singers and duos to keep going. For thirty-five years, Inezita hosted a Sunday morning TV program devoted to música caipira called Viola, Minha Viola. She appeared in films and on the theatrical stage, and also did original research and wrote books about folklore. Her repertoire was not limited to only the the sertaneja music of the south but included folk songs from the center-west and further east around Rio and, naturally, the Northeast. In this college we have a very stylized version of Gonzagão’s “Asa Branca” that you can add to your collection of the umpteen versions of that tune. I like it.
Unfortunately this single-CD retrospective does not give even the bare minimum of information as to the provenance of the recordings – when they were recorded, where they appeared elsewhere. For that kind of detail, you probably want to look for the collection by the Revivendo label or else the 6-CD boxset released by Copacabana Discos that spans 1955-1962. Unfortunately this latter collection suffers from a case of severe sonic degradation due to heavy-handed use of ‘no noise’ filtering, leaving everything sounding like an mp3 you might have found on eMule or Limewire fifteen years ago. I haven’t heard the Revivendo collection, but while I’m a big advocate for the earlier releases of that label, in recent years they have also been sucking the life out of their audio with the blanket application of noise filtering. (Seriously guys, just leave the noise – recordings from the 1930s and 40s are never going to sound like they were recorded yesterday so just stop trying already.) I’m not sure when exactly things started to go all wobbly in their mastering practices, but their one Inezita collection (that I know of), titled ‘Ronda’, dates from 2005, so it could go either way in terms of quality.
So while the information included in this disc is nonexistent, the sound is actually quite nice. Highlights here include the humorous “Moda da Pinga,” more commonly known as “Marvada Pinga,” the tune “Meu Limão, Meu Limoeiro” whose sing-songy childlike verses were also recorded by one swinging cat named Wilson Simonal, “Prenda Minha” (also recorded by Caetano), “Tristeza do Jeca” (originally by Tonico and Tinoco), hell everything here is pretty good. I’m partial to “Engenho Novo”.
I had considered posting this CD to my dormant companion blog to this one, Flabbergasted Folk, because except for the fact that this is Brazilian, it might thematically fit better over there than it does here. But then I remembered that the drum beat from Engenho Novo was sampled by Racionais MC’s and decided it was okay to post this collection at Flabbergasted Vibes after all…
Check out the interesting development of this sertaneja staple, “Tristeza do Jeca”, which closes out this CD. Below I have posted the 1947 version of the song by the duo Tonico and Tinoco on the left, followed by another recording a decade later, in 1958, to the right. Below this is Inezita Barroso’s version, and then again another by Tonico and Tinoco performing it in the 1970s for the TV program MPB Ensaio. I prefer the earliest two from Tonico and Tinoco myself. The 1947 has a special sauce ingredient of Hawaiian-style steel guitar combined with a sanfona or accordion. Perhaps the guitar was played by my favorite Brazilian steel guitarist (because he’s the only Brazilian steel guitarist I know) Poli or Poly (Ângelo Apolônio), who would eventually make some sertaneja records of his own. The 1958 version is very different: it has a rhythmic baião-type lilt to it that could lend itself to some slow dancing. Unfortunately the YouTube clip cuts out halfway through the track but you get the idea.
Then there is Inezita’s version, played in a looser solo arrangement. It is interesting that in the 70s clip, they are playing the song more like Inezita’s rendition, which is maybe more “traditional” sertaneja. Is it possible that she influenced the way they played their own signature song? It almost seems like the reverse of a case of one staple of North American folk music – when Pete Seeger said he liked The Byrds more ‘modern’ arrangement of Turn, Turn, Turn more than his own and deciding to just start playing it their way at some point. Somewhere in my closet I have a CD recordings of all the MPB Ensaio programs, including episodes with both Inezita and Tonico and Tinoco. Perhaps they tell some stories about this, so now I will have to check.
So I’ve fixed a bunch of links on posts where people asked nicely. I do that sometimes, particularly when people have other feedback and things to say about the blog. Anonymous people who only leave a comment to say “link broken” and nothing else rarely get listened to any more. In fact those comments are likely to get an old post moved to the very bottom of the pile, because it irritates the shit out of me. I’m not your personal genie in a bottle, and last time I checked I’m not making any money off this blog. The people who actually read the posts are the reason I’ve kept this going for seven years. So, for y’all, here are some posts where I fixed stuff.
(note: The Black Ice post actually didn’t have any broken links, but a good friend pointed out that I left out a song from the 16-bit versions of it. So if you happened to have grabbed those, which are missing Track #8, you should probably purge it from your collection and start over with this version.)
Lead Vocals – Ada Chabrier, Nancy O’Neill, Rosa Soy
Piano – Carol Parker
Timbales – Susan Hadjopoulos
Trombone – Kathy Cary
Trumpet – Ellen Seeling, Trudy Cavallo
Arranged By – Luis “Perico” Ortiz (tracks: B1), Marty Scheller (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B2), Randy Ortiz (tracks: B4), Sonny Bravo (tracks: A3, B3)
Producer – Larry Harlow, Rita Harlow
Engineer – Irv Greenbaum, Mario Salvati
This curious little record seems like it ought to have a lot of great stories surrounding it. Maybe somebody will come by and tell us some in the comments section here, because there really is not a lot of information out there on the internet. When I bought it, I assumed that Larry Harlow actually played on the session, and I continued thinking that for a while before I stopped being lazy and actually read the info on the back cover. I have been noticing signs that I am getting old lately. One of them is that I do not religiously read album credits like I used to when I was a young lad, back before the days of being flooded with more music than we can possibly listen to in one lifetime. Another clue that I am getting old is that I actually enjoyed the hell out of a Dire Straits album the other day and thought it was pretty groovy.
So, the truth is that Latin Fever was an all-female group, playing mostly bi-lingual salsa but with strong inflections of latin jazz, soul, funk, and even some rock thrown in the mix by way of Bev Phillip’s plonky guitar solos. Nearly all the members had an
impressive resume as session musicians, but the idea of an all-woman Latin band was (and still is) rather unusual. One thing that immediately jumps out from the list of credits is that Latin Fever shared many members with another group of women that was shaking up expectations, the relatively unheralded soul-funk band Isis. In fact there is so much overlap that you could say they nearly form the core of the band. I love the first two Isis records, so it is no surprise that I took to this album right away. The soldiers from the ranks of Isis on this album are: Ginger Bianca on drums and Nydia Mata on congas holding down a solid percussive foundation; Ellen Seeling on trumpet, and Jean Fineberg on saxophone and flute. With the exception of Bianca, all these musicians also played on a bunch of records from the likes of Laura Nyro, Chic, Sister Sledge, Teresa Trull. Jean Fineberg also contributed vocals to some classic David Bowie tunes.
Latin Fever featured three lead vocalists, often switching up throughout the tracks, which makes it difficult to say anything about them as individuals. Ada Chabrier, Rosa Soy, and Nancy O’Neill all put in time as backup singers with Ray Barretto, Joey Pastrana, Fania All-Stars and Orchestra Harlow, among others. There is quite a bit of talent among the three arrangers as well (who, alas, are all men). The most impressive CV here is from Luis “Perico” Ortiz, who only arranged one track here which happens to also be my favorite on the album. As a trumpet player he appears on dozens of great records in the families of Fania, Vaya, Inca, and Allegre records, but as an arranger he also worked with all the greats, as they say: Hector Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, Sonera Ponceña, Mongo Santamaria, Roberto Roeno, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon and Ruben Blades, and naturally Orchestra Harlow. Also notable is the presence of Sonny Bravo on some arrangements, who has too many credits to name but in the years leading up to this record had worked with Tipica ’73, Charlie Palmieri, La Lupe, and Azuquita e Su Melao. However the majority of material on the album was arranged by a relatively unknown Marty Scheller, who has a much more modest list of credentials.While the first cut “Digan Que Si” is a reasonably strong opener, the record seems to take it’s time getting down to business. I can’t help but thinking that it was sequenced in a way that wouldn’t threaten too many male egos by having a group of ladies come out and kick serious musical ass, instead opting to ease the listener into the idea of female instrumental virtuosity. My first real “wow!” moment on this record comes with “Chirrin Chirran” which in my opinion could really have opened up the album instead of being sequenced as a deep cut at the end of side one. It’s the song that really ties together their whole aesthetic into one seamless bundle, with melody and hooks galore. I like it so much that it was included on one of my early podcasts here. I can understand why they didn’t want to open the record with it for the simple reason that it isn’t their own song, but a cover of a hit by Los Van Van. The original is classic, so I’ve linked it below (and check out that dragging beat on the drums). It is impressive how Latin Fever managed to turn it into a monster jam, complimenting rather than imitating the earlier recording. They flatten out the jaggedness of the original – which was naturally part of its appeal – but that seems to make it easier for them to stretch it out to jam-worthy lengths, and also add a verse in English of their own.One function of a great deep cut at the end of Side One is that it compels you to waste no time in flipping the record over, promising more treasures. And indeed things seem to open up a little on the second side, with the immediately compelling “La Mujer Latina,” which must have been something of an anthem for this group and a showcase in their live sets. It is the only completely self-authored composition on the album, credited entirely to Cuban-born vocalist Rosa Soy. Opening with only vocals and percussion that make the hairs on my neck stand up like an invocation to an orisha, it morphs from salsa into jazzy soul, at which point the lyrics begin to sound a bit like a self-help manual of affirmations and aphorisms I might find at Women and Women First bookstore (“show them you’ve got soul; proving you’re versatile / you’re mother and sister and friend in one”). I’m down with the message, though, because they are important sentiments, then and now. The song structure is just as progressive as the lyrics, with four distinct sections that do not repeat.
“Que Te Pasa Corazon” starts as a ballad and ends in a jam. “En La Habana” is a pleasant and uplifting nod to Cuban son music with a deeply grooving bridge section. “Our World” has a riff that reminds me of Chicago’s great tune “Beginnings” – I wish I hadn’t made the association because now I can’t get it out of my head when I hear this song and I probably just passed it along to you too, so sorry about that. It has kind of a disco-gliding-across-the-floor mid-tempo groove to it that almost gets kind of Vegas, before the band once again treats us to a tasty bridge that unfortunately isn’t given the time to come to a full climax before coming back into the final verse.
So what happened to Latin Fever? The liner notes promise more to come, and from the material here it seems like they were off to an auspicious start. One would think that having Larry Harlow’s name attached as producer and presenter would have helped sell records and draw attention. Rita Harlow essentially assembled the band, however, so there is an element of them being “artificially” created by management, drawing from a deep pool of studio talent. Perhaps there were personality conflicts we’ll never know about which kept them from continuing, or perhaps the members realized they could make more money as individual sessions players than as a group, especially since they were probably ceding disproportionate chunks of their income to the Harlows and to Fania’s Jerry Masucci. Or maybe there was just a lack of interest in the record and they gave up on the idea. DJ and music writer Aurora Flores remarks in the liner notes that all-female Latin groups were not completely unknown in the past, but were usually relegated to ‘novelty group’ status. And this LP seemed deliberately trying to avoid that trap, down to the choice not to put a band photo anywhere on the album that would tip off the potential record buyer that this was an “all girl” group. Hell, look how long I had it in my own collection without picking up on that. I tip my hat to them for not relying on sexual exploitation on an album cover to sell records – and remember how this was far more socially acceptable and common in the 70s – and refusing to objectify the women in Latin Fever. On other hand a tasteful group photo, even just on the back cover (I like the painting for the front cover just fine), might have not have hurt. This is a solid record with moments of real brilliance that seemed to hint at greater achievements ahead. It’s a shame they called it a day after this LP.