Welcome! This is the first page of an opinionated guide to various Brazilian artists and albums, including many different styles and eras. Due to the scarcity of Brazilian records in the States (and the scarcity of cash in my pockets) this is a limited sampling. Some day, I may whittle this down to just stuff that I recommend, but for now I'm also including records you should be wary of. I waste money and time so you don't have to.
Fernanda Abreu "SLA Radical Disco Dance Club" (EMI, 1990)
Funk, soul and pop from a former member of the pioneering "BRock" band, Blitz. This album is okay for what it is -- the music is pretty generic for the most part, and Abreu's vocals are just a little better than average. Her debt to Madonna will become clear after a few songs, although here she delves deeper into funk riffs than into soft-soul pop. What's most notable about this album, though, is its historical value: apparently this was one of the first Brazilian pop records to use a lot of sampling technology, and that made quite a splash at the time. For folks who are inclined towards more conventional, commercial pop, this disc might be pretty exciting... The biggest disappointment on the album is when she covers the old American disco hit, "Boogie Ooogie Ooogie..." but does it in English, rather than Portuguese. Dang. Talk about your missed opportunities!
Fernanda Abreu "Da Lata" (EMI, 1995)
Contemporary hip-hop/pop from Rio. Abreu is a dyed-blonde Deeeee-Lite type (...shall we call her Samba Spice?) who pals it up with Brazilian rocker Chico Science (he duets on one track). Abreu wrote or co-wrote about half the songs on here -- other contributions are made by the likes of Lenine and Carlinhos Brown. Overall this is a fairly creditable effort, with plenty of lush production and electric guitar quotes that range from Hendrix and Frampton to the O'Jays "Money"... Along with the slick novo musica, Abreu also peppers in a couple of traditional samba tracks, including a version of "Aquarela Brasileira" where she does a passable take at sounding like Clara Nunes. Good, though not earth-shaking, contemporary pop from a former member of the popular '80s BRock band, Blitz.
Slick but uninspiring hip-hop flavored rock'n'pop, with occasional stylistic dips in regional Brazilian music. Professionally produced, with a very big, brash sound, but not much subtlety or depth.
Fernanda Abreu "Na Paz" (EMI, 2004)
Fernanda Abreu "MTV Ao Vivo" (2006)
Vania Abreu "Vania Abreu" (Warner-Continental, 1995)
Daniela Mercury's kid sister Vania reveals a powerful voice on this otherwise lackluster pop outing. Some tunes are fine, wrapped around languid trip-hop dance beats, but while this has little of the cloying or overwrought characteristics drag down so many Brazilian pop albums, it also doesn't have much spark to it. Pretty, but not fabulous.
I'll go out on a limb here, and say that Ms. Abreu is a better vocalist than her more musically outgoing and more famous big sister, axe star, Daniela Mercury. Her phrasing is more consistent, her voice is sweeter, and her persona less strained. And, of course, there's the music. This is an exceptionally solid, pleasantly mellow album which recalls the natural, relaxed warmth of the best of mid-'70s samba cancao artists such as Jair Rodrigues, as well as the jazz-inflected torch song phrasings of Maria Bethania and other MPB divas. Abreu's vocals, as well as her arrangements, connect emotionally and don't feel forced or desperate to fit into some sort of pop or rock crossover niche. Definitely one of the strongest new releases in the Velas label's North American catalog, and a striking step up from her earlier pop efforts.
Sad to say, I found this album to be a disappointment... Abreu's vocals are pretty, but the music seems like standard-issue, sleek, classy-sounding MPB. To her credit, she avoids the bombastic, authoritative styles of, say, Maria Bethania or Nana Caymmi, and is closer in tone to a softer sounding diva, like Zizi Possi, perhaps. But nothing on here really captured my imagination, I'm afraid. I would have liked something more innovative, and more in the direction she was headed before. Still, folks who like the swanky MPB pop-vocals of the 1970s (Bethania, Costa, Creuza, et al.) may find this disc quite enjoyable.
An exceptionally irritating album, primarily because of the grating vocal tone of female singer "Julie," who warbles and chirps on tunelessly on song after song after song. Bandleader Adolfo was a well-known jazz-bossa sessionman and arranger who delved into experimental music and later pioneered Brazil's independently-produced jazz scene... Here, early on, I suppose he's got a bit of a Sergio Mendes thing going on -- funky riffs backing iffy vocals. Not only is the gal's voice piercing and limited, the album's pacing is unvaried and monotonous... This disc has great cachet with some among the retro crowd, but it really turned me off. (Note: this link is to a Japanese pressing with extra tracks -- it may be kind of pricey, but this was the only edition I could verify was the 1969 album, and not the 1971 release of the same title, which is reviewed below...)
A fairly wild, sometimes grating, psychedelic pop set from the Brazilian hippie-tropicalia era. The Brazuca band mixes the dense, flowery vocal harmonies of bands such as Grupo Manifesto and Sergio Mendes' Brazil 66 with chaotic, patience-testing contemporary psych styles from up North. This album is definitely not for everyone -- the quieter, more lyrical moments are largely upended by their challenging, jarring counterpoints. But for collectors interested in unusual and challenging world pop, this is definitely an album to seek out.
A groovy '70s fusionfest, very reminiscent of Tom Scott and LA Express, folks of that ilk, with Adolfo on piano and keyboards and saxophonist Ze Carlos adding a few funky toots into the mix. Adolfo moved to the United States for several years in the early 'Seventies, and when he came back, became a leading exponent of independent jazz in Brazil... and here's the proof. This isn't really my bag, but if you go for the retro sound, this might ranks as a hidden nugget.
Vintage soft-pop/rock from one of the original artists in the 1960s jovem guarda teenpop scene. The liner notes don't mention specific dates, but I'd guess, from the sound of things, that these recordings date from roughly 1967-76, with some light go-go-ish rock, a few later tunes that have heavy, fuzzed-out electric guitars, and tons of sappy love ballads in between. Adriani's voice is fairly blunt and declarative, and doesn't do much to lift these songs above their kitschy trappings. The music's mostly pretty florid, and seldom as lively or interesting as contemporaries such as Roberto Carlos or Wanderlea. But as samplers of his work go, this Adriani collection seems pretty representative.
Jerry Adriani "20 Super Sucessos, v.1" (Polydisc, 1997)
Jerry Adriani "20 Super Sucessos, v.2" (Polydisc, 1997)
Likewise, this best-of set seems to mainly contain songs of later vintage, and has little in it that's particularly exciting or fresh. Adriani was far too technically "clean" and professional-sounding a singer to bring much life to the rock music he recorded, and the slower ballads are just horrible. I dunno; it sounds too corny for me.
Jerry Adriani "20 Super Sucessos, v.3" (Polydisc, 1997)
A surprising gem...! This is a gentle, acoustic-based homage to the Mina Gerais-based "Clube Da Esquina" scene that included artists such as Milton Nascimento, Lo Borges, Fernardo Brant and Ronaldo Bastos, and which produced several highly regarded, spacy jazz-pop albums of the 1970s and '80s. Singer-guitarist Affonsinho gently runs through over a dozen of their classic songs, including Nascimento's "Cravo E Canela," and Lo Borges's "Para Lennon E McCartney," taking each tune at a relaxed clip, and introducing a stylistic constancy that was not always present in the exploratory efforts of the Clube in its heyday. It's really a rather lovely album -- I went into this album prepared to be dismissive, and wound up thoroughly enchanted, particularly because Affonsinho sounds so much like Caetano Veloso does in his softer acoustic moments. Quite lovely, and definitely worth checking out.
A fine album, with one of Sao Paulo's rising young musicians paying tribute to her grandfather, a Northeastern musician whose recording career began in the 1930s, and spanned several decades, up through the early '70s. Though later outshadowed by forro pioneers such as Luiz Gonzaga and Humberto Texeira, Xerem was a relatively prolific artist, waxing several dozen 78s, and leaving behind a fine trove of original compositions. It's this legacy that Aflalo explores, recording thirteen songs written or cowritten by Xerem, infusing them with a playful modern feel, mixing MPB and jazz in with the catchy regional rhythms. To top it off, Aflalo has a lovely voice -- remarkably reminiscent of the young Gal Costa, with the same distinctive tone and fluid relationship to melody and meter. This is quite a nice record; it'll be interesting to see where she goes from here. Recommended.
Despite the fairly innocuous band name, these fellows are actually full-fledged gangsta rappers, with lyrics about poverty, urban warfare and the like. Lots of vocal imitations of machine gun fire, if you catch my drift. Actually, this is less hip-hop than it is metal-rap, along the lines of old Red Hot Chili Peppers or (sigh) Rage Against The Machine... It's funny: I can't stand that stuff when I hear it in English (and really get how lame the lyrics are...) but here, it's kind of enjoyable. One cool thing is that this band seems to actually play its instruments live on this album, unlike their North American counterparts, who tinker with every little sound effect and production effect the studio can muster. There's a ragged, unpolished edge to these tracks that makes the music seem more chaotic and the band more authentically threatening. Hence, they still sound punk, even if the punk ancestry is pretty distant. If you go for this kind of stuff, and would like to hear it with a Brazilian twist, you might really like this record.
This disc combines two albums by pop-samba singer Agepe, who passed away in 1995. The first album, Agepe, is from 1975 and the second, Moro Onde Nao Mora Niguem, is from 1977. Both are quite nice and mellow, a standard-issue mix of '70s style pagode samba, with gentle, swaying rhythms and sweet vocals backed by an insistently keening vocal chorus... Not the most stunning music from Brasil, but certainly not the worst. If you get a chance, this reissue is definitely worth checking out.
Agepe "Mistura Brasileira" (Som Livre, 1984)
I don't know the story on this guy, but this is a nice, poppy samba-cancao album. Not stunning, but nice. Has a touch of forro and percussive samba as well.
Again, some lovely samba-cancao pop, with bright, cheerful melodies and perky vocal choruses. Nice stuff; for prefab pop music, this stuff's a gas. I'm not sure when these tracks were recorded (the budget-line As Melhores series is strong musically, but skimpy on packaging), but whenever it was, the music is fine. It all starts to sound a lot a like, but it's still really fun. Recommended.
Agepe "Serie Sem Limite" (Universal, 2001)
A very nice 2-CD set which draws on material from several different labels, recorded between 1981-91. There's plenty of nice, lovely pagode samba, of the old-school style that evokes classic albums by Clara Nunes and Alcione... There are some overly-glossy pop production touches, but these are generally just mildly cheesy variety, rather than absolutely heinous, and are by far outweighed by the elegant, melodic moments. Sure, you could find more weighty music out there, but you wouldn't be unhappy picking this disc up... It's a very nice introduction to a nice, warm, modern samba star. Recommended!
Akundum "Akundois" (MZA, 1997)
Afropop-reggae axe with a strong carribean-soca influence. Also, like so much Brazilian pop, a too-strong hangover from the '80s -- too slick, predictable and goofy, though certainly better than many similar albums.
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