Milton Nascimento-Courage

September 30, 2008

Miltion Nascimento

Courage (a&m 1969)

http://www.mediafire.com/?axnt2zzan3z

Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, the place where most of Blue Note’s classics were conceived, Courage marks the American debut of Milton Nascimento. The crisp, jazzy recording offers the most colorful palette that Nascimento ever had the pleasure to explore during his career. His later works are full of high points, but this one captures a moment when pitting Herbie Hancock, Hubert Laws and Airto Moreira against the Tropicalia of Nascimento seemed like the natural thing to do. What makes it even more interesting is that Courage was recorded during their jazz-fusion explorations with Miles Davis. The most amazing thing is that they play it straight and loose and serve as sympathetic backing without ever branching into the insanity they recorded during this time period.

While contemporaries Os Mutantes, Gaetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa melded Brazilian influences with psychedelia, Nascimento took a more straghtforward path, This is not to say that Courage is not without its own quirks and eccentricities, but it is an expertly played album with masterful vocals from a nineteen year old at the height of his powers. I’m surprised that more folks have not latched onto this album since it is such a gorgeous and sensual collection. Althoigh 1972s Clube de Esquina may match Courage’s brilliance, this maiden voyage is a pure, innocent progression from the perfection of Joao and Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Courage represents all that was wonderful about the intersection of Tropicalia, jazz and psychedelia in a way that even the most conservative souls can embrace.

Tower Recordings

Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles (Siltbreeze 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?dynilt0y3xn

Back when I was a hack for Alternative Press, I had the opportunity to interview Matt Valentine of Tower Recordings and he kept speaking about communal living and a shared lifestyle. I think Spanish Wolfman was listening on the party line. My dumbass thought he was referring to the fact they were a bunch of hippie swingers, but age has taught me that he referring to something more wholesome than my fractured imagination.  I asked to interview them since their Fraternity of Moonwalkers album blew my boo-boo loose with its lo-fi take on English psych and folk. I didn’t know my Comus from my asshole, so it all sounded so strange and otherworldly to me. You know, it still does. I guess youth and age agree on this one occasion. However, I did eventually visit Port Chester, NY where they lived at the time and didn’t see a single commune, just bodegas and urban blight.

Let me get this out of the way before I discuss the album. Their cover of Os Mutantes’ “Q Delmak-O” is on the short list of songs I want to hear on my deathbed. I always loved the original, but Helen Rush makes it even more delicate and airy while the sparse intrumentation makes it even more stunning in its simplicity.

Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles is the best of the Tower Recordings albums. In fact, it is the best thing that any of these musicians have ever recorded. I like MV and EE as well as the Pg six albums, but they lack the cohesion of this one. All that was great about the band is on display here. At times, it sort of reminds me of what the Espers are doing today. However, their take on English troubadours is more troubled and woozy. These are simple, sincere folk songs, but their take on them is just so goddamn fried that it makes you wonder why this one never gets mentioned anymore. Listening to it now, it sounds positively pagan and could’ve been added to the Wicker Man soundtrack. If you thought of Nicholas Cage, please allow me to think badly of you.  However, the sight of him in that bear suit cracks my shit up.

I know it seems as if everyone with a Cd burner and steady access to weed sounds like this nowadays, but Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles is special and inhabits its own little universe. It is the happy meeting place where Takoma, Joe Boyd, Clive Palmer and Siltbreeze happily coexist for your listening pleasure. Helen Rush, why won’t you sing again? You are missed.

Spectrum

Geracao Bendita (Shadoks reissue of 1971 album)

http://www.mediafire.com/?z5gpzouyfgf

Once you stray outside of Tropicalia’s inner circle of Brazilian psychedelic royalty (Gilberto Gil, Gaetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben and Tom Ze) there are so many more misses than hits. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to find an album that holds its own against any album recorded by the aforementioned artists. This Spectrum has nothing to do with Pete Kember of and his brilliant continuation of Spacemen 3’s work, but this Spectrum was assembled to perform the soundtrack to a Brazilian hippie flick.

Consisting of actors and actresses in the film as well as members of the 2000 Volts band, this Spectrum has much love for Os Mutantes’ first two classic albums, but the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour albums as well. Vocalists jump from English to Portuguese without rhyme or reason as the band professes their love of peace, love and understanding, but it doesn’t really matter anyway. The main attraction is in how this suddenly assembled band deftly builds upon the sound of Os Mutantes and slathers the tracks in fuzz guitar.

However, there is one track on Geracao Bendita that still floors me a year after I first stumbled upon it. “Mother Nature” combines the Brazilian vibes of Tropicalia, the wide eyed optimism of the Beatles and the laid-back West Coast vibes of Haight-Ashbury in one track. It’s Abbey Road, After Bathing at Baxters and Os Mutantes in one sitting. The rest of Geracao Bendita is good, but this track makes me grin from ear to ear. There is not hyperbole in my mutterings. I really, really love this song.

Os Mutantes

Cavaleiros Negros EP (1976)

http://www.mediafire.com/?9zuskbeowql

I hold the unpopular opinion that Os Mutantes did their best work from 1973-76, after Rita Lee had left and the drugs were in high supply. This is their final studio work from 1976, just a three song single. I believe this material was also released on a rather spotty rarities collection of the same name. The sound quality isn’t perfect, and there isn’t much to say about the overall originality of these tunes- they’re basically channeling the big groups (namely Yes) from years earlier. However, in my mind the first song “Cavaleiros Negros” might be the best example of how fantastic symphonic prog could be regardless of originality. An extended, somewhat psychedelic intro building to beautiful guitar and keyboard interplay giving way to the most mind blowing synth climax I’ve ever heard about six and a half minutes in. The best song I’ve ever heard without a doubt. The other two songs are awesome, too. An Os Mutantes fan won’t necessarily enjoy this EP, but it’s certainly my favourite of their discography.

Arthur Verocai

s/t 1972

http://www.divshare.com/download/4700626-dc9

Some of you may have fallen in love with Tropicalia and how Brazilian musicians like Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Gaetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Jorge Ben took psychedelia and stamped their own imprint on the genre. However, Arthur Verocai’s debut deserves to mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned artists. He had only served as a produced before letting loose with this gem which combines the breezy grooves of his contemporaries with expansive orchestral that echo the smoothness of Joao Gilberto’s finest arrangements with the contemplative, mellow psych of Gil and Veloso’s late 60s work. There are also hints of Zappa’s Hot Rats on a couple tracks and some of oozes a silky sleaze that predates Steely Dan’s mastering of that rare adjective. Plus, I love how he subtly layers the echo onto his vocals and focuses on the lost art of the sax solo in rock.