Singer Marilia Medalha was an MPB second-stringer, but she had her fair share of adventurous, exciting recordings, working with some of the top talent of the time. Like many Brazilian musicians in the 1960s, she found fame on stage as well as in the competitive song festivals -- in 1967 took first place in the Festival of Brazilian Popular Music, and in '68 came in as a finalist, each time singing a new work by composer Edu Lobo, with whom she formed a nightclub act around this same time. Later, Medalha joined bossa nova elder Vinicius de Moraes and guitarist Toquinho as the "girl singer" in their long-running show at the La Fusa nightclub in Buenos Aires, a role that was also given at other times to Maria Bethania and Maria Creuza, who were her contemporaries both on stage and in song. Here's a quick look at Medalha's work...
Marilia Medalha "Marilia Medalha" (RGE, 1967)
(Arranged by Oscar Castro Neves)
Emerging in the shadows of Brazilian pop's old-school studio system -- even as the tropicalia sound was coming to fruition -- Medalha sings with feeling and conviction over orchestrations that are alternately staid or a bit over the top. By and large a solid, pleasant effort with some interesting production touches (love the twangy surf guitars on "Pau De Arara"!) that sometimes call a little too much attention to themselves. Still in her early twenties, Medalha sings with both a youthful sparkle and, when she wants, with considerable gravitas, though never quite with the ease or authority of, say, Gal Costa and Maria Bethania, who where also making the scene at the time. Definitely worth checking out, though there are a few rough patches.
Marilia Medalha "Marilia Medalha" (RGE, 1968)
(Produced by Rogerio Duprat)
One of the finer efforts by tropicalia's sonic architect, arranger Rogerio Duprat, and a highly appealing album from Medalha... This opens with a bold, brassy version of Tom Ze's "Gloria," with punchy horn arrangements propelled by rock'n'rollin' snare drums, and Marilia's still-girlish, quite charming vocals bobbling between the clumsy and the sublime. She sounds youthful and unaffected, a rough-hewn, authentic voice singing with simplicity amidst Duprat's wildly baroque sound design. Although, as is often the case, Duprat's arrangements threaten to upstage the singer, for the most part there is harmony and a complex, skillful interplay between the primary melodies and the crazy goings-on in the orchestra pit. The repertoire is also cutting edge: with the exception of a Sylvio Caldas oldie, this is mostly contemporary material from composers such as Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso, Sergio Ricardo, Joyce, Capinan and a couple of songs from Edu Lobo, who also sings a duet on "Memorias De Marta Sare," a song that Medalha won a prize for at a 1968 MPB song festival. All in all, a very vigorous and enjoyable album -- a great showcase for Medalha in her youth, and one of Duprat's most effective projects.
Marilia Medalha/Toquinho/Vinicius De Moraes "Como Dizia O Poeta" (RGE, 1971)
A classic bossa/MPB album featuring bossa poet Vinicius De Moraes and his touring partner Toquinho, along with vocalist Marilia Medalha, who was a replacement for divas Maria Creuza and Maria Bethania, who had previously sang the lead in the Vinicius-Toquinho stage show, "La Fusa." Medalha may have been a second-stringer, but she sounds quite nice (and quite youthful) here: this was her shining moment, and she made the most of it.
Marilia Medalha & Vinicius De Moraes "Encontro E Desencontro" (RGE, 1972)
Ms. Medalha sings the Vinicius de Moraes songbook... A gooey, overcooked MPB set, with overly busy, overly syrupy arrangements, matched by somewhat brusque vocals by Medalha. They were shooting for classy, but got stuffy and ponderous instead. Fans of the era may find much to enjoy here, but I found it to be mostly leaden and emotionally flat.
Marilia Medalha "Caminhada" (RGE, 1972)
(Produced by Rosinha De Valenca)
Very classy, classic, languidly sexy '70s MPB, with mellow, eclectic arrangements and nice guitar accompaniment from producer Rosinha De Valenca (an interesting and unusual role for her!) When Medalha isn't trying to channel Maria Bethania she sounds quite nice. You have to be willing to subsume yourself to some flowery orchestrations, but unlike on the De Moraes album, these are fairly restrained and compliment her vocals, rather than drag them down... And there's stylistic variety: the Miles Davis-y cool jazz of "Amanheci" is certainly intriguing, as is the bouncy pop-folk-bubblebum of "Xaxado De Espantar Tristeza." A nice, fun record, very much a product of its times -- definitely worth checking out.
Marilia Medalha "Boias Da Luz" (Continental, 1978)
(Arrangements by Dori Caymmi & Luiz Gonzaga, Jr.)
Classic 1970s MPB... Sounds a lot like Maria Bethania's work around the same time, both in terms of the arrangements (complex and classy) as well as with Medalha's own husky vocal tones and phrasing. If you like Bethania, you'll probably like this as well.
Marilia Medalha "Bodas De Vidro" (Niteroi Discos, 1992)
Iris Salvagnini "...E A Cancao De Marilia Medalha" (Tratore, 2008)
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