Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Inter-American Dialogue: The Leon Ware - Marcos Valle Connection

This is what blogs are for. I've been fascinated by the collaboration between Marcos Valle (left) and Leon Ware (below) for years now, ever since I read on Dustygroove that Marcos had written some songs on Leon's "Rockin' You Eternally" album. A deeper look reveals that their collaboration was a two-way street and the songs they wrote together are peppered across several albums of Leon's and Marocs'. Sure, I could try and write a proper article about this phenomenon, but the blog format seems ideally suited for this topic. I recognize that not everyone will be intrigued by this side alley of popular music, but for those who are, I'll dissect this collaboration in depth.
I've collected some (but not all) of the songs and recordings of the Ware-Valle partnership in this blog post, beginning with a song that was written by Marcos Valle and Robert Lamm (of Chicago) which Leon recorded for his 1979 album "Inside is Love."

Leon Ware - Love Is a Simple Thing
As far as I can tell, this is the first published intersection between Leon and Marcos, though Marcos is not playing on this record. It's strange to think that Marcos Valle and late-seventies Chicago were grooving to the same sounds, but it was a different time and when you really think of it they both come from similar backgrounds: jazz-influenced, blue-eyed pop soul.

Leon Ware - Rockin' You Eternally
For me, this is really the crowning achievement of the inter-American songwriter duo. The title track of Leon's first of two album on Elektra, "Rockin' You Eternally" is quintessential quiet-storm funk. Leon's clearly spearheading the lyrics on this one, but the music has got the unmistakable Marcos Valle touch, especially in the (and I'm not very expert in describing musical concepts) way the song changes keys in the chorus. You'll not that same chord progression in a Marcos song below that otherwise sounds nothing like this tune. I wonder if there is a recording somewhere of Marcos doing this tune in Portuguese or a Leon Ware - Marcos Valle demo . . .

Leon Ware - Baby Don't Stop Me

Here we have the first example of a song that both Leon and Marcos recorded in different, but very similar versions. Leon's is clearly rooted in an early-80s quiet-storm boogie mode with hardly a trace of Brazil in the mix.

Marcos Valle - A Paraíba Não É Chicago
I've been listening to this album non-stop for the past few days and it just doesn't get old. The whole thing is great, without a weak song among the bunch. This is the lead-off track and as you can hear, it's Marcos' version of "Baby, Don't Stop Me" with that exact chorus being sung by Chicago' Peter Cetera. This song and "Sei La" were the only two songs recorded in LA, I'm guessing, before Marcos returned to Brazil to stay and finish the album.

Marcos Valle - Velhos Surfistas Querendo Voar
This is the real sleeper on the album and took a dozen or so listens to really grow on me. This is also the tune that reappropriates the chord-progression from "Rocking You Eternally", but that's about where the similarity with the latter song ends. This song is where the album title comes from too.

Marcos Valle - Não Pode Ser Qualquer Mulher
This is a beautiful tune composed by the duo, with lyrical assistance from Marcos' go-to lyric writer, Paul Sergio Valle (his brother).

Marcos Valle - Bicho No Cio
Before I even knew about the Marcos Valle - Leon Ware connection I got this Brazilian promotional 7" single with four songs and this was one of them. I immediately dug the slow, funky groove and began my search for the album it came from. This is also the second song, like "Baby Don't Stop Me" that both artists did in similar versions.

Leon Ware - Got To Be Loved
Here we have Leon's version of "Bicho No Cio". I love Leon's work throughout his career, so I mean no disrespect when I say that aside from "Rocking You Eternally", I prefer Marcos' versions over Leon's and this song is no exception.

Leon Ware - Somewhere
This is an interesting tune that shows Leon getting into a Brazilian groove unlike any other recording of his I've heard. That would be Flora & Airto on vocals and percussion.

Marcos Valle - Dia D
Here's the last tune in the set, a one-off collaboration in a funky party mode. This album features one other tune with co-writing credits from Leon, but its a pretty mediocre slow-jam. This is a fun song from a seriously under-rated album. Actually, my next post will likely pull the song "Fogo de Sol", which I just discovered is the vocal version of one of my favorite Marcos Valle tunes, "Adam's Hotel" from the Deodato album "First Cuckoo".


Morgan said...

YEAH!! thanks for putting this all in one place! Also thanks for making me buy Vontade de Rever Voce! 15$ was such a steal on that one!!

Josh Nice said...

woah lightning turnaround! i guess you've been thinking about this for a while. i'm with morgan; nice to see it all presented together.

Lafayette said...

Wicked post! Great discovery...and great digging!

In awe,

Hong Kong In The 60s said...

Thanks so much for this brilliant post. Two of my favourite musicians, yet somehow I was totally unaware of their hookups! Needless to say, these tunes are beyond awesome!!

jack_faith said...

smoked out connection, man.

Minstrel Sea said...

Great post.
Only found out myself few months back - in the middle of the night had no one to scream to about it.

bluetone1961 said...

Spoke to mr Valle yesterday after a gig.
first things first what a smashing loveable bloke and what exquisite fascinating creature his wife is.

I asked him about the 10-cd box set project i'd heard of coupla months ago and he confirmed me it'd be out about March 2011, with a motherlode of unissued/new material, amongst which the whole Valle/Ware sessions (about 12 songs). get set for a mind blower.
kudos to you on the whole blog