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Tropicalia  group  portrait

tropicalia was a late-'60s/early-'70s musical movement that combined North American rock, blues, jazz, folk and psychedelic music with Brazilian and other latin american styles. Closely identified with youth and counterculture, tropicalia was the most visible part of an artistic movement that sought to redefine Brazilian culture, and actively helped subvert the military dictatorship which had taken over the country in 1964. In part, tropicalia was also a reaction to the perceived stodginess of bossa nova music, which had been the dominant pop style since the late 1950s -- it was also seen as an alternative to the industry-sponsored prefab teenybopper rock of the jovem guarda... Both tropicalia and bossa nova have come to be referred to as part of MPB, or "Musica Popular Brasileira," modern Brazilian pop, though the term originally applied only to tropicalia.

Recommended Records (Page 2)

Jorge Mautner "Para Iluminar A Cidade" (Philips, 1973)
A delightful relic of authentic Brazilian hippie folk-rock. Violinist-songwriter Mautner, a fast friend of tropicalia founders Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, performs live at the Teatro Opinao in Rio de Janeiro, with sparse acoustic accompaniment: his violin, bass, guitar and bongo drums. His style is loose, rambling and playful, and utterly appealing. Vocally, he sounds a bit like Caetano, but shorn of the seriousness and gravity that marks much of Veloso's work. It's a kooky, low-key album, a novel oddity that might have arisen as easily from the margins of the San Francisco freak scene as from Brazilian climes. Includes one song cowritten with Caetano ("From Faraway") although all the other songs are by Mautner himself. Anyone who's into marginal, different-sounding, uncommercial art might wanna check this out.

Jorge Mautner "Jorge Mautner" (Polydor, 1974)

Jorge Mautner "Mil E Uma Noites De Bagda" (Phonogram, 1976)

Jorge Mautner "Bomba De Estrelas" (WEA, 1981)

Jorge Mautner "Antimaldito" (Polygram, 1985)

Jorge Mautner & Nelson Jacobina "Arvore Da Vida" (WEA, 1988)

Jorge Mautner "Pedra Bruta" (Rock Company, 1992)

Jorge Mautner "Estilhacos De Paixao" (Primal Records, 1997)

Jorge Mautner "O Ser Da Tempestade: 40 Anos De Carreira" (Dabliu, 1999)
Fans of old Os Mutantes or of Tom Ze's oddball surrealist rantings may enjoy this 2-CD set... An interesting, often goofy collection of songs by an MPB old-timer and musical absurdist... This is divided in two parts, one is a disc of violinist-vocalist Mautner playfully lurching his way through a newly-recorded, sideways-tilted collection of songs, some old, some new, and several which are recognizable from old records by various MPB and tropicalia stars. Those same folks -- including Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa -- pitch in on the second CD, which is made up of their versions of Mautner's songs, including two recordings of "Maracatu Atomico," Gilberto Gil's 1973 original, and a more contemporary version by Chico Science. Mautner's own performances are super-goofy, kinda like once got in the studio he just couldn't resist the opportunity to mug his way through them... The arrangements around his silliness are pretty solid, though, and have a latter-day music-hall feel to them, in the tradition of Ray Davies and the Kinks. Nothing earth-shattering, but worth checking out if you're interested in the history of the whole tropicalia/MPB phenomenon.

Jorge Mautner & Caetano Veloso "Eu Nao Peco Desculpa" (Universal, 2002)
A delightful, deliciously humorous collaboration between Caetano and one of his favorite tropicalia-era pals. Songwriter/violinist Jorge Mautner is not a particularly prolific recording artist, but his work is marked by a certain playful inventiveness, and he and Caetano are clearly both on the same wavelength when they get together, as evidenced on this warm, richly textured and stylistically varied album. Quiet acoustic numbers nestle alongside rollicking Afro-Brazilian samba tunes, jittery rock and mystical ballads. It's all quite good, although some songs worth noting include an interesting remake of Mautner's best-known song, "Maracatu Atomico" (previously heard on Gilberto Gil's 1975 Refrazenda album), a nerve-jangling rock tune ("Tarado") that sounds for all the world like a Portuguese-language Doors song, and the album's opener, "Todo Errado," in which Caetano crafts a flawless American-style country tune (with a few hints of Mexican bandera thrown in for good measure. Another brilliantly creative Caetano album... Recommended! [PS - yes, I know the album art is sideways... so do Caetano and Jorge...]

Os Mutantes - see artist discography

Novos Baianos - see artist discography

Ze Ramalho "Ze Ramalho" (CBS, 1978)
Cool. 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... His rambling, discursive style comes off 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. Recommended.

Ze Ramalho "A Peleja Do Diabo Com O Dono Do Ceu" (CBS, 1979)
The cover art shows Ramalho being menaced (or maybe tickled) by the long-taloned schlock-horror movie director Jose Mojica Marins, who made the super-creepy, low-budget series of Ze Do Caixo ("Coffin Joe") films in the 1960s and became something of a pop-culture icon as a result. Ramalho's embrace of the Ze Do Caixo imagery gives a hint at the weirdness of this record, which is kind of a throwback to the ultra-diverse avantism of his early work with Lu Cortes (reviewed above). It's still pretty challenging material, worth looking into if youre searching for weird stuff from Brazil.

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 and Luiz Carlos Sa went on to record more straightforward pop material in the '70s and '80s, but nothing as striking as this... Ze Rodrix went solo, although he continuted to collaborate with them

Sergio Sampaio "Eu Quero E Botar Meu Bloco Na Rua" (Philips, 1973)
Wow. Supercool. Rocker Sergio Sampaio made this album after working with Raul Seixas on his oddball album, Sociedade Da Gra-Ordem Kavernista Apresenta Sessao Das Dez, the record that got Seixas fired from his job at CBS records. If you originally got onto the Brazil bandwagon through psychedelic rock bands such as Os Mutantes, and have 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 idiosyncratic 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.

Satwa "Satwa" (Rosemblit, 1973)
A groovy psychedelic curio from hippie-era Brazil... This noodly, mostly-all-acoustic, mostly-all-instrumental album has a folk-freak feel that could as easily have been recorded in upstate New York or in a yurt in Southern California... It's basically a long, spaced out jam session between two stringed instruments, a folkie 12-string and a zither-like sitar, producing faerie-like riffs that just go on and on. It's broken into ten separate tracks, but they all sound the same, as if the musicians -- the post-tropicalia duo of Lula Cortes and Lailson -- were, y'know, like, really, really high and, like, really, really digging the groove, man, and exploring it as far as it would go. Like, totally. Tudo azul, dude. One track on Side Two features Robertinho Do Recife on electric guitar along with some spacy, half-hummed vocals, but the mood remains the same, and they quickly revert to pure acoustic music for the last two tracks. The thing of it is, though, it's a really pretty, narcotically pleasant album. It's odd, it's indulgent, it was a totally kooky project, but it holds up really well, decades later. Do you dig Davendra Banhart? Then check these guys out, too. You'll be psyched.

Secos & Molhados "Secos & Molhados" (MCA, 1973)
Secos & Molhados "Secos & Molhados" (Continental, 1974)

Psychedelic glam-folk from Sao Paulo, 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, which build on the same nutty rocknroll eclecticism. 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!

Raul Seixas "Sociedade Da Gra-Ordem Kavernista Apresenta Sessao Das Dez" (CBS, 1971)
This was the album that apparently got rocker Raul Seixas fired from his day job as an arranger and studio musician at CBS. Legend has it that Seixas waited until a time when the company president was out of town, then "OK-ed" the production of his own solo album, which was predictably a nutty, psychedelic mess, made with fellow kook-rocker Sergio Sampaio. The CBS exec got back later, but too late to stop the album from coming out, and dutifully booted Seixas out on his butt. I actually haven't heard the album yet, but I sure like the story.

Raul Seixas "Krig-Ha, Bandolo!" (Philips, 1973)
That's Tarzan talk in the title, for all the uninitiated... This is really cool, kooky album, much mellower in tone and more acoustically based than his later hard-rock approach. The first sideof this is album is filled with searching, folky space-rock, psychedelic adaptations of samba and Northeastern forro, and even a send-up of a Mitch Miller-style squaredance hoedown, and some country-rock in the second half of the album. It's possible that the production assistance by bossa nova elder Roberto Menescal helped soften things a bit, but regardless of the circumstances, this is a wildly diverse, creative and rather unusual Brazilian rock album... well worth tracking down and checking out! Novelist Paulo Coelho co-wrote about half the songs on here; the start of their long and productive partnership.

Trio Ternura "Trio Ternura" (CBS) (1971?)
A cool psychedelic soul-pop album, produced under the auspices of crazed, ne'er-do-well avant-rocker, Raul Seixas, who was just about ready to get kicked off the CBS label himself for greenlighting his own solo album without the label head's approval. Enough about him, though... This album has some great '60s pop twists, LA-style orchestral stuff, cannily blended with driving funk, similar to early Sly & The Family Stone. They later released an album under the name of Quinteto Ternura. Retro fans pay heed: this is an album worth tracking down!

Caetano Veloso - see artist discography

Tom Ze - see artist discography

Various Artists "TROPICALIA: OU PANIS ET CIRCENSIS" (Polygram, 1968)
A psychedelic collaborative statement of purpose for the hippie-ish tropicalia movement, with contributions from Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Nara Leao, Caetano Veloso and Tom Ze. Gal sings on four of the twelve tracks, and her vocals are consistently pleasant, although this is really a songwriting and stylistic showcase album which overshadows vocalists. Overall, this record radiates youthfulness and a playful, experimental artistic zeal. Recommended!

Various Artists "TROPICALIA: A REVOLUTION IN SOUND" (Soul Jazz, 2006)
A top-notch collection of Brazilian psychedelic classics, featuring all the big-name stars of the brief-lived tropicalia scene of the late '60s and early '70s. I haven't actually laid eyes (or ears) on this disc, and probably won't anytime soon, since it's kinda pricey and I've also already heard pretty much all the music that's gathered here. But for an introduction to some of Brazil's greatest musicians -- Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben and others -- this is a pretty cool set. Definitely worth checking out if you're curious about the style. (For more info on tropicalia, check out my Brazilian Music Guide... )

Various Artists "TROPICALIA: A REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT IN SOUND" (Universal Latino, 2007)

Various Artists "TROPICALIA ESSENTIALS" (MCA/Hip-O, 1999)
I guess with the latest corporate shake-up/merger mania, The Corporation gave these guys the nod to put out their domestic reissues of classic tropicalia material. So far, so good. Even though the sound on here doesn't seem as crisp as the Philips originals, the song selection is good, although it sticks to the softer, more melodic side of the genre... This is all pretty classic material from Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, and others. (It's a pity they didn't consider Jorge Ben's late-'60s stuff to officially be part of the tropicalia scene, 'cause that's the one thing that's really missing from here.) One nice rarities inclusion is a track from famed arranger Rogerio Duprat's elusive solo album... Also, the liner notes have a nice essay from Ricardo Pessanha, co-author of the fabulous book, The Brazilian Sound... If you're looking for an introduction to tropicalia, this is a fine place to start.


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