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Elis Regina portrait Elis Regina (1945-1982) is frequently referred to as Brazil's greatest vocalist; despite the great reverence she evokes from her fans, some may find her records to be hard going. Regina came to prominence during the peak of the bossa nova years, and stunned listeners with her gorgeously clear, confident and technically precise vocals. A famous interpreter of songs in a variety of styles, in the mid '60s she championed upstart tropicalia songwriters such as Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, and Jorge Ben, covering their material and consequently bringing them into the mainstream. A series of mid-'60s concerts with samba/saudade smoothie Jair Rodrigues led to three albums ("Dois Na Bossa") that helped cement the incipient tropicalia movement, and propelled both her and Rodrigues into permanent national popularity. Unfortunately, fame weighed heavily on her in her later years, and Elis Regina died of a drug overdose in 1982.

Regina's later albums are mainly what's available in the U.S. -- these are evenly split between drekky post-disco pop and more traditional jazz vocals. The jazz stuff is what you should look for -- some of her live performances from this period have an eerie similarity to Billie Holiday's later recordings, as she tears and strains at the songs in a way which is unusual in the normally-melodic Brazilian pop world. This is the first page of an artist profile, looking at her various albums, for her best-ofs, tributes and links, see Page Two.


Elis Regina "Viva A Brotolandia" (Continental, 1961)
(Produced by Carlos Imperial)

Although she was a teenager when her first album came out, the choice to cast her as a "broto" teeniebopper fell far short of the mark in terms of what Regina's talent would lead to. Producer Carlos Imperial, a mover and shaker on the jovem guarda teen scene, provided a few rock songs for her to sing -- stuff like Paul Anka's "Puppy Love" -- along with a hefty dose of gooey soft pop vocals, things like a translated version of "My Favorite Things" by Rodgers & Hammerstein and several bolero-style ballads. What's remarkable, though, is Elis's voice, it's clarity of tone and her confidence as a singer. Although its her youthfulness that made the teen-pop material seem appropriate, it's actually the underlying maturity and emotional depth that stands out. Clearly the folks at Continental missed the mark by burying her in kiddie stuff and steering clear of the bossa nova revolution, but this is still a noteworthy debut... Worth checking out if you are a devoted fan, though with little hint of the jazzy side that would soon emerge.

Elis Regina "Poema De Amor" (Continental, 1962)
Although she's (kind of) allowed out of the jovem guarda kiddie ghetto, the material on this second album is still pretty old-fashioned and tame... Nary a bossa nova tune to be seen, although an early composition from Waltel Branco is kind of noteworthy. Mostly these are cha-cha-chas, ballads and boleros, kitschy music that imitates Spanish-language pop rather than the homegrown revolution of the time... Still, there were several bandleaders involved and gafieira elder Severino Araujo adds some zingy big-band jazz riffs on a few tunes. Hard to tell who did what (the credits don't tell, but it may be safe to assume Araujo was backing Regina on the uptempo "Pororo-Popo," where she lets loose with a little Elza Soares-style scatting... It's a cute album, but all very poppy and safe... The same formula would continue until '65 when she switched over to Philips, and got a bit brassier and more cutting edge. Still, as a teenager, Elis exhibited amazing vocal power and stylistic strength. Definitely worth checking out.

Elis Regina "Ellis Regina" (Columbia, 1963)
Early and atypical ballads, with an orchestra under the direction of bandleader Luiz Astor. The most engaging parts of this album come early on, when Elis is singing in a classic, Cuban influenced, latin-dance style, ala Celia Cruz. Her phrasing on these tracks is some of the most relaxed and natural-sounding of her career, and it's nice to hear her do such unexpected material. Unfortunately, as the album progresses both her vocals and the arrangements around her get tinny and a bit strained. Interesting early material -- even if they did misspell her name!

Elis Regina "O Bem Do Amor" (CBS, 1963)
Everything about this album is a little bit off -- the arrangements aren't great, the production is erratic, Regina's phrasing is a little clunky... but it's still incredibly charming. Listening to her youthful, chirpy tones, you can hear why she was so thrilling to so many people, even before her jazz diva days. Heartfelt and cute.

Elis Regina "Samba Eu Canto Assim" (Philips, 1965)
This album is a little harder to get affectionate towards. For one thing, it's not really much of a samba album, despite the title... rather, it's hard driving and aggressive, and Regina's vocals are rather brassy... even a little uncontrolled, and at odds with the orchestra. The blaring '60s arrangements feel like they belong in a Broadway musical, or a Vegas floor show -- more Shirley Bassey than Carmen Miranda. Certainly, with determination on your part, you can appreciate what this album is about, but more likely than not, you'll simply yearn for her later stuff, when she had learned the value of restraint and economy.

Elis Regina & Jair Rodrigues "Dois Na Bossa" (Philips, 1965)
Elis Regina & Jair Rodrigues "Dois Na Bossa No. 2" (Philips, 1966)
Elis Regina & Jair Rodrigues "Dois Na Bossa No. 3" (Philips, 1967)

These three albums were spun off of concert and television appearances the two made as a duet (and which propelled them both to great fame). There is an appearance of youthful brashness here, but also a calculated, Vegas-y professionalism. The band, especially the percussion, is driving and aggressive, and the vocals get pretty flashy. One mild complaint: each of the Dois Na Bossa discs are pretty short -- it might be more satisfying (and more appealing) if Philips went ahead and edited together the best material into a single release.

Elis Regina & The Zimbo Trio "O Fino Do Fino" (Philips, 1965)
This disc makes a pretty convincing case for Elis as a jazz singer... A live gig with the Zimbo Trio that is met with vast enthusiasm by the early '60s audience. But it's still pretty hammy, and ultimately it ain't my cuppa tea. Plus, when the band really gets to banging away, the recording overmodulates. Still, you can hear her fiery spirit and the strong connection with her audience... So it's probably worth checking out...

Elis Regina "Elis" (Philips, 1966)
(Produced by Luiz Mocarzel; arrangements by Francisco Moraes)

A fascinating, golden moment in Brazilian pop history. This is when Elis Regina became the champion of the younger generation of artists who would become known as the tropicalistas -- namely Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso -- as well as other up-and-coming songwriters such as Edu Lobo, Milton Nascimento, Marcos Valle, and Chico Buarque. The sheer weight of songwriting talent on here is astounding. The arrangements (by Francisco Moraes) are mostly up to the task, though the album does get a bit flat towards the end... Even though Regina's phrasing is still a little forced, you could make a pretty good case that some of these recordings -- such as her version of Gil's "Roda," and Lobo's "Estatuinha" -- are more resonant than what the author's were doing themselves at the time. Recommended.

Elis Regina "Elis Especial" (Philips, 1968)
(Produced by Armando Pittigliani; arrangements by Erlon Chaves)

While there are still plenty of rough edges and choppy moments in her execution, this album also has several sublime tracks on it: she is settling into the calm, authoritative grace of her next few years. The arrangements by Erlon Chaves feature some cool late-'60s "spy jazz" touches, though also set up some of her more convincingly solid jazz performances to date. Worth checking out -- includes her version of Gilberto Gil's "Viramundo," as well as a couple of tribute medleys which bookend the album.

Elis Regina "Elis, Como E Porque" (Philips, 1969)
(Produced by Armando Pittigliani; arrangements by Roberto Menescal & Erlon Chaves)

Folks who think that the Quarteto Em Cy are cool (or those who struggle to figure out why others think so...) might do well to check this disc out, instead. It's a wonderful, breezy, gossamer album, which tackles the same sort of light jazz-pop style, but with much greater panache. The arrangements by Roberto Menescal are fluid and easy to space out on -- Elis' vocals also playfully drift in and out, as she scats and purrs through a song list which includes material by Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti, Edu Lobo, and even a lovely French-language version of "Recit de Cassard," from the film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. A very sweet album, featuring Elis at her best.

Elis Regina & Toots Thielemans "Aquarela Do Brasil" (Philips-Phonogram, 1969)
A collaboration with jazz producer-harmonica player Toots Thielemans, and a slew of Swedish musicians. Thielemans' somewhat muzak-y tendencies threaten to upend this effort, but Regina's voice is stunningly pure, and she sounds like she's having great fun. If you can avoid (or don't mind) the drippy instrumentals, this is a great album. Includes a superior version of the title track, which she had recorded earlier on the Como E Porque album.

Elis Regina "Elis Regina In London" (Philips, 1969)
Several Slipcue readers e-mailed to tell me that this was the Elis Regina album to look for... And they were totally right! This is Elis at her swinging best, singing live while backed by a half-Brit band that was a bit looser and more appealing than her usual cohorts. The Brazilian members of the band include bossa nova pioneer Roberto Menescal and jazz pianist Antonio Adolfo, who are joined by England's Peter Knight and his ensemble. Regina's great here, singing in her finest form and the material is flawless. Much less of the Vegas-y cabaret vibe she projects on other albums. Great album to get if you want to form a favorable impression of her work... and definitely one to snap up if you see it, since like many great Brazilian titles, it tends to slip out of print all too easily.

Elis Regina "...Em Pleno Verao" (Philips, 1970)
(Produced by Nelson Motta; arrangements by Erlon Chaves)

I can't say as I was super-wowed by this one. It's not unpleasant, but it seems a little severe and less melodically rich than it could have been. Lots of songs by the hot young writers of the day, including material by Joyce, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, a couple of songs by Jorge Ben, and a goofy duet with soul crooner Tim Maia. The album's okay, but it didn't move me.

Elis Regina "Elis" (Philips, 1970)

Elis Regina & Miele "Show Elis E Miele" (Philips, 1970)
Also with Ronaldo Boscoli, Roberto Menescal and others...

Elis Regina "Ela" (Philips, 1971)
The top of the heap for this cabaret-ish pop style: glitzy, ornate orchestration which encompasses compositions by a newer generation of Brazilian songwriters such as Caetano Veloso, Roberto Carlos, Marcos Valle and Ivan Lins. The first half of this album is maniacally uptempo and a bit bombastic, sporting a proto-disco, latin-jazz sound which hasn't held up well over the years. Similarly, her English-language cover version of the Lennon-McCartney tune, "Golden Slumbers," is disasterous. The second side of this album eases up a bit, and features the beautiful title track, as well as an interesting bluesy, torch-song take on Veloso's "Os Argonautas," (which was originally written as a fado). There are several great tracks on here which are not regularly anthologized, though on balance this is not an album which bowls me over.

Elis Regina "Elis" (Philips, 1972)
A smooth, cabaret-ish album which is very laid-back and avoids the more frantic moments of earlier and later releases -- fans of mellow jazz-vocals may like this one a lot. A little cheesy, but basically pretty solid -- her vocal control and tone are at their near-peak, and the understated arrangements by her husband, keyboardist Cesar Camargo Mariano, include soft strings which are reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald's later "songbook" albums. Includes an okay version of "Aguas De Marco," and songs by the likes of Vitor Martins, Joao Bosco and Ivan Lins, as well as two Milton Nascimento compositions. Her version of Nascimento's "Cais" is one of the album's highlights.

Elis Regina "Elis" (1973)

Elis Regina & Antonio Carlos Jobim "Elis E Tom" (Philips/Verve, 1974)
(Produced by Aloysio De Oliveira)

A stunning collaboration with Antonio Carlos Jobim; without question one of the finest, most super-swanky MPB albums ever recorded. Features the definitive version of Jobim's "Aguas de Marco," and some of the nicest, most tasteful music of his -- or her -- career. One of those sublime, perfect, magical albums that has a life of its own. All the songs are Jobim originals, and Elis proves herself one of his finest interpreters. Cesar Camargo Mariano doubles Jobim's keyboards, and the two create some gorgeous sonic textures and alluring, unusual arrangements. Paulo Braga, Helio Delmiro, Oscar Castro-Neves and bassist Luizao Maia round out this ensemble... and boy, do they make some sweet music together! Highly recommended -- essential listening for any serious exploration of Brazilian music.

Elis Regina & Antonio Carlos Jobim "Elis E Tom" (Philips/Trama, 1974/2004)
(Produced by Aloysio De Oliveira)

This deluxe, 2-disc, 30th anniversary edition reissue features two new bonus tracks (an alternate version of "Fotografia" and an outtake of "Bonita"). The bonus tracks are contained on the second disc, which is an audio DVD that also contains all the songs on the original album, each with a title card that includes information about the recording sessions and optional subtitles with the lyrics (in Portuguese only). The DVD doesn't include video of the sessions (alas!) but it does have beautiful sound quality, as does the regular audio CD that comes with it. Both versions also include some fo the studio chatter taped before the songs... countoffs, last-minute changes, etc. -- a great reminder of how talented these folks were, back in the days when records were really recorded live. This is a classy edition of a beautiful album. Highly recommended.

Elis Regina "Elis" (Philips, 1974)
(Produced by Mazola)

On the heels of her stunning collaboration with Antonio Carlos Jobim came this dreamy fusion-vocals set, full of vibraphonic LA Express-like keyboards, and wailing electric guitars slowed to a syrupy crawl. Regina's vocals are at their best on these ballads: confident, simple, expressive and solidly within her range. This album easily stands up with the best of the North American fusion jazz of the time; kitschy and classy at the same time -- if this isn't already a classic with the acid-jazz set, it oughtta be. What's most surprising, though, is that it was produced and engineered by Mazola, who later oversaw Gilberto Gil's long string of incredibly crappy pop albums during the mid-to-late '80s. Who knew? Speaking of Gil, two of his songs are featured on here, along with compositions by Milton Nascimento and Joao Bosco. All in all, this disc is strongly recommended.

Elis Regina "Falso Brilhante" (Philips, 1976)

Elis Regina "Elis" (1977)

Elis Regina "Elis - Transversal Do Tempo" (Philips, 1978)

Elis Regina "Elis Especial" (Philips, 1979)
An okay album, though not entirely my cup of tea. Certainly not as syrupy or drekky as other disco-era efforts... The fusion-informed arrangements are restrained, as are her vocals. She seems a little sedate, but if you're looking for ornate balladry, with songs by all the usual suspects, you could certainly do a lot worse than this one.

Elis Regina "Elis, Essa Mulher" (1979)

Elis Regina "Saudade Do Brasil" (1980)
2-LP set, from a concert performance.

Elis Regina "Elis" (1980)

Elis Regina "That Woman, Vol. 2" (WEA Discos, 1980)
Not her greatest album. Tacky disco-era production gets in the way, although a few tracks are OK. Most of the uptempo numbers suffer tremendously under the taste of the time. Also, a very short album, with rather short tracks.

Posthumous Releases

Elis Regina & Hermeto Pascoal "Elis Regina - 13th Montreaux Jazz Festival" (WEA/Westwind, 1982)
An excellent album, concentrating on her jazz chops, rather than the poppier MPB she'd been turning out for years. A strong, straightforward performance which was recorded in 1979 and released posthumously in '82, with multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal providing impressive, understated backup throughout. Recommended.

Elis Regina "Trem Azul" (Polygram, 1982)
Recorded live in 1981, this was apparently her last recorded performance, released posthumously in '82. The original recording was made on a monophonic cassette deck, but considerably spruced up by the folks at Sonic Solutions (who also did a lot of remastering on the CD reissues of various Elenco label releases). Musically speaking, this is late-period Elis, with disco-jazz arrangements which may be a bit vexing to the casual listener. But it is a cool glimpse into what her later live shows were like: her torturous, straining vocals are both troublesome and compelling in the much same way as Billie Holiday's work in the 1950s.

Elis Regina "Luz Das Estrelas" (Globo, 1984)
Recorded in 1979, released posthumously in '84.

Best-Ofs, Tributes & Other Resources

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