Click on the video above to play the song.
Luiz Gonzaga - O Fole Roncou from his self titled (1973) EMI / Odeon LP
This is the song that got me interested in collecting forró LPs, thanks to David Byrne and Luaka Bop's wonderful Brazil Classics Volume 3.
Elvis Presley is the king of rock n’ roll. Luiz Gonzaga is considered the king of forró, and the most celebrated performer to ever popularize northeastern Brazilian music. Gonzaga and Presley have interesting parallels. Both released the majority of their work for RCA. They recorded artistic triumphs, but a good portion of their back catalogues consisted of lousy, mediocre, dull records. Both men had competitors that may have been more deserving of the title “king.” Elvis had worthy contemporaries, like Little Richard and Chuck Berry, who were as innovative, and arguably more innovative, than he was. Luiz Gonzaga’s primary rival was Jackson do Pandeiro, who’s recorded output was nearly 25 years shorter and perhaps superior to Gonzaga’s. But Gonzaga, like Presley, made incredible, unforgettable records and deserves to be lauded.
Luiz Gonzaga’s 1973 contains one of the finest single forró songs ever recorded, O Fole Roncou. Although this was not his most famous song, it’s blazing energy and production make it sound like the most contemporary song in his catalog. I love the scratchy guitar! Dig the fret buzz during the last few riffs.
The lyrics are also wonderful... a rough translation...
The bellows roared at the top of the mountain
Cabroeira my land
He climbed the hill and was playing
Ze hole, Sickle-Foot, Chico Manco
Male Goat, White Goat
Everyone was playing
Crazy Mary, Margaret with the Beautiful Flowers
Very sad in the window, didn't dance,
I did not enter
Like Jackson Do Pandeiro, Gonzaga recorded his most interesting albums when he left the record label that had been his home for most of his career. Gonzaga had been with RCA for 33 years when he briefly left for two albums for Odeon, a subsidiary of EMI. Luiz Gonzaga Jr. was signed to Odeon. I have never read an account of why he made this choice. I can only speculate that Gonzaga Sr. was encouraged by his son or excited by the prospect of recording with a different team. Producer Milton Miranda gave Gonzaga’s 1973 LP and the 1974 follow up, Daquele Jeito, the executive treatment. The albums have the EMI sound, most notably heard on Beatles albums, because EMI standardized its’ world studios. It was common practice for an EMI studio in Brazil, West Africa or Australia to have the same gear as Abbey Road. Luiz Gonzaga’s records on RCA were notoriously conservative, usually favoring the most traditional instrumentation of forró and baião that he helped established. The instrumentation on the Odeon LPs was diversified considerably to include electric guitars and bass, wide stereo mixes and plenty of additional percussion and horns. Miranda did everything that he could to nurture these recordings of the forró king.