¡Hola amigos and welcome back to 1001! This week, it’s freezing outside but blistering hot in here, as we cast our ears over some of the South American albums on the list. There’s slightly too many to fit on just one update, so look out for the occasional smattering of Latin sounds in the weeks and months to come, too.
Jorge Ben, ‘Africa Brasil’ (link)
Ben is a Brazilian musician of Ethiopian descent who released this album during a creatively fertile time in the late 70s (this one released in 1976). Combining clavinet-heavy funk and samba percussion, this subsequently sounds pretty great even to a tone-deaf limey like me. Other musicians were clearly paying attention too: ‘Taj Mahal”s melody would later appear, unauthorised, in ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy?’ The summer holiday vibe is one of the most enjoyable things I heard this week.
Willie Colon and Ruben Blades, ‘Siembra’ (link)
Blades is a Panamanian singer and songwriter, and Colon is a Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) arranger and orchestra leader. This is one of four collaborations between the two, none of which I’d ever heard before, and it came out in 1978. Essentially it’s a samba album with elements of jazz and rhumba, with cinematic-sounding horns. It’s the deviations that make it though: ‘Pedro Navaja’ throws in street noise, police sirens and lines from Neil Diamond’s ‘America’, ‘Maria Lionza’ starts with booming piano dischords and Burundi beats, and the bassist throws in a fretless funk solo whenever he gets the opportunity. Blades’s songwriting and Colon’s arrangements are both equally important to this unusual, captivating album.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, ‘Getz/Gilberto’ (link)
This imaginatively-titled album features saxophonist Getz paired up with vocalist and guitarist Gilberto, who occasionally brings in his wife Astrud to provide the vocals. The album also features usual suspect Tom Jobim, who contributes piano and his song ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, sung by Astrud and a standard from then on. The album is tasteful, minimalist bossa nova which sounds almost exactly the same as the other Getz I heard, ‘Jazz Samba’. Music for an August sunset.
Gotan Project, ‘La Revancha del Tango’ (link)
The 1001 has a bit of a soft spot for ‘Clothes Show’-style acid house muzak and this album feels like another example of that: it’s 808 State-esque, with Latin percussion and just a hint of accordion preventing it from going all the way into novelty hit cheese. For me, the album works better as ambient background sound: it rarely fades all the way into the foreground. Oddly, this album is younger than I thought, as it came out in 2001, making its early 90s vibes seem curiously retro. Spotify listeners be cautioned: the album has an extra 30 minutes worth of remixes.
Machito, ‘Kenya’ (link)
Machito was a Cuban bandleader who described his sound as Afro-Cuban jazz, coupled by its cover full of spooky tribal masks:
‘Kenya’ is energetic, branching off into lengthy percussion jams (on ‘Wild Jungle’) and occasional jazzy solos (such as ‘Congo Mulence’). As it’s 100% instrumental, or maybe because all the best stuff is at the start of the album, the novelty kind of wore off for me a while before it finished.
Os Mutantes, ‘Os Mutantes’ (link)
Here’s a band who seem to be highly regarded in certain circles, but who I’d only previously known for The Bees’ ghastly cover of ‘A Minha Menina’. The original turns up on this album, and it turns out that the Bees replicated it virtually note-for-note: it’s just as annoying in its original form. Yes, I pretty much hated this album, which is never more than a second away from doing something irritating, whether that’s the kitchen sink throw-it-in arrangements or the lengthy deviations into twatting around or fading out then back in TWICE ON ONE SONG. Kind of like if Sgt Pepper-era Beatles decided to do a kids’ show soundtrack, but only had a week to work on it. Os Mutantes are regarded as spearheads of the Tropicalia movement, but this album felt anathema.
Suba, ‘Sao Paolo Confessions’ (link)
A moody hour of electronic dance music which, despite its name, does its best to circumvent cliched Latin sounds. While Suba himself is Serbian, the album maintains the Latin theme, covering a Tom Jobim track and adding a carnival loop to the downtempo vibe of ‘Samba da Gringo Paulista’. I listened to this while doing some writing and while it never jumped out, it was also never obnoxious.
Next week: as we reach 700 albums, we’ll be looking at some of the albums on the list which have a number in their name, and trying to contain our disappointment that 5ive aren’t on the list.
Status update: 693 albums listened to (69%), 308 remain