Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Roberto Carlos . . . yes, that Roberto Carlos (unless you're referring to the soccer player)

My foray into Tim Maia mania brought us to one of Tim Maia's early band-mates from the Sputnik's, Roberto Carlos. This led to me dragging out the few Roberto Carlos LPs I own and ripping the best tracks from them. We're gonna have another Roberto Carlos post in a little bit, where we compare versions of one of his most famous songs, "Se Voce Pensa." But for now we're gonna sample some of his best songs from the three albums I own.

Roberto is like the Elvis of Brazil and maybe because of this is referred to as "O Rei" or "The King". Along with his brother-from-another-mother Erasmo Carlos and Wanderlea, they formed the holy trinity of Jovem Guarda, or Young Guard rock n' roll in mid-60s Brazil. I've been seriously researching and enjoying Brazilian music for over ten years now and only recently have I come to really appreciate Roberto's work. He's best known for his often syrupy, romantic ballads so that was an initial turn-off, but when I chanced upon his 1969 album with "Nao Vou Ficar" (among other great tunes) my interest was piqued. What I like about this period of his, honestly the only period I know, is that 1) the up-tempo number really swing with great horn arrangements and some killer songs with great melodies and memorable lyrical hooks. The hits among these songs are iconic hits that most Brazilians know by heart. Roberto's voice is an acquired taste; it's simultaneously fragile and urgent. The combination of his vocals and the great band make for some interesting Brazilian rock gems. According to DJ Greg Caz, the execs at CBS spared no expense on Roberto's records and from as early as the late 1960s sent Roberto to L.A. to record his albums with session musicians there. That might explain why Roberto's records showed a funkier, tougher R&B sound earlier than contemporary Brazilian recordings from some of his Jovem Guarda peers, Tim Maia being one of them.

Roberto and his songwriting partner, Erasmo, were adored and jokingly mimicked by Tropicalistas Caetano, Gil and Gal. Gal covered most of Roberto's hits from this period and you'll get a taste of one of those in the next Roberto Carlos post. That's probably how I first heard of him, specifically Gal's namedropping of Roberto and Erasmo following her shout-outs to her Tropicalista comrades on her tune "Meu Nome e Gal", which was actually written by Roberto and Erasmo! So, clearly, the lines were blurred between the Tropicalists and the Jovem Guarda crews. Erasmo's 1971 record would blur the lines even more by employing Sergio Dias and Lanny Gordin to play on his album.

Roberto Carlos - Não Há Dinheiro Que Pague
A classic record from 1968 with some huge hits such as "Se Voce Pensa" and the following song, "Eu Te Amo". I don't think this one was a huge hit, but it's pretty great nonetheless!

Roberto Carlos - Eu Te Amo, Te Amo
A great slow-burner that's a Jovem Guarda classic.

Roberto Carlos - As Curvas da Estrada de Santos
Another slow-burner from this classic album that also includes Tim Maia's "Nao Vou Ficar."

Roberto Carlos - Se Eu Pudesse Voltar Ao Tempo
This album has a couple great tunes, but I couldn't recognize any "hits" that I'm aware of as far as being covered by others. The opening horn arrangement on this one reminds me of "Baby" from Erasmo Carlos' 1976 album. It's also screaming out to be sampled . . .

Sonia Melo - Eu Te Amo, Te Amo
I can't even remember when or how I got this record, but I picked this tune out from the mostly crap selection. Sonia's version has a great hyperactive bass player and some very groovy keyboards. Just to show how prolific and popular Roberto and Erasmo were, this album was made up entirely of their songs.

Check out some AWESOME Roberto Carlos videos on Soul Spectrum Videos!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tim Maia Mania - Raridades, Part 2

Back with some more Tim Maia rareness, this time from a little later in his career and again limited to "covers" or guest vocal spots for the Brazilian Soul Brother Number One. At the end of last "episode" our hero was on the verge of becoming one of Brazil's biggest pop stars. His first four albums sold extremely well and he was regularly sending singles into the Brazilian top-40 orbit. So much so that his style and even his songs were getting play from other established and up and coming artists.

Brazilian Boys - Nossa Senhora do Tim
The Brazilian Boys were a group of mostly white dudes playing portuguese language cover versions of Simon & Garfunkel and Johnny Nash and dabbling in the dancable "Samba Rock" style coming out of Sao Paulo. Their best song from this album (I believe their first, though they do have another one) is a cover/adaptation of Tim Maia's "Salve Nossa Senhora" from his second album. They basically cover the song but add the line "que Tim Maia falou" which means "what Tim Maia said."

During Tim's golden years he declined nearly every offer to guest on other people's a semi-official position based on two factors: 1) Tim's ego was too large to play second-fiddle to anyone, and 2) Tim had his own style that no one else really came close to and he was notoriously difficult to work with. So it was only at the beginning of his career, when he needed the boost, and as his career started losing steam that he teamed up with other artists for some notable duets or collaborations.

Rosana - Chegou a Hora (with Tim Maia)
Thanks to Elan aka DJ E-Zinho for this one. I had never even heard of this 1979 collaboration and the otherwise exhaustive Nelson Motta book makes no mention of it either. This was from Rosana's first album and despite being a fairly major recording artist, this album is poorly documented online, hence the poor cover image. It makes some sense that Tim would be on this recording as the players, producers and song-writers on her album were basically the same people on his albums from the period: Lincoln Olivetti, Robson Jorge, Tiberio Gaspar, etc. And the sound is pure Lincoln Olivetti & Robson Jorge - the Quincy Jones of late 70s and early 80s R&B. What is strange about this is that initially Tim only agreed to guest on songs of his close friends, first Fabio and Hyldon and then (as we shall see below) Erasmo Carlos . . . but, Rosana?!? He must have had the hots for Rosana, or was financially in pinch, which was usually the reason for any collaboration during the second half of his career (1980 and on . . .)

Erasmo Carlos - Alem do Horizonte (with Tim Maia)
Erasmo's last decent album features the Brazilian king of rock dueting on every track with a veritable who's who of Brazilian superstars. Tim joins Erasmo on a classic Roberto & Erasmo composition that once again shows obvious signs of Olivettiana. The sounds might be a bit dated, but I love the horns and Tim really does wonders on this track, making Erasmo sound like the guest vocalist.

Check back soon for some deep cuts from the man himself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tim Maia Mania - Raridades, Part 1

I'm in full Tim Maia Mania. I'm finishing up Nelson Motta's excellent biography of the man, the myth, the legend aka Tiao Marmiteiro, Tiao Maconheiro, Jimmy the Brazilian, O Rei do Samba Soul - Tim Maia. I decided to take this mania public and I'll be posting some classics and some obscurities for as long as I can stand it, which could be awhile.

Also, I IMPLORE you to check out this clip I posted over at Soul Spectrum Videos that features some ridiculously rare Tim Maia footage from his Racional phase as well as from his excellent post-Racional 1976 album. Jaw-dropping stuff here.

In researching Tim's life its interesting to note that his success was almost single-handedly attributable to his own charisma and single-minded vision of becoming a rock n' roll star. Unlike today where an iota of talent and millions in marketing dollars can make a star, Tim was about as pure a star as you can imagine. He fought every known stereotype and triumphed to become one of Brazil's biggest pop stars of all time. He was fat, black, irresponsible, a stoner, a coke-head, a philanderer, was momentarily a cult-member, he was imprisoned in the US and Brazil multiple times and yet he still managed to stay in the limelight for over two decades.

This success did not come easy. He was deported from the US back to Brazil in 1964 after being caught in a stolen car with weed in his possession. Back in Brazil, he hit the ground running and immediately tried to get in contact with his old friends from Barra de Tijuca who had miraculously become huge teen idols: Roberto and Erasmo Carlos (no relation). Leveraging their fame and access to benefit Tim was easier said than done as these two "safe", white pop stars were hesitant about promoting an unkempt, mostly homeless, fat, black soul singer on their shows, even if he had taught them both how to play guitar. First off, nobody in Brazil knew what soul music was . . . at least at that time.

Tim managed to put out two singles in 1968 and 1969 and neither did very well and both are extremely rare. Part of their failure had to do with the incongruence of Tim's vision for Brazilian soul music and the record label's inability to properly reproduce that beat-heavy, funky sound. Tim's initial success was going to have come through writing for and producing other artists, those less black and fat than he.

Roberto Carlos - Não Vou Ficar
Tim managed to sneak into Roberto Carlos' swanky apartment building and waited for the "King" of Jovem Guarda to come home. He demanded Roberto put him on his show. Roberto compromised and agreed to record a song of Tim's, but not the one that Tim was pitching that day. He wanted something a little rougher, something with some teeth and that contagious funky soul sound that Tim knew better than anyone in Brazil. Tim came up with this song and it became a huge hit for Roberto. When you compare it with Tim's version, from his second solo album from two years later, Roberto's version sounds like muzak, but for the time, and for Roberto, this was cutting edge. Roberto's soul shouts kinda sound more like soul whimpers.

Eduardo Araujo - Você
Around the same time Tim connected with another Jovem Guarda star, Eduardo Araujo, who was taken by the soul sounds emanating from the US and together with Tim Maia's album put together one of the very first Brazilian soul albums. Tim arranged all the songs, translated all the lyrics from English to Portuguese, sang back-up and even contributed one of his songs, "Voce". The song would be a hit when Tim recorded it, again for his second solo album from 1971. This version also pales in comparison, but I think it's worth a listen.

Eduardo Araujo - A Mulher
This is Eduardo and Tim's version of one of my all time favorite soul songs, James Brown's "Cold Sweat". Enough said.

Elis Regina with Tim Maia - These Are the Songs
This is the one that put Tim on the map, because it was the first BIG record that actually had his voice on it. This duet with Elis Regina also introduced him to his future record label, Polydor and his future producer, good friend and ultimate biographer, Nelson Motta. Unlike the other songs here, THIS is the best version. Tim redid this song solo on his third album, but the later version lacks the chemistry of this recording.

Trio Esperança - Primavera
This cover version of one of Tim's big hits from his first album must have been recorded right after his version came out, because this one is also from 1970. The song was recorded by one of the best known family groups from the Jovem Guada and later, the Brazilian soul scene, Trio Esperanca. The song was written by Tim's friend and soul parter Cassiano.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Arthur Verocai live with 36-piece orchestra

When I first heard about Mochilla's plan to bring the all-but-forgotten Brazilian musician, arranger and cult-favorite Arthur Verocai to L.A. to perform his self-titled 1972 album live, I was kind of dumbfounded. Really, of all the people to invite, why pick this footnote from Brazilian MPB (Musica Popular Brasil ie "mainstream, sophisticated pop music" think Elis Regina or Milton Nascimento)? Verocai is about as obscure in Brazil as David Axelrod is here in the states, except that Verocai only had one release under his own name until 2005. Having witnessed the performance first hand this past weekend I finally get the vision of Mochilla front-man Brian Cross (and friends) who came up with this idea.

First off, the original album is phenomenal and perfectly suited for this grandiose performance with a string section, horn section, percussionists, two keyboard players, two guitarists and alternating stand-up and electric bass . . . and most importantly the ensemble pulled it off perfectly. The performance sounded great. Secondly, it was staggering to think that this was the first time that these songs had ever been performed live and the second time they have been performed at all (the first time being in the studio and most likely that wasn't all 36 pieces playing live at the same time). Lastly, it was a great concept to take this relatively obscure document from 1972 performed in 2009 and restoring it to its deserved place in history. Bottom line is that this recording may be extremely obscure and therefore considered esoteric, but the music is so good it deserves to be heard and in its original form, or better than that its original form performed LIVE!

Congrats to the entire Mochilla crew for a great show!

Even though he has a new album out on Far Out, called Encore, and his original 1972 self-titled album was reissued by Ubiquity, both are now out of print or at least out of stock at Dustygroove. If you wanna know how much OG Verocai-related vinyl goes for, here's a sampling. I personally know of one person (DJ Nuts) who owns an original Arthur Verocai album.

I can't not mention the universe of stars and legendary musicians that were part of these 36 pieces. You can kind of make them out in the picture, so I'll try to point them out in the picture.

1) Arthur Verocai, man of the hour (center stage in suit, very skinny, clapping in direction of the string section)
2) Airto Moreira (right below the bottom right corner of the screen)
3) Ivan "Mamao" Conti, drummer from Azymuth (middle, clapping hands with white hair)
4) Carlos Dafe (below Airto with "panama hat")
5) Jose Roberto Bertrami, keyboards from Azymuth - played Hammond B-3 for the show (furthest right in white baseball cap)
6) Justo Almario, saxophone (in red shirt on far left clapping and bit blurry)

Arthur Verocai - Presente Grego
This is for the beat-heads. What a great thing to hear those horn swells live!
Arthur Verocai - Pelas Sombras
What I didn't know until recently was that the male vocal on the original recording was noneother than Carlos Dafe and he was in the flesh for the performance as well. He killed it on this one! A soaring and impassioned vocal part that made my hair stand on end!

Arthur Verocai - Caminho da Roça
A chill instrumental from his new album.

Arthur Verocai - Bis (featuring Azymuth)
Azymuth chipped in on a couple tracks on his new album. This is one of my favorites. Overall, the 1972 album is better but this is a very respectable follow up. And when he performed it was difficult to tell the new songs from the old having not memorized either album . . .

I just found this great interview of Verocai from recently explaining his new album "Encore" and his background:

A clip from the performance courtesy of Mochilla:

For more Verocai listening check out Loronix.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Update: Entire Newport in New York album here!

A quick post here to end the week on. I've been out sick with the flu for longer than I can remember being sick for a LONG time. four out of five days and the day I did go into work I had to leave an hour early because I was exhausted. I'm finally feeling well enough to rise out of my flannel sheets and make a quick blog post (or two - check WW&W for some countrified Arthur Russell)

I picked up this LP for cheap some time back mainly for Donny Hathaway's live version of "Valdez in the Country" but I was pleasantly surprised to find a handful of gems on this album. If you're curious about why Newport was in New York, I found this article from Time magazine backinthday. I've included my favorites here.

Ray Charles - Every Saturday Night (live)
Ray Charles in the seventies, still keeping with the times with this funky good times number. I wish ever saturday night was like this in my neighborhood! I'll pass this weekend as I'm still recovering, but this is gonna be my blueprint for next weekend.

Aretha Franklin - Brand New Me (live)

Ray Charles - Just a Man (live)

The Staple Singers - You're Gonna Make Me Cry (live)
My favorite deep soul weeper done to perfection originally by O.V. Wright, but Mavis and fam really stretch out the pain on this one and give an excellent reading.

Stevie Wonder - Signed, Sealed, Delivered (live)
Sure, we've all heard this one a thousand times as its been featured in every rom-com in the last two decades, but have you ever heard it live and funky? I didn't think so. There's a bootleg out there of Steve live around this time by the sound quality kinda sucks and I can't say I listen to it very much. I was psyched to hear this, because this is what I would expect Stevie live in 1974 to sound like.

Donny Hathaway - Valdez in the Country (live)
Donny says something at the beginning of this tune about how we all know what "Valdez in the Country" stands for. Sadly, Donny, I for one have no idea what you're talking about. Anyone out there have any clue? Here's a link to an interesting article about Donny's live recordings.

The Staple Singers - And the Lord Will Hear (live)

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Ambassador Presents . . . AZYMIX!

The Ambassador - Azymix (Crazy Samba)
This was a long time in the procrastinating . . . I had been planning on making an all Azymuth mix since they had their long-awaited show in L.A. this past summer. The mix runs just a bit over an hour and covers some of their more rare collaborations, appearances, exclusive tracks and songs where the trio (Jose Roberto Bertrami, piano and keyboards; Alexandre Malheiros, Bass; and Ivan Conti (aka Mamao), Drums) made up the core of the band. I hope you enjoy and if you want to know what or who a particular track is, just post a comment including at what minute:seconds the track commences.