In the 1970s, Brazilian rock'n'roll followed along on several parallel paths, which only occasionally intersected. Many of the groups from the heavily commercialized, early-60s prefab jovem guarda teenybopper scene kept making albums well into the 1970s. Generally speaking, these continued along the pop cover-tunes path of their earlier work, or dipped even deeper into bland pop vocals, as with Roberto Carlos, the king of the scene. Many of the great tropicalia artists who pioneered psychedelic rock in Brazil moved on to become the superstars of the "MPB" scene, which also turned towards an increasingly-ornate pop direction; some -- like Jorge Ben -- delved into funk and soul-flavored groove music.
A handful of artists pursued (more or less) straight-ahead rock music... Many were inspired by the inroads made by the tropicalia movement, but keeping up with the times, they spun off in different directions. Ex-Mutante Rita Lee became something of a stadium rocker, and several prog bands flourished in the mid-'70s, while a few hardcore rockers and psychedelic bands also roamed the land. To be honest, I haven't heard all that many of these records... but as I check them out, I'll add my reviews to the Slipcue site.
Belchior "Alucinacao" (Philips, 1976)
An iffy effort by one of the early pioneers of Northeastern rock music... At heart this is pretty tame stuff, and his nasal vocals are... well, different. The most interesting aspects are some '70s folk rock/country touches (subtle pedal steel, some acoustic guitar), a dash of forro... but mostly this is not mind-blowing. It's kinda like a Brazilian tribute to "Yellow Submarine" -- the song, not the album. Still, this guy was important to the development of a homegrown rock scene... or so they tell me...
Pepeu Gomes "Na Terra A Mais De Mil" (WEA, 1979)
Cool! The second solo album by this hotshot rock guitarist shows an imaginative musical breadth and a keen sense of humor much in keeping with his early work in Novos Baianos. Gomes debuted as a teenager in 1969, accompanying Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso on their famous farewell concert, before the two tropicalia founders went off into their European exile. Then, with singer Baby Consuelo and guitarist Moraes Moreira, he formed Novos Baianos, a wildly inventive band that took up the psychedelic/eclectic ethos of tropicalia, while delving deep into indigenous Brazilian folk music. This album, made at the end of Gomes first decade as a professional musician, is ambitious and challenging, veering from hard rock and prog riffs to more folkloric material, all punctuated by his keening electric guitar and scat vocals. Anyone interested in hearing some good Brazilian prog should check this disc out... It's surprisingly good!
Pepeu Gomes "Ao Vivo" (WEA, 1980)
This live album, recorded at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, of all places, is a little harder and more unrelenting than his studio work, and careens into more iffy rock-prog territory. But it also shows remarkable breadth, starting off with some softer acoustic numbers before Gomes picks up his axe and starts chopping. The band seems to be made up mainly of Gomes family members; perhaps this accounts for the intuitive flow of their sound. Also recommended!
Rita Lee - see artist page and Os Mutantes.
Novos Baianos "Acabou Chorare" (Som Livre, 1972)
One of those rare Brazilian bands that could handle both the "North American" rock and hometown traditional music with equal aplomb, Novos Baianos featured guitarists Moraes Moreira and Pepeu Gomes (who both had some pretty sharp chops) and vocalist Baby Consuelo, who made a nice stand-in for Gal Costa... There's a wild variety of styles on here -- forro, choro, and samba -- mixed in with some pretty solid rock-prog riffs. These folks had a nice, free-wheeling feel and sounded like they were having a lot of fun. On this disc, it takes a while for the rock music to kick in, as they more gracefully explore acoustic Brazilian stylings beforehand. Definitely one of the best bands of the era... highly recommended!
Novos Baianos "Novos Baianos F.C." (Warner, 1973)
Novos Baianos "Novos Baianos" (Warner, 1974)
Two excellent tropicalia inspired rock albums that have recently been repackaged on a single CD... As with the album reviewed above, this is a fairly breathtaking mix of styles... Your eyebrows might start to raise a bit when they start getting all math-y and proggy, but even then they pull through with inspired grace. Tasty stuff.
Ze Ramalho "Ze Ramalho" (CBS, 1978)
A really interesting, mellow, slightly off-kilter folk-rock album, combining northestern forro and sertanejo stylings with spacy folk-pop along the lines of Tim Buckley and Bob Dylan... Comes out a bit Dire Straits-y, too... and I mean that in a good way! A couple of tracks are co-written with fellow NE rocker, Alceu Valenca... other guest artists include Vinicius Cantuaria, accordionist Dominguinhos, samba bad boy, Bezerra da Silva, ex-Mutante Sergio Dias and -- of course -- forro-pop superstar Elba Ramalho... an all-star cast for a very intriguing album. His later stuff gets really scary, but this is recommended.
Sa, Rodrix & Guarabira "Sa, Rodrix & Guarabira" (EMI, 2003)
Although patently derivative of psychedelic forerunners such as Os Mutantes and the other tropicalistas, this group is still worth checking out for their melody-driven riffs and devotion to American-style rock'n'roll. This disc combines material from the trio's first two albums, Passado, Presente E Futuro (1971) and Terra (1973), music made with an abundance of '50s-style rock rhythms, yet with an experimental edge that sets them apart from the formulaic jovem guarda rockers of the previous decade. At times it sounds a little forced, but still can be captivating, especially if you give it more than one chance. Kind of a curio, but still pretty cool. Gutemberg Guarabira
Sergio Sampaio "Eu Quero E Botar Meu Bloco Na Rua" (Philips, 1973)
Wow. Supercool. At last, another "lost gem" that lives up to the exploratory weirdness of Os Mutantes and the early tropicalistas... If you've been looking for something that lived up to that kind of promise, then you have got to check this album out!! A weird but alluring, trippy, semi-orchestral, semi-acoustic space rock delicacy, laced with idiosnycratic acoustic guitar noodlings... This combines the searching, impassioned drama of Gilberto Gil's best stuff with the expansive, assured eclecticism of Caetano Veloso. Yeah, I know, that's pretty big talk, but really, this is an album that will live up to your expectations. A real gem, recently reissued and well worth looking for.
Secos & Molhados "Secos & Molhados" (MCA, 1973)
Secos & Molhados "Secos & Molhados" (Continental, 1974)
Psychedelic glam-folk, with convincingly androgyne vocals by Ney Matogrosso. Vocally, he sounds a lot like Rita Lee, and I mean that it the best way... Os Mutantes fans should really get off on these records. What else can I say? This is cool. Some of the best Brazilian rock I've heard yet, with sly wisps of acoustic folk, forro and space rock skillfully woven together. Highly recommended! (Re-released as a 2-in-1 set: Warner, 1999)
Raul Seixas "Minha Historia" (Philips, 1993)
Good best-of. Not many of Brazil's would-be rockers were up to the challenge laid down by Os Mutantes in the late '60s. Seixas was at the head of the pack, though, and while this isn't as challenging as Mutantes best stuff, it's pretty solid mid-70s rock, with echoes of artists as diverse as Wishbone Ash, Dylan, and Bread. His songwriting partner, (future) novelist Paulo Coelho, tended to contribute driving, retro-'50s/Eddie Cochran licks -- and bizarre metaphysical lyrics. Combined with the modern production, it all results in a decade-bending sort of Rocky Horror Picture Show sound. Let's do the timewarp!
Raul Seixas "Millennium - 20 Musicas do Seculo XX" (PolyGram, 1999)
An even better best-of, with only about half the tracks overlapping with the earlier Minha Historia collection. This is one of the best discs in this series, and probably the best representation of Seixas' work you're likely to come across. Ranges from the absurdly anthemic hit, "Sociedade Alternativa" and various winks and nods at '50s-style rock, to the sweet acousto-pop of his English-language "Morning Train" (which sounds eerily like the Waterboys!) A lot of this is completely overblown, and while not completely progged-out, there are a few wayward minor chords and synth riffs that may make your fur stand on end. Perhaps not the thing to put on for a relaxing afternoon at home, but it is a fascinating look at one of the more challenging, experimental rockers on the Brazilian scene.
Spectrum "Geracao Bendita" (Todamerica, 1971) [Reissued on Shadoks/Normal]
If nothing else, this psychedelic relic has a very colorful back story... The group Spectrum were one of many bands drawn into the orbit of Brazil's coastal hippie colony Nova Friburgia, Rio's version of the Dutch alternative lifestyle enclave of Christiania. What distinguished Spectrum was that they were chosen to provide the soundtrack to Carlos Bini's documentary film, Geracao Bendita, which captured the chaotic idealism of the experimental commune. The music itself is pretty good, with loudly aggressive acid rock guitars, more in line with the hard rock and proto-metal of Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin than with the Beatles-y tendencies of the MPB-bound tropicalistas. On the downside, it should be noted that the band had a guitar player who somewhat opportunistically went by the name "Caetano," which was fair enough since his real name was Jose Luiz Caetano de Silva... Except that the infinitely better-known tropicalia founder, Caetano Veloso, was at the time a national martyr, living in exile for his opposition to the military regime that took power in 1964. A little misleading, to be sure. At any rate, this disc is worth tracking down, as very few Brazilian bands hit such heavy, fuzzed-out psychedelic heights. Fans of Os Mutantes, etc., will defininitely want to check this out.
O Terco "Criaturas Da Noite" (EMI/Copacabana, 1975)
O Terco "Casa Encantada" (EMI/Copacabana, 1976)
Deliciously guilty pleasure-oriented Brazilian prog rock which should find a welcome audience with fans of other 70s bands such as Os Mutantes, Seco & Molhados or Novos Baianos. These two albums have been reissued together on a single CD -- each has its charms and scary parts. The first album has a great Spinal Tappy and folk-rock vibe to it; by the second album they were sounding a bit more like Yes or Rush. But it's definitely worth checking out -- I'm pretty snooty about stuff like this, and I kept my copy.
Various Artists "HEARTS OF STONE/CORACOES DE PEDRA" (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. 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. Okay, so when's volume dois come out?
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!
Brazilian Rock - Letter "R"
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