Tim Maia – Disco Club 2018 Mr. Bongo MRBLP156/ Original release 1978 Atlantic (Brazil)
I am making this blog post on May 31 so that it cannot be said that the first six months of 2020 did not have any Brazilian content whatsoever from Flabbergasted Vibes. I guess I have been kind of ‘down’ on Brazil lately – fascism has run / been running amok there and the Covid situation is just heartbreaking. Something’s got to change. But today is a holiday in the U.S. and the unofficial start of summer, so in case your BBQ needs a soundtrack, here’s a fun Tim Maia album. If you are totally new to Tim Maia, I personally wouldn’t pick Disco Club as an introduction. Not because I have a problem with the disco sound of a few tunes (and there are lots of soul tunes and a couple of funk slammers too, in case you have an irrational aversion to disco). Actually the first two tunes are an unapologetic-ally commercial take on disco without any of the underground currents or ripples which make that genre interesting, though ‘Ascendo O Farol’ scored a big hit for Tim. But putting that aside, mostly I just don’t get as excited about this album as I do about most of his other records made both before and after this one. Lots of people love the record though, so YMMV. Contributions from Hyldon and Cassiano (who died this year from Covid-19) help keep things lively. Worth having just for ‘Sossego’ alone, but there are lots of great songs here. Continue reading
Jards Macalé – Jards Macalé
Vinyl rip in 24 bit 96 khz | Art at 300 dpi
24 bit 96 khz – 927 MB | 16-bit 44.1 khz 235 MB
Polysom 33124-1| Released 2012 (Orig.1972) | Brazilian / Post-Tropicália / Samba / Soul – Funk
This record seems to fit the mood right now. It is, somehow, a demonstration of how to remain calm while everything falls apart around you. Brazil is very close to electing an right-wing extremist so repugnant that I don’t even want to name him here, and the US senate is poised to send the definitive reaffirmation, backed by a few thousand years of patriarchy, that women are still the property of men and do not deserve to be heard in the public sphere. There might not be anything specifically political about this record, but it captures a kind of quiet perseverance, wrapped in melancholy, that are in so many of the best records from this period – the worst, most repressive years of Brazil’s military dictatorship. Continue reading
“In the early hours of this Wednesday (8th of February), singer and composer Orlandivo passed away at 79 years old. Family members made the announcement, but did not communicate any further details, such as cause of death or the locations where the wake and burial of the artist would occur. Author of more than 200 songs, for enthusiasts of his work Orlandivo had interpreters of such caliber as Jorge Ben Jor, Dóris Monteiro, Wilson Simonal, Claudette Soares, João Donato, Elza Soares, and Ângela Maria. Among these several hundred songs, full of swing and irreverence, are classics like Tamanco no Samba, Bolinha de Sabão, Samba Toff, Onde Anda o Meu Amor, Vô Batê Pá Tu, and Palladium. In spite of such a strong resumé of hits, and for being considered by the bohemian carioca crowd as the King of Sambalanço – a highly successfully musical sub-genre of the 1960s with roots in bossa nova, jazz, and Latin rhythms – Orlandivo remained practically unknown by the great majority of the country. A Catarinense native of Itajaí, after a brief period in São Paulo, he went to live with family in Rio de Janeiro at 9 years of age. At 6, he had contact with this first musical instrument, a harmonica given to him by his father, who traveled the country and Europe on ships in the Merchant Marines – according to him, his uncommon name must have come from this, probably a corruption of Orlandini, seen when his father would make frequent voyages to Italy. A great inspiration as a vocalist for Jorge Ben Jor at the beginning of his career, Orlandivo made it big in the period 1961/62, a time when he reigned absolute as the crooner of the group led by organist Ed Lincoln. In 1962, he released his first LP, A Chave do Sucesso, on the Musicdisc label, a title that made an allusion to one of the composer’s characteristics, the use of a key-ring as a percussive instrument. In 2013, the cult-favorite self-titled album released by Orlandivo in 1977, with arrangements and collaborations with João Donato, was one of the 50 albums highlighted in the column Quintessência.
ORIGINAL ALBUM LINER NOTES:
After a few years only producing albums, Orlandivo changed his path. After all, who else in the country could make the “sound of Divo.” He is back at it again, younger than when he was mere lad, more experienced, knowing much more about things, with that certain sauce and that swing that helped to create his style. Orlandivo sings simply and easily, so simple that it seems easy to sing, so easy that it motivates us to also try. But woe to whoever tries to imitate him. No, my brother! Orlandivo is Orlandivo , personal, particular, non-transferable, alive, malandro, sly, so in tune he’s uncool, rascal doing his own thing. I don’t know if the locksmith is still in business, but I guarantee that the one in his hand is the key to success. That’s it! It was good luck for those people who, during this time, lived depending on his songs. Now, I don’t know! He’s making them himself, singing them himself. Better for you, getting you back fresh as a daisy, this really cool guy who sings as well as we think we sing when we’re in the shower. Thank you, Divo, for coming back with your good vibes. We were needing you.
20.11.76 Chico Anísio
A lot had happened in Brazilian music between the last time Orlandivo fronted a group back with Ed Lincoln, and this tremendous collaboration with João Donato, who blessed it with his Midas touch that was on quite a golden streak at the time. All the musical movements between those years seem to be celebrated here with an easy joy, sounding contemporary (both then and now), but with no real concern with genres or trends, searching – as he might put it – for the Brazilian sound anywhere he finds it. The overwhelming theme here, at least for me, seems to be texture – and that is no small measure the work of João Donato. Donato coaxes smooth and amicable aural shapes out of components that tend to have rough edges. The keyboards are softer, the Farfisa tone on Tamanco No Samba sounds like a few resistors were removed to make the sustain sputter out a little early. Sometimes when listening to this, my memories go back to the times I had to eat steak with a spork in the sanitarium, because we were not allowed to have any knives for safety concerns. It was awkward at first, but ultimately some of the best steak I’d ever eaten. From shout-outs to Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil (the ‘Bengil’ of the second track) to the groovy accordion of Sivuca on Gueri Gueri, everything here has a very digestible flow to it. Another chance to point out Donato’s arranging genius is his instinct to resist the obvious – he uses Sivuca on the aforementioned Gueri Gueri, but not on the actual forró song here, Juazeiro, where you might expect him to be trotted out. The album injects some of his classic hits in between new material, with many great contributions from his main writing partner Durval Ferreira. Yes, Orlandivo does sort of sing “like nobody’s listening”, like we all do in the shower, or like when I am trying to impersonate João Gilberto and failing. The record ends on an appropriately dreamy reading of the classic bossa nova anthem Felicidade. I remember thinking to myself, “Why?”, the first time I heard it. But the answer is more than a simple “why not?”. It’s an appropriately subtle conclusion to what is an understated capstone in the discography of one of first great musical masters to leave us in 2017.
1 Mandamentos Black 2 Just For You 3 Andando Nos Trilhos 4 Esse É O Nosso Black Brother 5 Swing Do Rei 6 Hereditariedade 7 Foi Um Sonho Só 8 Uma Chance 9 God Save The King 10 Blows
I’m wasn’t planning on writing at length about this album, but November is ‘Black Consciousness Month’ in Brazil. I’m running out of time to post a record in solidarity, and recent events in AmeriKKKA have left me feeling pretty shitty today. So why not spread some cheer? Mind you, it is kind of ludicrous that there even *needs to be* a “Black Consciousness Day” in the one country that has the most people of African descent outside the continent of Africa, but there you go… The actual holiday was November 20th, to mark the date in 1695 when the ex-slave and quilombo leader Zumbi of Palmares was beheaded. The commemoration itself wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for some serious grassroots mobilization that went on in the 70s. In short, it means different things to different people, it has its problematic aspects, but it’s definitely worth some respect.
One could say the same about Gerson King Combo, actually. I sometimes think I’m in the minority in my opinions about Gerson King Combo, but then again at some of my friends share them so maybe I’m not such a freak. Let me start by saying I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Gerson perform live four or five years ago at the Mercado Eufrásio Barbosa in lovely Olinda, and the guy is still quite a showman and force of nature. I have no regrets about making that show, none at all.
But his actual records present an uncomfortable thing for me – I often find myself wishing I could just listen to the Combo swing their thing without Gerson singing on top of them. The band is tight as hell and the arrangements are smart and engaging. But as someone who’s been a big James Brown fan since I was twelve years old, it’s hard not to break out laughing when I hear Gerson shouting “good God!!!”.. Most of the funk jams on the record don’t feature him singing so much as vocalizing, occasionally bursting into exclamations of “aaachk-ck-ck-ck-ck-ck-aaaack owww!!” To me it almost begins to seem like a parody, as if Gil Brother was fronting a band in the 70s. Oddly enough when he does some soul ballad crooning, like on “Foi um sonho só,” he’s not a half bad singer at all, even if he’s certainly no Tim Maia. But on the dance-floor rump shakers, I find his vocals kind of distracting and in constant danger of giving me a case of incurable giggles. I think it’s fair to say that Gerson King Combo’s importance lay more in the role he played in iconography of the Black Movement of the time, whether as a performer or as an immediately recognizable sound when a DJ put on one of his records at a baile. He cut an imposing figure, and it’s a case where the attitude and image were inseparable from the music.The significance of that shouldn’t be underestimated, but his recorded output and legacy does not cast the long shadow that many of his peers can claim.
The opening cut, “Mandamentos black,” is a classic of the genre. And there is lots of other fun stuff here (Swing do Rei, Hereditariadade, Uma Chance are all winners), and some socially conscious lyrics in the middle of it all. Even my ears eventually “adjust” to Gerson’s voice when I’m in the mood for this album. But still, if anyone uncovers a tape of the all-instrumental mixes, please send me an email, okay?
Because a neo-colonial gringo record label released a compilation of Tim’s material a while ago, heavily promoted by hipster-indie icons to sell CDs and overpriced vinyl to the trendy gentrifiars of American urban spaces, all of my Tim Maia blog posts got shut down on the same day. I am reposting them for historical, archival purposes complete with my inane writings of the time they were originally posted. Make sure to read all the appreciate comments and you will thank me later.
1 Pense menos
(Paulo Ricardo – Tim Maia)
2 Sem você
(Paulo Ricardo – Tim Maia)
3 Verão carioca
(Paulo Roquete – Reginaldo Francisco – Paulo Ricardo – Tim Maia)
4 Feito para dançar
5 É necessário
6 Leva o meu blue
7 Venha dormir em casa
8 Música para Betinha
(Carlos Simões – Reginaldo Francisco – Paulo Ricardo – Tim Maia)
9 Não esquente a cabeça
(Carlos Simões – Tim Maia)
10 Ride twist and roll
11 Flores belas (Instrumental)
12 Let it all hang out
Tim Maia – Vocal, drums, congas, acoustic guitar, percussion
Paulo Ricardo R. Alves – 6 and 12-string guitars, vocals,
Reginaldo Francisco – Acoustic and electric piano, organ, arp, vocal
Paulo Roberto R. Nazareth – guitar & vocal
Carlos Simões – bass
Geraldo – trumpet
Darci Seixas – trombone
Sebastião – alto saxophone
José Mauricio – guitar, vocal
César Fernando – congas, vocal
Paulo do Couto – cowbell
Guto Graça Mello – string arrangements
Production, horn and vocal arrangements – Tim Maia
Released on Som Livre 1977, reissue
According to Nelson Motta’s biography of Tim Maia, “Vale Tudo,” this record had a working title of “Verão Carioca” and marks the period where Tim began imbibing large quantities of coke. Whatever, Motta’s book is in fact poorly written, lacking any kind of sources, or even a comprehensive discography (or a partial one, for that matter). What is for certain is that this is the record where disco begins to be felt in his music in a positive way. Rug burners like “Feito Pra Dançar” nestle alongside heavy funk like “E Necessario.” Another highlight is “Não Esquente a Cabeça” which has memorable hooks and melodies, and tasty electric piano and guitar work over a smokey post-bossa pan-latin groove. It’s probably the catchiest song on here. This is prime material by polymath Tim Maia — producer, multi-instumentalist, and arranger on this record.
Motta does relate an anecdote about the rehearsals for the album, when there was construction going on right next door and all the songs ended up being arranged to the tempo of a jack-hammer. There is a reference to this on the ‘thank you’ section of the original album’s back cover.
Caetano Veloso and Banda Black Rio Bicho Baile Show (1978)
1. Intro 2. Odara 3. Tigresa 4. London, London 5. Na Baixa do Sapateiro 6. Leblon via Vaz Lobo 7. Maria fumaça 8. Two Naira fifty Kobo 9. Gente 10. Alegria, alegria 11. Baião 12. Caminho da roça 13. Qualquer coisa 14. Chuva, suor e cerveja
Producedy by Caetano Veloso and Banda Black Rio. Recorded by Mazola at the Teatro Carlos Gomes, Rio de Janeiro, 1978
Long-time readers of this blog may be surprised to see this post, because there seems to be a mistaken assumption that I somehow strongly dislike work of Caetano Veloso. This is not true but is a direct result of my “trolling” the public, and particularly the gringo public, by saying that I in general I would rather reach for a Jorge Ben record, any day of the week, over most Caetano records. That statement was actually about Jorge Ben and the degree to which his music has not been regarded as “culturally significant” art as has someone like Veloso, but the ensuing comment thread turned into something completely different. I still stand by the original statement, but I gave up “trolling” in my New Years Resolutions, so why not let’s have a blog post that treats Caetano a bit more seriously than all that.
In recent years it is not uncommon to hear fans of Caetano employing a “you have to be able separate the art from the artist” argument, which puts him in the same uneasy company as famous film directors accused of child molestation or rape, so I’m not sure if that is a line of reasoning that works for him in the long run. And the fact is that this kind of compartmentalization might be more valid if the man himself didn’t insist on being such a public figure, and continuously baiting the Brazilian public with polemical statements. Why can’t he just be the reclusive genius I want him to be? Well, if he did that, then he also wouldn’t really be Caetano. Fair enough. But artists who make a point to that kind of high profile are also fair game for a little malicious snark from the likes of bloggers, especially when these artists start spouting reactionary inanities and conservative bullshit. Granted he has not gone all Ted Nugent or anything (yet) but in the words of one Frank Vincent Zappa (in self-parody), “shut up and play your guitar” already. Even Caetano’s own mother wished he would shut up and stop giving interviews. I could ignore his provocations more easily if it didn’t seem partly a maneuver to stay “relevant” in the public eye long after his stopped creating music of any real consequence, records that more often than not are embarrassing to listen to, with attempts to sound contemporary by singing Nirvana songs, or “rapping” on his mediocre ‘Tropicália 2’ record with Gil, or be “alternative” by channeling 1980s U2 in a record made in the late-2000s. When Bob Dylan suddenly converted to evangelical Christianity, he made a fantastic gospel-tinged album, so it was easier for me to swallow whatever nonsense was going on with him personally. Perhaps this will sound laden with “ageism”, but flailing around on stage like a ragdoll and writhing on stage in near-fetal position (c.f. the film of Phono 73, his performance of “Asa Branca”) is perhaps edgy performance art when you are in your twenties and its 1973 (emphasis on “perhaps”, by the way), but running around the stage and out into the audience and high-fiving audience members like some kind of faux-Tropical-Springsteen when you reach your 60s just seems kind of desperate (c.f. Caetano on his tour for the album “Cê”
Iconoclasm has always been a major weapon in Caetano’s trick bag, and for the most part it has served a useful and important function, engaging with contemporary debates about culture and authenticity and subverting orthodoxies. He did this during the televised song festivals when he and Gilberto Gil “went electric” in the moment of Tropicália, angering cultural nationalists who thought of electric guitars as weapons of imperialism; He did this during the Phono 73 concert by bringing Odair José, a famous singer of so-called “low quality” romantic pop-rock or brega on stage for a duet of one of Odair’s big compositions of the day; and he did it with his album Bicho from 1977 and the live show that promoted it. Now regarded almost universally as a classic of 1970s post-Tropicália MPB, it may be difficult for the outsider to fathom how it could have caused controversy or polemic in it’s day. Many critics and cultural gatekeepers seemed to hate it. In an echo of complaints from similar quarters ten years earlier, objections were raised to his appropriation of “foreign” sounds, in this case funk or disco (sort of, but only from a disco-phobic perspective). In fact both Bicho and Gilberto Gil’s Refavela were inspired by a trip to Lagos, Nigeria, for the Festival of Black Arts in 1977. Gil’s record has a proto-world beat sound to it, and is celebratory, energetic, and uplifting in the way you might expect. Bicho on the other hand tended to be more ponderous, sonically murky, and emotionally mood, but also full of inspired songs with engaging arrangements and brilliant lyrics (this goes without saying for Caetano, and is the one saving grace on even his most musically stale records). (** see the important note at the bottom if you’ve never heard this album..)
I’m not sure how much of the live show for Bicho was planned before the album was released, or if the show was Caetano’s way of upping the ante even further with his detractors. For his backing band he chose the ensemble Banda Black Rio. Now, I happen to like Banda Black Rio quite a bit, but once again here was a group that challenged what it meant to make “Brazilian music” and had some commercial success while doing it (which music critics from seemingly all countries repeatedly used to marginalize or ignore certain kinds of music during the 70s and 80s). Stylistically they shared as many similarities with Earth Wind and Fire or The Crusaders as they did with Dorival Caymmi, making largely instrumental records filled with jazz-funk-fusion which they tempered with dendê and coconut.
I remember when I first heard about the existence of this record and was so excited to hear it, only to feel a big disappointment. Had I just set my expectations too high? Maybe but I don’t think that’s all of it. I think it is more that this collaboration was one of those ideas that sounds better on paper. At first listen the whole show sounds almost kind of unrehearsed, but the musicianship is of course impeccable and there’s not really a note out of place – Brazilian musicians of this caliber just don’t “do” unrehearsed. Maybe it was over-rehearsed to death, then? It’s not so much like polishing a diamond as sanding all the facets down. Banda Black Rio were maybe just incapable of injecting the needed emotion into their playing to make these collaboration work. Their own first few albums were, by and large, instrumental affairs. Several of the tunes here have these wonderfully moody intro bits that make you think you are about to hear some seriously heavy stuff, and then the song kicks in and just kind of stays at a plateau of sameness. They get several pieces all to themselves where they stretch out and do that thing they do – playing classics of the canon like Ary Barroso’s “Na baixo do sapateiro” and Luiz Gonzaga’s “Baião” and turning them into funky rumb-shakers wherein their soloists let loose their formidable jazz chops. It’s a shame they can’t muster the same level of presence into the material with Caetano, because these are some of his best songs. The opening cut Odara ought to literally blow us away, but it just lacks the urgency of the album version, a track that is most likely the deepest funk Caetano has ever put his name to. This live version sounds like Caetano performing with a pickup band in a casino, albeit in 1978 which means I still would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Interestingly the next track, the mellow Tigressa, comes across much more convincingly and could be (or could have been:?) my favorite thing on the whole record. Perhaps because Caetano’s acoustic guitar sets the pace – the guy is a master of lilting downtempo stuff like this that isn’t quite a ballad but simmers along nicely. His astoundingly well-crafted lyrics, and his way of working a melody all sustain this evocative portrait, and then Banda Black Rio even manage to fuck that all up by going into double-time at the end of the tune, instead of just staying in the same tempo and laying into it, swinging it a little harder. These guys could have benefited from a summer camp retreat with Isaac Hayes (hell, who couldn’t?). Now although I am putting the blame on them them here, I will admit that I wasn’t hanging around at the rehearsals, and I have no doubt in my mind that the arrangement would not be this way if Caetano wasn’t okay with it. In fact he may have insisted on it: here again might be that particular aspect of his iconoclasm that starts to try my patience, pushing an idea farther than it probably deserves to go in the interest of his larger masterplan, turning on the boogie with a song that plainly doesn’t need it.
“London, London”, his most famous tune from his “exile” recorded under the colors of the Union Jack, works far better than it ought to given all the above circumstances. Enough to rekindle my hope for this venture. It’s solid. Then three consecutive instrumentals from Banda Black Rio while Caetano goes backstage or maybe out in the alleyway to have sex in a taxi cab (he is fond of getting it on in taxi cabs, as seen here in this 1983 film). BBB sounds damn good here on both the originals and reinterpretations. Then comes another tune that seems ON PAPER like it would work really well. “Two Naira Fifty Kobo” is one of my favorite songs on “Bicho,” and this … just… doesn’t… work. Mind you, I saw Caetano perform the same song twenty-two years later with a different arrangement and that one sucked too. Maybe I am just being a bastard here – How he dare he mess with MY song! It’s his and he can do what he wants with it, fair enough. When I saw that show I thought his rendition of the song was watered-down and tepid and a product of a decade of drifting towards ‘world music’-isms; had I only known this 1978 version at the time, I would have realized he had managed to water it down plenty in just a year after first recording it.
“Gente” is a song that naturally lends itself to the jazzed up execution of this band, but (not to repeat myself or anything) it just isn’t anywhere near as strong as the version performed for the Doces Bárbados show. In fact this ventures into just plain cheesy territory with some of the choices of instrumental embellishments and flourishes. But wait, there’s more – you haven’t yet heard the disco-funk interpretation of the song that forever changed the course of contemporary Brazilian music, “Alegria Alegria,” the anthem of Tropicália. At this point I begin to suspect that Caetano is just trolling us and trying to piss people off. (And hence, I don’t mind trolling a certain component of his devotees). Is he serious? One never knows with him. This song serves no purpose unless it is to illustrate “we did it because we can.” More instrumental tunes. I’d like to think Caetano is offstage doing some blow but he was probably writing off editorials to send to the New York Times or Le Monde or something. Then he comes back and they phone in a version of Qualquer Coisa, a perfectly good song from his album of the same name, but which in this version has all the period charm of the plaid wallpaper we used to have my basement in the house where I grew up. If you looked at it while listening to music and let your focus go soft, you might sometimes have a vision of a kilted Scotsman sporting a giant afro. If only this track left such an enduring memory. Or any memory at all. I’ve already forgotten it. Then the album ends with a frevo, “Chuva, suor e cerveja,” which I think Caetano also recorded for that carnaval album he made with a whole bunch of frevo on it, I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to check right now. Hell if you actually made it this far into “Bicho Baile Show” and still care, you win the Stalwart Listener Award and I tip my hat to you.
Of course don’t let ME tell you what to think, give it a spin! I feel badly now, like I should attach a motto to this blog, “Ruining Your Favorite Music Since 2008.” I swear I thought I was going to write a fairly positive piece about this album when I decided to blog about it, reassuring my readers that I do in fact have a healthy appreciation for Mr. Veloso. I thought I’d pick a less obvious choice, but I guess there is a reason why this record is seldom talked about. I promise to pick a better one next time.
Fun drinking game, at least? Take a shot of your favorite artisinal cachaça (Caetano won’t be having any Pitú) every time he meows like a cat or yelps like a dog! Just don’t drive home, kids. Take a taxi. And hope Caetano isn’t in the back making out with anybody when you climb inside.
** Note: If you have not yet had the pleasure of hearing ‘Bicho’, which is truly a great album, do yourself a favor and make sure you seek out the *original* mix and now the godawful travesty that is the last reissue of the record. This is not just me being a purist here – As murky as the original mix might have been in certain spots, it is far superior to what he did on remixing it. In part, that remix involved splashing everything with reverb to presumably make it sound more “modern” than the very dry 1977 mix, and the drums sound like they could have been re-recorded (although I don’t think they were) with an awful gated-drum sound that could have come off a record from 1991. The result is a completely different aesthetic experience, so seek it out in its original.