Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gilberto Gil, Marinês & Nara Leão - Vento De Maio - 1966/1967

Gilberto Gil - Vento De Maio (demo) - from Retirante - discobertas 1966 (unreleased until 2006)
Click on the video above to play the song.

Marinês - Vento De Maio - from self titled - CBS 1967
 Click on the video above to play the song.

 Nara Leão - Vento De Maio - from Vento De Maio - Philips 1967
 Click on the video above to play the song.

It was through Tropicalia that I discovered forró thanks to the classic work of Gilberto Gil. Gil defied genres more than just about any other artist.  He could blend Bossa Nova, forró, coco, samba, psychedelic folk and acid rock with ease.  Gil’s wildly phrased songs with northeastern grooves fascinated long before I had heard of the genre called forró.

I thought that it would be interesting to post 3 different versions of Gil’s Vento De Maio. These are not the only versions from the period, though.  The song was also recorded by Claudia and Wilson Simonal. Gil’s version only exists as a rough, slightly distorted demo from 1966 and remained unreleased until a 2006 2-cd set on the discobertas label.  Although the CD was issued recently, most copies have been snatched up by collectors and is hard to find.  It’s well worth tracking down if you are interested in early singles and the formative years of Gil’s career. Gil’s music from this period is more spellbinding bossa-samba than forró or Tropicalia. Nara Leão and Marinês both recorded versions of the Vento De Maio in 1967 with very different flavors.  Stylistically, Gil’s demo fell between Leão’s and Marinês’. Both recordings seemed to be living in the same world as Gil’s, but used alternate forms of expression. Leão maintained a bossa-samba cool. Marinês’ version was decidedly more boisterous, pop and northeastern. Leão was like a snake charmer and Marinês was a northeastern goddess and controller of fates.

Marinês’ (pronounced Mad-dee-nayse for you gringos) self titled 1967 LP was the first forró LP that I bought, mainly to hear her version of Gilberto Gil’s Vento De Maio, which had not been reissued on CD at the time.  

Nara Leão, Marinês & Gilberto Gil

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jackson do Pandeiro - O Dono Do Forró - part two - Morena Bela and coletânea LP appearances in the early 70s

Jackson do Pandeiro - O Dono Do Forró - part two - Morena Bela and coletânea LP appearances in the early 70s

Jackson do Pandeiro - Morena Bela - from O Dono Do Forró - CBS - 1971

Click on the video above to play the song.

Morena Bela (Onildo Almeida – Juarez Santiago) is easily the most famous song from O Dono Do Forró.  It's pop majesty from the finest of all forró LPs, featured here in part one of my two part entry.

Coletânea LP appearances in the time of O Dono Do Forró

I’m going to take a little detour and feature some fine songs that Jackson recorded for compilations in the early 70s just before and after O Dono Do Forró was released. In the 4 years that Jackson was signed CBS, he appeared on at least 8 different compilation albums on various labels. This creates an interesting challenge for collectors, because forró artists like Jackson do Pandeiro, Genival Lacerda and the entire stable of artists that recorded for CBS created a lot of exclusive material for compilations only, most commonly called a coletânea in Brazil and singles called compactos. Jackson do Pandeiro appeared on at least 20 or 30 coletânea (compilation / collection) LPs during his lifetime, often with 2 songs on each.  Almost none of these songs were on his albums, or if they were, they were often entirely different versions.   

Jackson do Pandeiro - Bota Gás No Lampião - from Pau De Sebo vol. 5 - CBS - 1971

Click on the video above to play the song.

If ever there was a perfect bonus track for a reissue of O Dono Do Forró, this is it. CBS released a yearly compilation of northeastern artists called Pau de Sebo. Jackson first appeared on Pau de Sebo volume 5 in 1971, but wasn’t satisfied with his first recording, Bota Gás No Lampião (Severino Ramos / Assis Barros / Zé Turquinho). His primary complaint seemed to be that his voice was buried in the mix.  The song sounds like a first attempt at Eu Não Vou Chorar from O Dono Do Forró. Regardless of Jackson’s complaints, Bota Gás No Lampião is a stunning record with gorgeous reverb, a deep mix and killer instrumentation. It outclasses just about everything on the compilation and sounded tremendously better than his Fontana / Philips recordings from the previous year (see O Festa No Arraial below). Pau de Sebo literally means greased pole. Besides it’s wink-wink meaning, it is a game in which the participant has to climb a pole slathered in grease / fat to snatch a prize at the top.  The game of Pau de Sebo is part of an old pagan summer solstice tradition, co-opted by the Catholic church in the Middle Ages. http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pau_de_sebo. Pau de Sebo was the longest ongoing compilation series in forró, with 15 volumes of exclusive material released between 1967 and 1981.  Early volumes (vol. 1 - 4) and the Jackson years (vol. 5 - 8) were especially strong.  After Jackson left CBS, the series seemed to lose heart.

Jackson do Pandeiro - O Nosso Amor Gorou - from Carnival 1973 - CBS 1972

 Click on the video above to play the song.

O Nosso Amor Gorou (José Gomes Filho - Aloysio Vinagre - Assumpção Corrêa) is a decent tune in the carnival march style, recorded shortly after Jackson do Pandeiro’s 2nd album for CBS, Sina de Cigarra. Carnival compilations have been released since the 50s on a variety of labels and Jackson appeared on quite a few. Although this was not forró, it is important to point out that Jackson was a master of multiple styles in a way that few other artists have ever been in Brazil. José Gomes Filho, one of the writers of O Nosso Amor Gorou, is Jackson’s real name.

Jackson do Pandeiro - Festa No Arraial - from O Fino Da Roça no. 2 - Fontana 1970

Click on the video above to play the song.

O Festa No Arraial (Jackson do Pandeiro / Noca da Portela) is a great little catchy tune recorded right before Jackson changed labels to CBS and recorded O Dono Do Forró. Notice the difference in the quality of the recordings between the Fontana and CBS tunes. O Festa No Arraial, released in mono, sounds like it could have been recorded in the 50s. The sound quality went from black and white to full mantis shrimp color in one year. However charming O Festa No Arraial was AND how brilliant Jackson was at overcoming the limitations, It’s fairly shocking how shabby the sound was compared to Bota Gás No Lampião. I imagine that forró simply didn’t sell enough copies to justify a big recording budget from Fontana. Dig the Beatles inspired LP cover artwork.

Jackson do Pandeiro with guitar (violão) from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Jackson do Pandeiro - O Dono Do Forró - CBS - 1971 - part one

Jackson do Pandeiro - O Dono Do Forró - CBS - 1971 - part one

Jackson do Pandeiro - Aquele Pé De Pitomba- from O Dono Do Forró - CBS - 1971

Click on the video above to play the song.

Jackson do Pandeiro - Madalena - from O Dono Do Forró - CBS - 1971

Click on the video above to play the song.

Jackson do Pandeiro - Eu Não Vou Chorar - from O Dono Do Forró - CBS - 1971

Click on the video above to play the song.

O Dono Do Forró means The Owner Of Forró in Portuguese. It’s the finest forró album ever recorded by the king of rhythm, Jackson do Pandeiro. It’s a true masterpiece and one of those special moments in recorded history where everything fell into place.  The band, performances, songs, recording and mix were magical.

Jackson do Pandeiro - O Dono Do Forró

Jackson reached this artistic peak when his career was at an all time low.  Perhaps the record was strong because he had everything to prove at this stage. Radio Nacional were not playing his records and the days of live radio appearances were long gone.  Sales were down. The biggest endorsement from the Tropicalia crowd, in the form of Gilberto Gil’s Expresso 2222 LP (containing 2 Jackson covers) and a major 1972 television show, MPB Especial, were still a year away.  A frustrated Jackson told Ana Maria Baiana from O Globo***:  “ "There are many people out there who think I'm dead. Truth. The other day, I was doing a show in Minas and a guy asked me," Hey, Jackson, you're still there, eh? You stopped recording, right? And I said "Look, boy.... I record every year....  LPs, compilations****... Does anyone play these discs?"**

Abdias (José Abdias de Farias)
, recording artist and CBS A&R representative, had been slowly recruiting the crème de la crème of northeastern Brazilian artists from the late 60s into the early 70s. By 1971, Trio Nordestino, Marinés, Coronel Ludru, Osvaldo Oliveira, João do Pife, Jacinto Silva, Messias Holanda and Elino Julião had all been lured away (mostly from Fontana) to build Abdias’ CBS empire. Regardless of how badly Jackson’s career was going, the artists on CBS viewed him as the king (nicknamed the King Of Rhythm). For Abdias, Jackson do Pandeiro was the ultimate signing.  

was not satisfied with his initial recording for CBS. When recording sessions for O Dono Do Forró began later in 1971, Jackson do Pandeiro was ready.  He assembled Borborema, his hand picked backing group featuring Cícero (pandeiro and percussion), Tinda (triangle), Severo (concertina accordion), Sussuanil (zabumba) and Passinho (violão de 7 cordas - 7 stringed guitar that also acts as a bass).  

Jackson do Pandeiro with Borborema from forroemvinil

 With some exceptions, before 1971, Jackson’s recordings didn’t have the majesty and mix quality of the music on O Dono Do Forró. Late 60s and early 70s recordings seemed to be mostly monophonic and quickly mixed, with mistakes overlooked. Although he received the executive treatment in the early and mid 60s, the results from Cantagalo and Fontana were mixed, even though the songwriting was still stellar. Clearly, Abdias and CBS revered Jackson. Perhaps that is why the CBS recordings are the best from Jackson’s career. Great expansive stereo mixes, along with a fantastic band brought out the air, depth and complexity in his music. The wider sound and reverb softened the sound and toned down the aggressiveness of the form, allowing the music to breathe and be intimately listenable on record. Acoustic bass, muted accordion, horns and flute were ideal for the arrangements.  The album has haunting, memorable melodies interwoven with complex and varied rhythms. O Dono Do Forró is the ultimate artistic statement from the greatest forró artist.

Jackson do Pandeiro with guitar (violão)

I chose Aquele Pé De Pitomba (Barbosa da Silva), Eu Não Vou Chorar (Durval Vieira – Jackson do Pandeiro) and Madalena (Juarez Santiago – José Sales) because they showcase a variety of sound on O Dono Do Forró, ranging from moody, mid-tempo,choro-flavored ballads, to cooking forró to blazing arrasta-pé marches full of classical flourishes.

Actually owning a copy of the Owner of Forró was challenging.
It took 5 years and buckets of tears to track it down. I’m fairly certain that O Dono Do Forró was not repressed after 1971 and it was never available on CD. Interestingly, every sleeve claims the album is “mono” but the mixes are definitely stereo. I don’t believe that 2 different mixes were released.  

Copies of O Dono Do Forró don’t come up for sale that often in Brazil.  It’s listed 5 or 10 times a year on Mercadolivre, but buyers must have a Brazilian bank account and address in Brazil to use Mercadolivre. Even if I was in Brazil, at least half of the copies that I’ve seen are in rough shape or sold by dubious sellers with crummy feedback. O Dono Do Forró wasn’t pressed anywhere but Brazil and in 5 years of hunting, I have never seen a copy for sale outside of Brazil. Collecting other Brazilian LPs has become a lot easier in the US in recent years (in NYC especially), thanks to interest in Tropicalia and 70s Brazilian funk. There is even a great store in NYC called Tropicalia In Furs with a great selection of Brazilian 70s music. But forró LPs, it seems, weren’t pressed in the quantities that MPB music was.

My next entry will feature Morena Bela, the big single from O Dono Do Forró that was only ever an album track, and some of the compilations that Jackson appeared on around the time of O Dono Do Forró. 

Jackson from the cover of O Dono Do Forró.

*Jackson was named after American cowboy actor Jack Perry.

**Roughly translated from Jackson do Pandeiro’s biography called O Rei Do Ritmo by Fernando Moura and Antônio Vicente

***O Globo is a major Brazilian newspaper still in business today.

****A sampling of these compilations coming in the second part of this blog post.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Zenilton - Meu Pernambuco– from Namoro No Escuro - Tropicana 1973

Zenilton - Meu Pernambuco– from Namoro No Escuro - Tropicana 1973

Click on the video above to play the song.

Zenilton is an accordion player and songwriter. Zenilton began recording in 1967 and he’s still keepin' on keepin' on at the ripe old age of 73. Like many forró-cious artists, Zenilton recorded a heap of albums for multiple record labels with scant reissues on CD.

Sometimes one has to hunt for gems on Zenilton LPs. Meu Pernambuco is a great tune dedicated to Zenilton’s home state in Brazil. The budget label Tropicana was a subsidiary of Cantagalo. Although recording budgets for Tropicana were probably more skint than those on CBS or RCA judging by the mixes and sound on many of the albums, some cuts were fantastic, like Meu Pernambuco. Perhaps having access to a budget label allowed many forró artists to record albums that may not have existed otherwise?

Zenilton from the cover of Namoro No Escuro

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ary Lobo – Renda-dá - from Último Pau De Arara - RCA Victor 1958

Ary Lobo – Renda-dá - from Último Pau De Arara - RCA Victor 1958

Click on the video above to play the song.

Ary Lobo was one of the earliest forró stars to rise in the wake of Jackson do Pandeiro’s success. Ary left an excellent legacy, but had the shortest life of any of the major forró stars, dying at age 50 in 1980.  Lobo’s records have aged extremely well. Although he was inspired by the sound of Jackson, Ary Lobo definitely had his own style with quality albums and songwriting that rivaled Luiz Gonzaga’s and Jackson’s.  

Ary Lobo was one of a few forró greats lucky enough to have been on RCA.  Why? 5 of Ary Lobo’s rare classic albums were remastered and reissued on CD faithfully with original artwork, but unfortunately, Último Pau De Arara was not part of the RCA CD reissue series.  For that reason, this may be one of the rarer forró slabs that I own.  

Último Pau De Arara was originally released on 10” vinyl and only contained 8 songs.  It lived in that strange late 50’s netherworld between EP and album, before the format finally left the 10 inch 78 rpm size.  Perhaps the master tapes were lost or they simply didn’t have enough extra material outside of those 8 songs to create a suitable release?

Renda-dá (English: Surrender?)(Gadé – Walfrido Silva) is a fantastic song.  It’s shocking that it was recorded in 1958. It sounded 15 years ahead of it’s time.  The entire 8 song album did.

Ary Lobo