- With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Fool on the Hill you’ve heard
- Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and title trackl
- Top engineers for A&M, Henry Lewy and Larry Levine, capture the natural, breathy intimacy in the voices of these wonderful female leads – Lani Hall, Karen Philipp and Gracinha Leporace
- 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.”
- If you’re a fan of Sergio and the band, this early pressing from 1968 belongs in your collection.
- The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.
Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.
This vintage A&M pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can
say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The average copy of this record is thin, aggressive and irritating. What separates the best copies like this one from those typical bad sounding copies is more extension on the top end to balance out the upper midrange and lower highs, and more weight on the bottom end, to correct the overall tonal balance.
If you are at all familiar with this record, it’s easy to spot the good ones: as soon as you drop the needle on side one, you can hear that the tape hiss sounds correct. The high frequency content of the tape hiss is intact. On the bad ones, the tape hiss sounds dull, which means that the extended highs are missing, leaving only the painfully edgy lower highs.
What We’re Listening For on Fool on the Hill
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Henry Lewy and Larry Levine in this case — would have put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
The CD Sucks!
Those of you who have purchased some of their CDs may have noted that they do not sound particularly good, as though little are or effort was expended in their mastering, which is no doubt the case. Almost any good original brown label A&M pressing will be dramatically better.
This album may not be up there with Sergio’s best sonically (not many albums are!), but it can still sound very good when you get the right stamper. The balance may take some getting used to. We weren’t sure what to make of it at first. If you put your system in Mono you will hear the sound dead in the center. After putting it back in stereo you will find more of the sound in the left channel than the right. It took us a while to understand that that was just a choice they made for the mix.
Famously Bass Shy
The next thing you want to check for is that there is enough bass. Most copies are quite thin sounding. Even the best copies aren’t rich and full-bodied the way some of his other albums are, but the goal here is to find the best sounding pressing, not to find the perfect pressing because there isn’t one in my experience. The bass on this copy is ahead of the curve with note-like tone and texture.
Fool On the Hill
When Summer Turns to Snow
Having hit upon another smash formula — cover versions of pop/rock hits backed by lavish strings, a simplified bossa nova rhythm, and the leader’s piano comping — Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 produced two more chart-busting singles, again turning to the Beatles for sustenance with the title track (number six) and Simon & Garfunkel for “Scarborough Fair” (number 16).
But again, the bulk of the album was dominated by Brazilians, and by one in particular: the hugely gifted Edu Lobo, whose dramatic “Casa Forte” and infectious “Upa, Neguinho” were the best of his four songs.
The tracks were longer now, the string-laden ballads (arranged by Dave Grusin) more lavish and moody, and Lani Hall emerged as the vocal star of the band, eclipsing her new partner, Karen Philipp (although Hall is upstaged on “Lapinha” by future Brasil ’77 member Gracinha Leporace).
Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records. Cultural note: the striking foldout cover art, depicting Brasil ’66 at sunset seated on top of a nude woman, somehow made it past the uptight censors of the day and no doubt boosted sales; it was Mendes’ highest-charting album at number three.