Thursday, March 27, 2008
Discovered: Holy Grail of Brazilian Funk!
More than a year ago a little bird told me that someone had turned up some lost tapes of Tim Maia during his "Racional" phase. Now, if you don't read Portuguese it's difficult to find any information about Tim's "Racional" phase aside from how its really lauded as his best work, his most funky, etc. As a Tim Maia fanatic, I can agree with all of that, so the recent confirmation of some unreleased "Racional" tapes is indeed a revelation. To give you an idea of the context of this discovery, I've pasted the text from an article I wrote for Fader magazine a few years back. The photos here are courtesy of Paulinho Guitarra, guitarist for Tim Maia for most of his classic albums. Paulinho can be seen in the band pictures - he's the skinny white dude next to Tim when they're holding up the book and the one playing guitar in the band photo.
ReHeaters: Tim Maia Racional, vol. 1 (originally published in The Fader magazine, Issue ?)
The Beatles got spiritual in India, Bob Dylan was born again, Cat Stevens traded in his guitar for a Qu’ran, but none of these compare to the spiritual detour that Tim Maia, the godfather of Brazilian soul music, took in the mid-1970s.
Before sliding into a 12-minute, heavy-funk vamp extolling the virtues of “rational culture,” Tim Maia drops some the following knowledge acapella style, still the best explanation this author has found describing the pseudo-religious, existential doo-doo that Tim stepped in:
“You don’t know what I know, because I know where we came from. We came from a super-world, a world of rational energy. And we live in an anti-world, a world of animal’s energy. Read the book, the only book, the book of God: Universe in Disenchantment and you’re gonna know the truth.”
Tim Maia never did anything halfway, so when he decided to join the Brazilian sect of Rational Culture, he dove in headfirst and took his music with him. Already armed with four chart-topping albums, Tim’s next two albums were the strangest and most personal of his career.
Serginho Trombone, a band member at the time, recalls that, “It was a really crazy phase. Tim was constantly staring to the sky looking for flying saucers. The worst of all was that he convinced the entire band to join the cult. We painted all of our instruments white, even the drum set.”
Tim also gave up his personal possessions, cut his Afro, and gave up drugs and booze—a bold move considering he was a world-class druggie. Maybe it was the absence of alcohol and cocaine surging through his veins or the lack of smoke in his throat, but Tim’s racional recordings are easily the best of his career.
Originally released in 1975, Tim Maia Racional vol. 1 kicks off with the sublime slow funk burner “Imunização Racional (Que Beleza)” (Rational Immunization (What Beauty)). “Bom Senso” heats up the proceedings with a heavy dose of Isely funk, before “Contato Com O Mundo Racional” slows it down to an Al Green pace, as Tim pleads in a falsetto for just one chance to make contact with the “rational world.” The album ends with Tim attempting to spread the gospel of racional to the English-speaking world through the epic “Rational Culture,” which grooves endlessly on a wave of clavinet and wah-wah guitars.
Following a blowout with the cult’s founder, he never spoke of racional again, forbade the reissue of these songs and even discouraged other artists from covering them. Thankfully, the Maia Estate relented. Widely bootlegged in Brazil, Tim Maia Racional vol. 1 (yes, there’s another album and even rumors of an unreleased third), finally received an official reissue earlier this year thanks to the Brazilian label, Trama. Trama plans to release volume two shortly and Luaka Bop is wrapping up a Tim Maia compilation that will feature many of the songs from Racional 1 & 2, along with other rarities.
Tim Maia - You Gotta Be Rational
So, the story goes that a producer by the name of Dudu Marote was working on the first Afroreggae album in 2000 with the studio engenenier of Somil studios, William Junior. William mentioned to Dudu that he worked with Tim Maia on some of his final albums, which promoted Dudu to ask William if he had ever listened to Tim's "Racional" albums. William hadn't and when Dudu brought in the albums to play for him, William said that he had something like these albums at home on the ORIGINAL TAPES!
It turns out that William's dad was the owner of the same studio back in the 1970s when Tim Maia recorded his "Racional" albums and when he abruptly left the cult, he never returned to the studio to pick up the tapes, so William's dad just took them home and sat on them until only recently. Dudu then offered the tapes to some record labels, but no one took him up on the offer. William also provided copies of the tapes to multi-instrumentalist and producer, Kassin, who began working on releasing the unreleased album. Kassin claims that there are three additional songs beyond the five available for download now.
Once the download was posted the proverbial "dudu" hit the fan and the Tim Maia family started trying to get involved. Tim's only legitimate son, Carmelo, who has commented on this very blog, claims that famed 1980s producer of his father's and many others' hits, Lincoln Olivetti, will be assembling the unreleased album, but no more information has leaked. The songs that have been leaked are the following:
1. Escrituração Racional: a slow-jam and weaker of the songs, in my opinion
2. Escrituração Racional, take 2: the second take features some trippy echo effects on the vocals.
3. You Gotta Be Rational: The song I've posted here. This one is much like some of Tim's slower funk joints and speaking of "joints" his lyrics to this one claim that "I don't need no dope, I am rational. And when you read the book Universe in Disenchantment", you won't need no dope, you'll be rational."
4. Universo Em Desencanto Disco: This is a great little stepping soul-funk tune with a great Philly vibe and bounce to it. Others have commented that this song clearly indicates that these sessions were recorded later than the earlier released "Racional" albums. I can definitely hear that mid-70s disco influence on this tune.
5. Brasil Racional: On this one Tim literally reads from the cult's bible, Universe In Disenchantment over a killer funk groove.
Listening to these songs you can tell that there are some elements missing like horn or string embellishments, back-up vocals, or even more verses. It's hard to say what the maestro had in mind, but this fan is happy with these nuggets even as they are. I say, release the beast!
In respect for those planning on releasing the whole thing, I've only posted one song, but if you want to hear them all the download site is not too hard to find.