More of the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66
Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66
Discography by brasil66.com
1966 Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66
The Brasil ’66 debut album on A&M opens with a bang–“Mas Que Nada” was, and still is, one of Mendes’ finest recordings. Using a sparse combination of female vocalists, drums, piano, bass and percussion, this album was Brasil ’66 at its leanest. “One Note Samba/Spanish Flea” cleverly combines two popular songs, one of Bossa Nova fame, the other straight out of the Tijuana Brass catalog. Henry Mancini’s “Lujon” (from the excellent Mr. Lucky Goes Latin album) is given vocals and retitled “Slow Hot Wind”. “O Pato” and “Agua De Beber” cover a couple more tracks from the popular Brazilian repertoire, and the American popular scene is represented by “Going Out Of My Head” and “Day Tripper”. One of the more interesting tunes here is “Berimbau”, based on a Brazilian chant. (Interesting tidbit: “Mas Que Nada” has been misspelled, in perpetuity, as “Mais Que Nada” on Brasil 66 albums!)
This sophomore effort of Brasil ’66 covers a lot of the same ground as the first album. Most notable is the addition of guitarist John Pisano, from the Tijuana Brass. There are more excellent arrangements; the standouts are “Triste”, “Chove Chuva” and “Night and Day.”
1967 Look Around
Comprised of the same musicians as the first two Brasil ’66 album, there are a few new twists. The most prominent are the two Lani Hall showcases, “Like A Lover” and “So Many Stars”, both lightly sprinkled with strings. Other favorites include “Roda”, “Batucada”, the title track and the distinctly Mendes arrangement of “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
1968 Fool on the Hill
This album presents a second version of Brasil ’66, including the excellent Brazilian musicians Rubens Bassini, Sebastiao Neto and Dom Um Romao. The string arrangements were written by Dave Grusin. What’s different is the direction in which the music on this album took. Turning from pop music influences, these songs reflect more of the Brazilian heritage of the musicians, and are more adventurous as a result. The most-recognized arrangements from this album would be the two cover versions: “Fool On The Hill” and “Scarborough Fair”. In case you’re wondering what kind of “hill” the “fools” on the cover are sitting on, on the original LP gatefold jacket, take a closer look!
1969 Crystal Illusions
After the upbeat Fool On The Hill, Crystal Illusions seems quiet in comparison with such easygoing fare as “Viola” and “Song of No Regrets”. Milton Nascimento makes an excellent contribution with “Empty Faces”, and “Pretty World” has to be one of the most cheerful songs Brasil ’66 ever recorded. The album’s centerpiece is the pensive title track.
“There are special moments, like the hypnotic “Masquerade” (no relation to the Leon Russell/George Benson hit), Sergio Mihanovich’s haunting “Some Time Ago,” and another winning treatment of a Beatles tune, “Norwegian Wood,” where Mendes cuts loose a killer solo on electric piano (believe it or not, the 45 rpm single version features more of that solo than the LP).”
A radical departure from anything that had gone before, Stillness remains the one album that Brasil ’66 fans either love or hate. Most complaints about it center on the fact that the familiar bossa sound of the earlier records was now mostly gone. Nonetheless, Stillness is arguably one of the most fluid albums of Mendes’ career. It takes its cue from the work of many of the singer/songwriters of the day (Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc.), with thoughtful lyrics and often delicate arrangements. It is a almost a concept album, with the theme expressed in the title song — the words of which are even printed on the front cover — and an outdoorsy, peaceful feeling running through many of the other lyrics. Stillness is also Lani Hall’s final album with Mendes; she left the group during these sessions and was replaced by Gracinha Leporace, who does lead vocals on several songs.
Standout tracks include “Chelsea Morning” and “Viramundo,” both of which contain traces of the earlier Brasil ’66 sound; “Righteous Life” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” both of which reflect the mood of late ’60s America through their lyrics; and the very pretty “Sometimes in Winter,” featuring an elegant orchestral arrangement by Dick Hazard.