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Beth Carvalho portrait At midnight, December 31, 1999, a few million people on the beach at Copacabana sang along with the dynamic samba star Beth Carvalho as she belted out a dynamic version of the old Ary Barroso standard, "Aquarela do Brasil," to ring in the new century. Warm-voiced and cheerful, Carvalho is one of Brazil's most famous female stars -- in the early 1970s she popularized a modern style of samba known as pagode, which has since become the staple of Brazilian pop music and swamps the radio airwaves. Both an innovator and a traditionalist, Carvalho remains one of Brazil's most solid and satisfying performers. (Please note, though, that there are many samba fans who find Carvalho's sound to be too commercial and watered-down, and many Brazilians are critical of her image and music... I guess I land halfway between the two -- her early stuff sure sounds nice to me!)


Os Gatos "Aquele Som Dos Gatos" (PolyGram, 1966)
(Produced by Dori Caymmi)

An all-star schlockfest... String-laden easy listening, arranged by Eumir Deodato and produced by Dorival Caymmi's son, Dori. Mostly slow, tacky instrumental versions of bossa nova standards, featuring the tragically squandered talent of Paulo Moura, as well as EZ-fusion flautist, Meirelles. One point of interest, though: could the "Betty" Carvalho listed as a backup singer actually be our gal, future samba star, Beth Carvalho? Anyone know for sure?

Conjunto 3D "Muito Na Onda" (Odeon, 1967)
This 1967 album features some of the earliest recorded work of samba superstar Beth Carvalho, who was the "girl" singer in a pop vocals/jazz band that also featured pianist Antonio Adolfo. They're aiming for a swinging Sergio Mendes/Young Holt Trio-style hipness, and in some ways are more successful here than many of their contemporaries. Carvalho sounds either hampered or hesistant on many of the tunes; she's paired up with a couple of fairly unremarkable male vocalists... But on some songs she shines, particularly on "Patruira Samba" (the lone Adolfo composition on an album packed with North American pop and jazz standards ("When The Saint's Go Marching In," Cole Porter's "Night And Day," Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," etc.) and on an early Gilberto Gil composition, "Roda," which is also a highlight of the album. The English-language material is uniformly unsuccessful, but there's still an adventurous air here that hits the mark on a few songs. Adolfo went to form the band Brazuca, which took this formula further (and abandoned the attraction to cover tunes...) while Carvalho, of course, went on to become one of the biggest stars of her generation... This is an interesting prelude and/or historical footnote to her career!

Beth Carvalho "Andanca" (Odeon, 1969)

Beth Carvalho "Canta Por Um Nova Dia" (Tapecar, 1973)
The swaying, cavaquinho-based rhythms that typified the pagode style aren't completely set yet on this early album; Carhalho is stretching out more as an interpreter of song, foreshadowing the "softer" style she would later adopt... It's neither as luxuriant and captivating as her straight samba albums, nor as monochromatic... Definitely worth checking out, though! Includes songs from Eduardo Gudin, Martinho Da Vila, Joao Nogueira and Nelson Cavaquinho, but also fro a host of lesser-known 'Seventies composers.

Beth Carvalho "Pra Seu Governo" (Sigla, 1974)
A beautiful modern samba album -- Carvalho is in full command of her vocals, and comes off as a somewhat more joyful Maria Bethania -- the same low register, but a little more warmth. Half the tracks on here were arranged by Brazilian jazz veteran Paulo Moura (and these tend towards poppier production, including light string sections); the other half were arranged by Orlando Silveira, and these tend towards a more rambunctious, straight samba feel. Nice stuff.

Beth Carvalho "Pandeiro E Viola" (Tapecar, 1975)
Another rock-solid early album by this '70s samba goddess. Only on a couple of tunes does she dip into glossier MPB stylings; for the most part she's in fine form as a joyful samba swinger. Nice, simple, catchy arrangements and cheery coros. Recommended!

Beth Carvalho "Mundo Melhor" (RCA, 1976)
Another perfectly lovely early album. She almost throws you off the track when the opening number prominently features and popping, funk-tinged electric bass, but things settle down pretty quickly into typically fabulous and melodically rich '70s-style pagode. She sounds a lot more like Clara Nunes here than on other albums, more straight-ahead samba, and a lot less pop. Recommended!

Beth Carvalho "Nos Botequins Da Vida" (RCA, 1977)

Beth Carvalho "De Pe No Chao" (RCA, 1978)
(Produced by Rildo Hora, Durival Ferreira; Arranged by Ivan Paulo & Orlando Silviera)

The classic late-'70s samba-raiz sound, with all the ususal suspects backing a rock-solid singer in a powerful, rootsy set. Jorge Aragao is a featured performer, along with percussionists, drummers and virtuosi galore...

Beth Carvalho "No Pagode" (RCA, 1979)

Beth Carvalho "Sentimento Brasileiro" (RCA-BMG, 1980)
She definitely still "had it" when this album was made; in fact, she was still at an artistic peak. Following the lead of Clara Nunes, Carvalho aligned herself with a vague political identification with "the people" -- multiple songs about povo this and povo that -- and hey, I'm sure the People were plenty happy to hear bouncy, lively, invigorating pagode like this! This is a fine album, with all the classic hallmarks of the style, and a slew of great players joining in on the fun... Dino 7 Cordas, Wilson Das Neves, Paulo Moura and Arthur Verocai are among the many musicians who make up this joyful sound. Recommended!

Beth Carvalho "Na Fonte" (RCA-BMG, 1981)
(Arranged by Rildo Hora & Leonardo Bruno)

Another solid set of propulsive, joyful acoustic sambas, with backing by a stunning, all-star cast. Mauro Diniz, Mane do Cavacao, Manoel da Conceicao, Dino 7 Cordas, Joel Nascimento, and dozens of others on the '70s -- well, now the '80s -- samba scene, backing Carvalho on one sweet song after another. Her voice is in peak form, the songs are all great, there are no dips into synthy pop, or jazzy MPB, just a whole bunch of the good stuff. Recommended!

Beth Carvalho "Traco De Uniao" (RCA-BMG, 1982)

Beth Carvalho "Suor No Rosto" (RCA-BMG, 1983)
Carvalho introduces the samba world to one of its future stars, Zeca Pagodinho, on the song "Camarao Que Dorme A Onda Leva." A nice hint of things to come, with his sleek voice intertwining among the slinky beat of his own composition. This is another nice, upbeat Carnaval-ed out album, relentlessly perky and peppy. The tempo actually relaxes a bit after Zeca's songs, and it's on the mellower tunes that this band really shines. Worth checking out!

Beth Carvalho "Coracao Feliz" (RCA-BMG, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Rildo Hora, Miguel Plopschi & Guti)

This album is frontloaded with a couple of tracks in the then-popular, quite manic frevo/marchas style of the trios electricos such as Osmar E Dodo, et. al. When Carvalho and her band plow through "Carnaval De Salao," a relentlessly hyperactive potourri medley of samba cancao oldies done in the modern style, you think, oh crap what happened here? But eventually she chills out and the cavaquinho and bandolim ease their way back in for some gentler samba numbers, including new tunes by Arlindo Cruz and Almir Guineto, who are both in the studio crew, as well as one by Jorge Aragao of the samba group Grupo Fundo de Quintal, to whom she dedicates the album. She rounds the record out with a gentle medley of songs by samba elders Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho, which just barely redeems her for butchering the Carmen Miranda oldie, "Mamae Eu Quero" earlier in the album. Quest performers include Dona Ivone Lara and Martinho da Vila, not to mention the star-studded studio crew. On baland, this one's a little too prefab and by-the-numbers, but still has some sweet stuff on it.

Beth Carvalho "Das Bencaos Que Virao Com Os Novos Amanhas" (BMG, 1985)
(Produced by Miguel Plopschi & Ivan Paulo)

Another fine album... There's a poppier feel overall, but the bouncy acoustic feel is still at the core. Great repertoire, with songs by Jorge Aragao, Joao Bosco, Arlindo Cruz, Almir Guineto, Martinho da Vila and others... Plus one from soul singer Carlos Dafe, for a little bit of variety. Mostly, a pretty traditional feeling set, definitely worth checking out!

Beth Carvalho "Beth" (BMG, 1986)

Beth Carvalho "Ao Vivo - Montreux" (RCA-Ariola, 1987) (LP)
Nice, warm live set with only slightly muffled sound. The music is pretty straightforward and mainly acoustic. Pleasantly, refreshingly traditionalist for an album made this late in the game, and at such a glitzy event.

Beth Carvalho "Alma Do Brasil" (Philips, 1988)
More solid modern samba, with Carvalho's warm voice in its richest fullness. The straight samba tracks are gorgeous, although about half the album (especially on Side Two) is devoted to slushy, overproduced MPB ballads. Still, I'd much rather hear her sing one of those sappy songs than, say, Nana Caymmi. Also includes a good version of the bloco-afro standard, "Eligibo" which directly lifts its arrangement from the Olodum version, as well as a guest appearance by Zeca Pagodinho.

Beth Carvalho "Saudades Da Guanabara" (Polygram, 1989) (LP)
(Produced by Armando Pittigliani & Renato Correa)

Although there are a few truly dreadful, synth-heavy arrangements, and though the production on the whole is on the too-slick, too poppy side, there are also some lovely songs, memorable choruses and sweet, rich vocals by the still-vital Carvalho. Standouts include Ney Lopes' insistent "Vaqueirada" and to a lesser extent the gentle but synthy version of Ivone Lara's "Sorriso De Crianca," which includes guest vocals from MPB elder Elizete Cardoso. I have admit, this is one of those records I'd probably be embarrassed to be caught listening to -- the cheesy pop vibe mostly outweighs the more soulful passages -- but with samba pros like Wilson das Neves, Arlindo Cruz and cavaquinho player Wanderson as part of the ginormous studio crew, there's still going to be a nice melodic feel, no matter how slick the production gets.

Beth Carvalho "Toque De Malicia" (1990)

Beth Carvalho "Interprete" (Polygram, 1991) (LP)
A pretty syrupy, negligible album, with lots of soft pop arrangements, and MPB crooning that's more along the lines of Maria Bethania's work, though Carvalho lacks the gravitas to really do the torch song thing right. I suppose this is okay, but it didn't really wow me. Even the straight samba numbers are a bit leaden.

Beth Carvalho "Ao Vivo - A Olympia" (Som Livre, 1991)
Carvalho wows the crowd with a rousing set of anthemic, sing-along sambas... The audience is enthusiastic, and both Beth and her band sound like their hearts are still in it. Not bad!

Beth Carvalho "Perolas - 25 Anos Do Samba" (Som Livre, 1992)

Beth Carvalho "Acervo Especial"

Beth Carvalho "O Samba De Sao Paulo v.1" (Velas, 1993)

Beth Carvalho "O Samba De Sao Paulo v.2" (Velas, 1993)

Beth Carvalho "Brasileira Da Gema" (Polygram, 1996)

Beth Carvalho "Pagode De Mesa Ao Vivo" (Polygram, 1999)

Beth Carvalho "Pagode De Mesa Ao Vivo, v.2" (Polygram, 2000)

Beth Carvalho "Nome Sagrado - Beth Carvalho Canta Nelson Cavaquinho" (Jam, 2001)

Beth Carvalho "Canta Cartola" (BMG-RCA, 2003)
Quite nice! A more reserved, relaxed Carvalho moves through a respectful set of songs written by the great samba school composer, Cartola. The arrangements are more sparing and less popped-out than most of her work over the last couple of decades, and her vocals sound rich and heartfelt. Worth checking out!

Beth Carvalho "A Madrinha Do Samba" (2004)

Beth Carvalho "Firme E Forte No Pagode" (Sony-BMG, 2004)

Beth Carvalho/Various Artists "Beth Carvalho E Amigos" (Sony, 2005)

Beth Carvalho "40 Anos De Carreira Ao Vivo No Theatro Municipal, v.1" (Sony, 2006)

Beth Carvalho "40 Anos De Carreira Ao Vivo No Theatro Municipal, v.2" (Sony, 2006)

Beth Carvalho "Canta O Samba Da Bahia: Ao Vivo" (EMI, 2007)


Beth Carvalho "Millennium" (Polygram, 1998)

Beth Carvalho "Focus: O Essential De Beth Carvalho" (BMG, 1999)

Beth Carvalho "Serie Raizes Do Samba" (EMI, 1999)

Beth Carvalho "Serie Sem Limite" (Polygram, 2001)

Beth Carvalho "Serie Retratos" (EMI, 2005)

Beth Carvalho "Primeiras Andancas" (Microservice Brasil, 2010)

Related Records

Piraja Esquina Carioca "Uma Noite Com A Raiz Do Samba - Ao Vivo" (Dabliu, 2000)
(Produced by Moacyr Luz)

A gorgeous live samba album! It wouldn't be unfair to compare this fab acoustic ensemble to Cuba's much-beloved Buena Vista Social Club -- although this particular group of sambistas, including Beth Carvalho, Joao Nogueira and Dona Ivone Lara never found their fame eclipsed in the same way that the Cuban old-timers did, and they didn't need Ry Cooder to gather their forces together. Still, this is a loving, lively tribute to the old days, and it's done by a bunch of veteran performers who really know their stuff. Every time Carvalho gives a little shout-out to encourage the band, she sounds so joyful that you can't help but smile. Great stuff. HIGHLY recommended!


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