The music is of course wonderful, but what separates Sergio from practically all of his ’60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. Like their debut, this one was engineered by the team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine. Botnick is of course the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention.
Levine is no slouch either, having engineered one of the best sounding albums on the planet, Sergio Mendes’ Stillness.
Just play the group’s amazing versions of Watch What Happens, Night and Day, or Jobim’s Wave to hear the Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For audiophiles it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox is right up there with it.)
Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to let the listener hear all the elements laid out clearly, with each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. When you hear one of those copies, you have to give Botnick and Levine their due. These guys knew what they were doing like few that have come along since.
One reason you have to hand the tallest trophy to Bruce for this album is that the arrangements are dramatically more complex here than on any comparable rock record of the era. There are so many elements to juggle in the densest parts of the mix, with multiple lead vocal parts, often double-tracked; background vocals by Sergio and the girls coming from every location; keyboards, bass and drums; tons of percussion popping out all over the place — there is a rich tapestry of instruments and voices, stretching across the soundstage from wall to wall, with wonderfully layered front-to-back depth.
Audiophile Sound to Die For
As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.
His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.