Brazilian rock'n'roll first hit in the late '50s, at roughly the same time as the beginning of the bossa nova boom... For the most part, the early roqueiros were looked down on, and rock was seen as an inferior North American import that only "kids" could like. Naturally, the music persisted, and found a home in the long-lived television show, Jovem Guarda, which was hosted by the charismatic vocalist, Roberto Carlos. Numerous bands flocked under its banner, and thousands of viewers tuned into the show with the same intense loyalty as shows such as American Bandstand and Ready, Steady Go enjoyed in the USA and England.
Jovem Guarda pop (also known as ie-ie-ie, once the Beatles hit...) was justifiably seen as a cutesy, prefab creation of the international record industry, which was eager to capitalize on the potentially lucrative South American youth culture, as it had in the U.S. and Western Europe. Most of the bands weren't that good, and their best material came from cover versions of foreign pop songs. Still, it was out of this early, commercialized teen scene that the hippie-ish tropicalia movement arose, blending psychedelic rock with the previously-separate bossa nova and samba traditions, along with a subversive new brand of often-surrealistic cultural politics. Despite the greater celebrity (and cultural relevance) of the tropicalia innovators, many of the ie-ie-ie groups persisted well into the 1970s, although most gradually devolved into soft pop outfits, rather than take up the more radical rock stylings of the early-70s counterculture. Here's a quick look at some of the high points (and low) of the Jovem Guarda scene...
Celly Campello "Estupido Cupido" (Odeon, 1959)
One of the earliest of the ie-ie-ie rockers, the swinging Miss Campello was, I suppose, Brazil's answer to Brenda Lee or Annette Funicello, and other '50s teen idols. She was one of the first, and liveliest, Brazilian rockers, covering North American pop tunes and Brazilian soundalikes. This is a fun album, better than many of the jovem guarda records that would come in its wake. The only stuff that falls flat are the handful of tunes in which she chooses to sing in English, instead of Portuguese, but these are just slow moments in an otherwise cute and bouncy pop record. Recommended!
Celly Campello "Series Bis" (EMI, 2000)
A 2-CD collection that covers a wide swath of her career. Includes a hefty chunk of the Estupido Cupido album, along with plenty of other goofy cover tunes and homegrown teen ballads.
Os Carbonos "Serie Bis - Jovem Guarda" (EMI/Copacabana, 2000)
Mainly sluggish, mid-tempo ballads, recorded between 1969-81, well after the real Jovem Guarda boom. Although there are plenty of potentially interesting cover tunes ("Bus Stop", "Mellow Yellow", Arthur Adams' "Anna"...) none of the performances are very exciting... this is basically the Brazilian equivalent of the kind of oldies band you'd hear at a country fair up here in the States... Of note, though, is their version of "Never Never", by Uruguay's Los Shakers, which is still pretty rinky-dink, but noteworthy because of the pan-Latin American link.
Roberto Carlos "Jovem Guarda" (CBS, 1965)
A swell album of early stuff from his days as host of the Jovem Guarda television show -- Brazil's equivalent of American Bandstand. The straight rock numbers aren't bad, and often rather cute, as with his cover of Del Shannon's "Wanderer". Some sappy ballads, but nothing anywhere near as bad as his later Julio Iglesias-style pop crooning. It would have been cool if they could have also included some of his later soft-psychedelic material, like "Sua Estupidez" and the like... But as it is, this is an interesting, if non-earthshaking disc. Certainly, if you wanted to look into his early career, this would be the place to start.
Golden Boys "Meus Momentos" (EMI, 1999)
Golden Boys "Serie Bis" (EMI, 2000)
I was pleasantly surprised by how good these 2-CD set were -- or rather, that they didn't suck as badly as I thought it might. These 'Sixties soft-rockers covered a lot of turf: Beatles covers, oldies covers, standards ("Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," "Heartaches"), show tunes ("Hello Dolly"), forro, bossa nova, and proto-MPB... Comparisons to cheesy vocal groups like the MPB-4 and Quarteto Em Cy are misleading: whereas those bossa-born ensembles substituted technique for feeling, the Golden Boys were simply a flawed, but earnest, pop band. Backed by the equally MOR-oriented Fevers, these fellows crank out reasonably tasty, not overly-kitschy, material. Yeah, sure -- these were exactly the folks that Os Mutantes and the Tropicalistas set out to displace, but these tracks hold up pretty well.
Pedro Paulo "Apresenta Os Sucessos" (Columbia/OKeh, 1969)
Pedro Paulo "Apresenta Os Sucessos, v.2" (Columbia/OKeh, 1970)
Soft rocker Pedro Paulo kind of picked up where Roberto Carlos left off -- as Carlos drifted towards his iconic status as a spanish-language crooner, Paulo kept singing old-fashioned teenybopper pop tunes. Considering when these albums actually came out, they were hopelessly out of fashion, but if you just take them for what they are and compare them to Carlos's rather similar releases from 1962-66, Paulo's work holds up pretty well. He was more consistently uptempo and "rocking" than Carlos, and recorded fewer American pop covers. On the second album, he gets a little more modern, opening the disc with "Maria Helena," a funky original by Brazilian soul singer, Hyldon Souza. Yeah, sure, it's mainly pretty wimpy stuff, but for the JG scene, this ain't bad. (Reissued in 1999 as a 2-CD set.)
Renato E Seus Blue-Caps "Twist" (Copacabana, 1962/1999)
Renato E Seus Blue-Caps "Renato e Seus Blue-Caps" (Copacabana, 1963/1999)
Fairly adorable material from Renato Barros, one of the earliest (and best) Brazilian rocknrollers. This 2-in-1 reissue is evenly split between Eddie Cochran-ish instrumentals and peppy vocal numbers that would have done Freddy "Boom-Boom" Cannon or Bobby Rydell proud. It's goofy, derivative teenybopper music, but it was the best Brazil had to offer, and holds up pretty well, especially in the spunk department. The first album features great, perky-girl vocals by Cleide Alves, who could have given Annette Funicello a run for her money -- the tracks which are sung in English are less fun, but overall this is pretty charming. Worth checking out.
Raul Seixas "Raulzito E Os Panteras" (EMI-Odeon, 1967)
By the time they released their first LP, Os Panteras had already spent the better part of the decade performing on TV and acting as back-up band to the hordes of wannabee teenie-bopper stars and starlets of the ie-ie-ie crowd... Seixas went on to become one of Brazil's most convincing (and deeply troubled) '70s rockers, yet despite their reputation as "real" rockers, Os Panteras debut album is mostly pretty tame stuff, full of languid mainstream pop arrangements, and Association-ish soft rock motifs. It's a cut or two above most jovem guarda material, but only hints at the weirdness to come. Highlights include a cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and a mildly off-kilter original, "O Dorminhoco", which closes the album. If you're into jovem guarda, this is certainly worth looking for, but once again, it probably won't blow your mind.
Raul Seixas "O Bau Do Raul" (Philips, 1993)
This fascinating odds-and-ends collection focuses heavily on his love of North American rocknroll, and opens with an early medley of English-language oldies performed by Os Panteras on a Brazilian TV show in 1963. The theme continues through the early and late '70s, with various whistful takes on old-time rock music... "Be Bop A Lula", "Kansas City", "I'll Cry Instead", etc. are interspersed with his weirder original material... Normally this sort of foreign-folks-doing-roots-rock thing doesn't do much for me... but for some reason this disc is extremely compelling. The disjointed frailness that weaves through his performances -- and his palpable, painful dedication to the genre -- gradually create a through line between the seemingly disparate material and suggest an Alex Chilton-esque character, complete with the John Lennon envy. Insightful archival work, and definitely recommended.
Wilson Simonal "Alegria, Alegria" (Odeon, 1967)
I don't know much about this guy... Several years ago I had another album by him from around the same time period, and wasn't overly impressed by it. He was sort of a pop vocalist who looked really cool with his Buddy Holly-meets-Malcolm X fashion style, but his arrangements were only so-so. This album is also not awe-inspiring, though it has one incredible track, "Nem Vem Que Nao Tem" which has a Young-Holt Trio funky groove to it and really rocks. Also features a Caetano Veloso composition ("Remelexo") which, again, is not phenomenal, but is must be one of the very first Veloso cover versions ever recorded.
Wilson Simonal "Meus Momentos" (EMI, 1999)
An excellent 2-CD best of which captures most of his best stuff, as well as some of his shortcomings. Inventive, exhuberant pop music which occasionally hits great heights -- mysteriously, though, this collection omits his most awesome track, "Nem Vem Que Nao Tem", off the first Alegria album. Oh, well -- guess that's what they make obsessive record collectors for...
The Supersonics "Serie Bis - Jovem Guarda" (EMI/Copacabana, 2000)
Although they start out with great promise - energetically covering Beatles tunes galore, along with "Wooly Bully" and the inevitable JG version of "Road Hog", the Supersonics overstayed their welcome in the late '60s, with endless elevator music instrumentals. The second CD in this double disc set is just plain muzak, and pretty forgettable.
Trio Esperanca "Serie Bis - Jovem Guarda" (EMI/Copacabana, 2000)
One of more compelling recent JG related collections I've heard. These gals held their own in the adorable pop department, following in the footsteps of Little Eva, Connie Francis and Annette Funicello. The choice of tunes has a fairly predictable path -- "My Boy Lollypop", "Downtown", "Georgy Girl", as well as bossa-themed pop hits such as "Blame It On The Bossa Nova". The thing is, Trio Esperanca sounded genuinely naive and cute in the way that they best early girl groups were, and their lightweight harmonies carry the day, as they purr away over tame pop arrangements that sound exactly like the imitation rock that Brits made in the days just before Beatlemania. These recordings -- mostly from 1960-65 --might not floor everyone, but I liked 'em. Certainly a notch above many of their contemporaries.
Wanderlea "Wanderlea" (CBS, 1963)
Wanderlea "Quero Voce" (CBS, 1964)
With a Leslie Gore/Little Eva-like girl-group spunk, Wanderlea (here a brunette, later a blonde) was one of the most consistent and creditable performers in the jovem guarda crowd. Her first album starts off with a bang, on "Nao Existe O Amor", a cover of a French pop song, but quickly slips away from the real rock feel they were aiming for, and into iffy mainstream pop. A recent CD reissue adds a booming big band version of "Tell Me How Long", which was presumably originally on a single. By the time of her second album, Quero Voce, Wanderlea's rock sound had solidified and toughened up, and the girl group debt was made plainer with the inclusion of covers such as "Meu Bem Lollipop". It also didn't hurt to have Renato E Seus Blue-Caps backing her up...one of the few great bands of the jovem guarda scene. (These two albums were re-released on a 2-for-1 CD).
Various Artists "BASEMENTVILLE! Volume 2: THE SOUND OF JOVEM GUARDA" (Misty Lane, 2000)
I suppose this set could be considered jovem guarda, but whereas most of the better-known, more mainstream jovem guarda bands had a mostly watered-down, teenybopper pop style, most of the groups on this excellent set of garage rock obscuros really knew how to rock. Glancing at the scans of old album covers and LP labels, it seems that '60s punk bands generally were excluded from the major label rosters -- these releases on Mocambo, Palladium, GMD and Caravelle and others (with a few on CBS, Polydor and Continental) have a wildness that was largely missing in the Brazilian rock scene, at least until Gil and Veloso showed up. This reissue LP is highly recommended, although your best bet for tracking a copy down might be to contact Misty Lane Records directly, in their misty Roman lair.
Various Artists "HEARTS OF STONE/CORACOES DE PEDRA v. 1-3" (Magica, 2000)
Yeah, baby. This is the real deal. Brazilian beat from the mid-'60s, with plenty of cover tunes but also a healthy dose of originals, generally much harder than the standard-issue ie-ie-ie of the JG teen beat. The best-known groups on here are (of course) Renato e Seus Blue Caps and Os Beat Boys, but mainly this is for-real, off-the-beaten-track, honest-to-goodness teen beat from the British Invasion days. For those of us who like kitschy cover tunes that don't suck, and who are trying to delve into the dim, misty past of Brazil's pre-tropicalia rock scene, this is an ultra-cool find. Plus, it's even got (gasp!) great, well-written liner notes. Three volumes so far, and they're all pretty darn good!
Various Artists "JOVEM GUARDA" (Polydor, 1999)
Well, THIS was a huge disappointment. I took one look at the cover in the stores and got all giddy: it's just what I was looking for!! A sampler of all the goofy Brazilian roqueiro acts that appeared on Roberto Carlos' sixties TV show, Jovem Guarda! How cool is that?? Not very, as it turns out. Who would have ever imagined that, instead of putting out a collection of Mod-era oldies, Polygram would instead get all these geezers together for a 1995 studio session to re-record their songs? Yeah, many of the big names are here -- Erasmo Carlos, Wanderlea, the Fevers, Renato e Seus Blue-Caps -- but in watery, smoothed out modern form, with all the vigor of an ABBA cover band playing at the county fair with a hangover. Sigh. The only mildly noteworthy track is Caetano Veloso relaxing and having a toss at a version of "Road Hog", a song that Robeto Carlos used to do back in the day. Roberto, himself, is notably absent from this project.
Various Artists "(AS 16 MAIS DA) JOVEM GUARDA" (Globo/Universal, 2000)
Ye gods! What is wrong with the record execs down Rio way? Why do they keep putting out these tepid Jovem Guarda reunion albums, when what we wanna hear are the original recordings by these artists back when they were innocent-eyed teeny-boppers? Pretty much the same deal as the PolyGram collection listed above, with a little overlap, and perhaps marginally better performances. Also, still no participation from Roberto Carlos, bless his little heart. This is okay, I guess, but what's the point? It's the Brazilian equivalent of Sha Na Na!
Various Artists "NA ONDE DO IE-IE-IE v.1-2" (EMI/Copacabana, 2000
My frustration with the tepid and false jovem guarda releases listed above led one Slipcue reader to take pity and steer me towards these excellent 2-CD sets, which are packed with the chirpiness and spunk I was looking for. I guess Philips had its hands full with bossa nova, so it took teenybopper rock even less seriously than other labels. It turns that some of the best stuff was on Odeon and Copacabana... and thank goodness EMI has had the good sense to re-release so much of it! These samplers are probably a better bet than their individual artist collections -- more variety and less margin for error. There's certainly plenty of charming material. Sure, it's not earthshattering or Elvis, but these recordings are still fun and cute.
Various Artists "OS GRANDES SUCESOS DA JOVEM GUARDA, Vol 1-2" (CBS, 1975)
Now, THIS is more like it. I guess the trouble with the disc above is that CBS and Columbia made most of the rock records in Brazil, instead of PolyGram, who had better things to do at the time. Anyway, these LPs deliver the goods-- teenyboppers like Wanderlea, Katia Cilene and Jerry Adriani share the air with Renato & The Blues Caps and Roberto Carlos. Sappy Fabian-style ballads are represented by a kid named Leno, and rocker Raul Seixas lurks in the background as a producer and songwriter. Honestly, this isn't earthshaking rocknroll, but it's pretty cute... If anyone can suggest a CD equivalent of these discs, I'd be glad to hear about it!
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.1: FESTA DE ARROMBA" (Polygram, 1997)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.2: EU SOU TERRIVEL" (Polygram, 1997)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.3: O CALHAMBEQUE" (Polygram, 1998)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.4: E PAPO FIRME" (Polygram, 1998)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.5: SPLISH SPLASH" (Polygram, 1999)
A five-CD series showcasing the best of the PolyGram teenybopper catalog. Each volume has 14 tracks, which seems a little skimpy, but still, from the looks of things, this series is pretty decent. (I haven't heard it yet...)
Various Artists: "TROPICALIA: OU PANIS ET CIRCENSIS" (Polygram, 1968)
This was the album that really broke the mould for Brazilian rockers, and inspired several generations of experimentation. A collaborative statement of purpose for the hippie-ish tropicalia movement, with contributions from Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Nara Leao, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso. Not quite the Sgt. Pepper's it was meant to be, but still an amazing burst of youthful vigor, wry intellectual ironies and playful, artsy experimentation. Recommended!
"Jovem Guarda: Em Ritmo De Aventura"
By Marcelo Froes
(Editora 34, 2000)
An affectionate, authoritative look at the jovem guarda scene. Profiles of many of the style's best proponents -- such as Roberto and Erasmo Carlos, Celly Campello, Wanderlea, Jerry Adriani, Renato e Seus Blue-Caps, Os Fevers and Ronnie Von -- are amplified by copious photographs and an extensive, annotated discography section. Marcelo Froes, a music historian and 'zine writer who has specialized in the jovem guarda movement, has also recently done some astounding reissue work for several of Brazil's major labels. Cool resource! (In Portuguese.)
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