Right, I guess there’s no going back now. I have set up the infrastructure of a deeply geeky record collection database, and I guess I will now go through with it. The new plan is this: each day I’ll post about new records as before. The difference is, I’m now posting to a database, in which I will store all these comments about records. These will be search/browsable etc. I’ll also start to post about records which are already in my collection. That’s the plan.
Yesterday I went to a sale at the Archive of Contemporary Music, but didn’t manage to find anything. I then headed up to Chelsea and bought this odd 70s Lou Donaldson record on Blue Note. I’m also logging in my Marcos Valle CDs today.
Lou Donaldson: 'Sophisticated Lou' (LP; Blue Note/UA; 1972)
Hmm... I bought this because it's Lou Donaldson, who did some great and groovy small combo jazz records on Blue Note in the mid-late 60s. He also did some stuff (which I've never heard or seen) on the Cadet label in the late 60s.
Anyway, this is later, but not so late that you would expect it to be bad. I'm not quite sure if it is bad or not. My initial impression is that everything about this record was ahead of its time. The album cover looks like it's from 1982, not 1973. And while the strings and prominent Harp (is this is former label-mate Dorothy Ashby?) are great, the overall feel is a little too smooth; almost as smooth as 80s jazz. I think that for me, if there's fender rhodes piano on a song, the song has to be funky for it to work. And none of these tracks are funky, so they end up sounding slightly schmalzy. Interesting to hear, but I doubt I'll be spinning this one too often.
Compilation - Marcos Valle: 'The Essential Marcos Valle Volume 2' (CD; Mr Bongo; 1964-1972)
A great, great compilation, and really the one which exposed Marcos to me as a genius. Starting with the now familiar thundering version of 'os grilos' (crickets sing for anamaria) with its dense strings and striking rhythms, the compilation goes on to showcase the many styles in which Marcos was proficient. 'Tiao Braco forte' is a beautiful, haunting and deceptively complex track. 'Previsao do tempo' is a superb, brooding instrumental with some great electric piano work. Other highlights include 'com mais de 30', 'garra' and 'Wanda vidal' - all great upbeat pop numbers from his great 1971 'Garra' LP, featuring cleverly rhythmic vocals and slyly borrowed sounds from contemporary US rock and soul. Also represented are more well known Valle songs such as 'Gente' (that child-like song which was often sung in English, and which was also sampled by The Gentle People on their 'soundtracks for life' album) and 'Batucada' (here rendered in a superbly wild and percussive jazzy piano version). A superb release - really what the CD format is perfect for - a collection of top quality tracks which would be nearly impossible to find otherwise. My only beef with the whole thing is the liner notes, which could have done with some heavy proofreading and editing.
Compilation - Marcos Valle: 'The Essential Marcos Valle Volume 1' (CD; Mr Bongo; 1968-1972)
To me, this first volume collecting Marcos's work isn't quite as wonderful as the second, but it is still superb.
It opens with 'Mentira', a simple, bouncy and super funky, bluesey pop tune. We then hear yet another version of 'Os Grilos', this one with a great echo effect on the voice, a breezy and some interesting ambient sounds in the background. Next up is 'Malena', which at the beginning sounds strangely like late 80s pop to me. It's a nice, gentle, catchy pop song. 'Pista 02' is a jazzy, bouncy pop song with a cool early 70s feel to it. 2 versions of 'Nao Tem Nada Nao', written with Joao Donato, continue this slightly unnerving jazzy sound. The second version is an instrumental with some pleasing electronic effects. Next is a true masterpiece, 'Freio Aerodinamico', a moody pop masterpiece in which Marcos and his wife Anamaria perform scat vocals over a slowly building jazzy pop backing, with prominent piano, strings and brass. A really superb song, also covered very effectively by Brazilian vocal group 'Os tres morais'. Several more Brazilian pop classics follow - 'Proton Electron Neutron' (which was also recorded by Walter Wanderley on his A&M 'Moondreams' album), Viagem and Terra de Ninguem (which Marcos once famously sung live with Elis Regina). 'Ele e Ela' is a charming pop song with many charmingly executed Marcos trademarks - duetting wordless vocals, warm strings, gentle horns... The compilation ends with a jazzier number, 'Vem', and the atmospheric, soundtrack-like 'Democustico'.
Compilation - Marcos Valle: 'Preferencia Nacional' (CD; Copacabana; 1963-1973)
This Brazilian compilation nicely complements the two 'Essential Marcos Valle' volumes; even though 4 or 5 tracks are duplicated, this makes some otherwise very rare tracks available on CD, such as the great 'Black is Beautiful', 'O Cafona' and 'Que Bandeira' from 'Garra' and 'Os Ossos do Barao' from 'Previsao do tempo'. Also included are two enjoyable and heartfelt duets with Milton Nascimento someone who I've never otherwise been able to get into. Here they sing 'Viola Enluarada', which was a big hit in 1967 (well, in Brazil, anyway), and 'Dialogo'. Another jewel here is the title track from the rare 'Mustang cor de sangue' album, which was also recorded by Wilson Simonal
Marcos Valle: 'Nova Bossa Nova' (CD; Far Out; 1996)
I'm really, really glad that Marcos is back in the studio recording, and it sounds as if a lot of credit for this should go to Joe Davis of Far out records. That said, since my head is in the past, a record recorded in the late 90s was never going to be exactly my cup of tea. This is really pretty pleasant though. My first, and most obvious complaint, is that everything sounds a little too much like 'smooth jazz'. This tends to be true mainly of the introductions to the songs, which then build and are more appealing. Just to take an example though, the cheesy style of bass on 'Abandonu' really doesn't appeal to me. The strings, even the synth, which come in later, are great, but certain aspects of the production are a little jarring. I should maybe open my mind, eh. The fifth track is a remake of his stunning classic 'Freio Aerodynamico', this time set in a thoroughly updated late 90s setting. To my prejudiced ears, that means that it opens sounding like a Morales remix on a Pet Shop Boys CD single (I love the PSBs, incidentally). Anyway, the beat continues with noodly piano solo for over 2 minutes before the main theme breaks through. I think they might have been better leaving this one alone, but I guess it's Marcos's right. 'Mushi Mushi' and 'Nova Bossa Nova' are different from the early songs in that they retain much of the 60s feel of Marcos's greatest work, in spite of a slightly tinny piano sound. The last track is another remake, but this time of his 80s song 'A vontage de Rever Voce', featuring a guest female vocalist. All in all, this is a nice enough album, but tends too much towards middle of the road smooth jazz for my current taste. I have heard very high recommendations of his 2001 release 'Escape', and will report back on it here when I've checked it out.
Marcos Valle: 'Samba 68' (CD; Verve/Polygram; 1967)
Now quite well known thanks to its reissue in the Verve label's superb 'By request' series, this is an excellent album in its own right, but it sounds a little strange next to Marcos's Brazilian recordings, which made up the bulk of his work. This is Marcos (or more likely a record industry type)'s attempt to break into the American market. Some of his most catchy songs are here sung with English lyrics (almost exclusively by the much-reviled Ray Gilbert), backed by elegant but somehow slightly watered-down Eumir Deodato orchestrations. Don't get me wrong, the whole thing is really quite charming - Marcos's voice still sounds honey-like and wonderful when he's singing in English, and the strings seem to melt in and out of the mixes quite beautifully. The only sadness I have about it is that once again, 30 years later, this record is probably all that most American audiences will know him for - the Brazilian releases are reasonably well represented on compilations, but all are quite hard to find in the US. Anyway, being positive, it's a fun, breezy, sunny kind of record, with the great wordless vocal track 'pepino beach' (also featured on the 'espresso espresso' Karminsky brothers compilation), and some sweet vocal duets with Anamaria Valle. I just think WEA should release his 'Brazilliance' album as well...
Marcos Valle: 'Garra' (LP; Odeon; 1971)
This is a bit of a strange CD - while it was clearly mastered from vinyl, and appears to be a CDR, the sound quality is actually quite high, and it's occasionally carried by places like Tower and HMV. Anyway, as you will have gathered if you've read any of my other Marcos Valle reviews, this is a marvellous album with a lot of nice tracks in different styles. It opens with 'Jesus meu Rei' an enchanting, hymn-like track with harpsichord, organ and a rowdy male chorus. For more on the exquisite title track, read my song recommendation. 'Black is Beautiful', which was also recorded by Elis Regina on her 1971 'Elis', is a really great overblown, anthemic pop anthem. I guess if you weren't a Marcos fan you could be forgiven for finding this slightly cheesy, but I love it. Marizinha sings guest vocals on this one; it's simple, catchy and irresistible. 'Minha voz vira do sol da America' is an unusual foray into 'beautiful music' - sounding reminiscent of one of Henry Mancini's quieter 70s easy listening efforts. Marcos adds a twist with his usual great string arrangement, some great piano work and a spooky, echoey female wordless vocal. The album is packed with superb tracks, but especially worthy of mention is 'Vinte e seis anos de vida', an excellent, highly orchestrated pop vocal with a nice Ennio Morricone style chord sequence in the verse, offset by a soulful chorus and backed by a huge wall of backing vocals.