Tag Archives: World

[171] Dorival Caymmi – Caymmi E Seu Violao

23 Apr

A serviceable voice and some basic finger-picked guitar – not exactly a recipe for excellence. Yet somehow I am entranced from the first.

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That Dorival Caymmi’s voice is nothing to write home about, and that his guitar work is simple and understated just means that I am left listening to the whole, rather than the parts. And there is something about this whole.

These recordings are described as songs of the sea, and these Brazilian sounds seem to combine the raw picking and chatting of Folk with the understated emotion of the best crooners. It is an arresting combination, and I am quickly immersed.

It probably helps that I have always lived by a body of water, from the Thames Estuary to the English Channel, from Manhattan’s East River to Lake Surprise. The water flowing towards the sea is in my blood, and I can hear its distant roar even in the quietest of these tunes.

Living near water, I believe, is the reason for my poor sense of direction. I get easily lost without concrete directions, often even in places where I have been many times. But I always know where the nearest large body of water is, so really, how lost could I get. At worst I just head towards the water, at which point I have a solid starting point and I am able to get unlost.

It’s a theory.

Caymmi’s is a “nice” voice, and I use this adjective with enormous intentionality as a lifetime Liberal Arts student who had the word all but beaten out of my vocabulary at an early age for being functionally meaningless. Caymmi carries a tune, but does not leave a listener breathless in the way many great vocalists do.

Again, this sounds like it should be a knock against a guitar and voice recording, but instead I can’t take my ears off of it. The very everyman nature of the whole is captivating – a guy relaxing on his porch, rather than a star on stage or even a busker on the street. It’s like a mere mortal singing Sinatra, and there is something humbling about the result.

I want to learn these lyrics, these tunes, to whistle and hum them as I go about my day. I want to learn Portuguese (albeit in a fanciful I-am-not-really-going-to-learn-Portuguese fashion.)

Caymmi owns these songs in a way that many artists never totally embody their recordings, a result perhaps of him being the sole songwriter credited on all but one of the dozen tracks here.

This album affects me so quickly and so deeply that I immediately explore further, into his earlier Sambas de Caymmi album. These are big band recordings of the bossa nova / samba movement he helped to birth in Brazil, hugely different from the ballads of Caymmi E Seu Violao.

I am just as quickly struck by the fact that I have made a mistake. In the familiar big band swing surrounding, there is nothing here jumping out at me, and I’d rather just be listening to Sinatra. Not to mention that the raw clarity of the later album is missing in this muddy mix.

Tom Moon knew what he was doing when he highlighted the spare, simple side of Caymmi.

Which is what I return to, cutting short my ill advised foray away from the path, back to the wind and the waves and the women by the water.

Next Time: Emmanuel Chabrier – Le Roi Malgre Lui

Owned before blogging? No. (14 of 171 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (23 of 171 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (143 of 171 = 84%)

[167] Cascabulho – Hunger Gives You A Headache

5 Feb

From the very first beat (if you will pardon the easy pun) it is the hectic and insistent percussion that drives everything else on this fascinating album. The irrepressible, unending drums fly along at a healthy clip dragging the vocals and strings into their time and space.  More than anchoring, they actual author the shape of the music.

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Stylistically we discover a wonderful mix of unbridled joy and angry edge, a juxtaposition of traditional instrumental sounds with touches of modern recording techniques. When a hip hop beat momentarily kicks in my attention is immediately recaptured, recalibrating the whole, making me reconsider what I am listening to.

This is not folk music despite similarities in instrumentation, in some of the endless winding contra-melodies buoying the vocals. It is vibrant and topical and entirely of today’s zeitgeist.

It is quite an achievement.

The call and response quality in the vocals between lead and chorus is hypnotic, and always there are the drums. There’s even a damn solo at the outro of “Clementina De Jesus No Morro Da Conceicao”.

I challenge you to sit still while it plays. I certainly can’t.

I wonder what my coworkers think while this plays, filling the office with South American flair. How does it compare to my steady diet of Dan Reed Network, The Wildhearts, Queen, Billy Joel, my occasional forays into otherwise embarrassing 80s pop? Cascabulho sounds different, but affects me at least as much as my standard listening fare.

As I remember from previous foreign language selections, I find myself curious as to what the songs’ lyrics actually say, but in this case not enough to do anything about finding a translation. The tone is almost chatty, a neighbor shooting the breeze on a street corner – sharing gossip, complaining about prices, discussing the weather.

All in all, the sound makes me want to explore some of the other forro artists that inspired this amazing sound, starting with Jackson do Pandeiro, to whom . . . Hunger is dedicated. So I do, and once more I am unable to sit still as the fluid vocals flow over the dreamy percussion. The pedigree of Cascabulho is obvious, with even songs not directly covered having the recognizable DNA of these earlier recordings. It’s like finding a hidden track at the of an album, only to realize it’s a whole hidden album!

Discovery upon discovery – perhaps the entire goal of my exploring the 1,000.

Next Time: Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Owned before blogging? No (12 of 167 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No (21 of 167 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes (140 of 167 = 84%)

[164] Cartolo – Cartolo

3 Jun

The gentle, graceful, fragile guitar and vocal work of the first track lulls me into a false sense of relaxed security before the samba kicks in in earnest and blows the doors off any possibility of sitting still.

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But it’s not the Brazilian sound as I think I know it.

The guitar and percussion is present, but in song after song it is woodwind and occasional brass that takes the lead, the attention, the starring role.  While the mild yet beautiful vocals hold the structure, the beat, it is (depending on the track) flute and sax and trumpet which meanders all over the beach, explores the city, entwines friends and lovers.  These are the instruments which provide the passion, power, precision.

The fact that it is all so unexpected means that I can’t stop listening.

Having recently finished reading my brother’s book Benfica to Brazil an exploration of his time studying the language and culture (and football) of Cartola’s home -I am keenly aware of the lilting, slightly imprecise sound of Brazilian Portuguese he so wonderfully describes.

I see the scenes he wrote about, which Cartola lived and later recorded.

Here is a old fashioned but somehow timeless sound, neither modern nor dated, and always a pleasure to hear, but especially as the temperature climbs into the 80s, letting us know that summer is on its way.

Next Week:  Enrico Caruso – Twenty-one Favorite Arias

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 164 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 164 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (137 of 164 = 84%)

[157] Nati Cano’s Mariachi los Camperos – Viva el Mariachi

15 Apr

This is not New York City Subway Mariachi.

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The music on show here has more in common with great sweeping Opera than the high energy (and high volume) cheese regularly inflicted on locals and tourists alike.  While the close, multi-part harmonies and accordion accompaniment are still present, the sound is so much richer and fuller here.  It has weight and nuance.

It is instructional as well as pleasing to hear a genuinely quality example of a genre I so easily and regularly write off as shallow.  There is emotion and technique on display – it sounds like I should be watching a heavily costumed cast performing on a proscenium stage as I listen – and if I am not following a linear storyline, well, I always did enjoy non-traditional theater . . .

It’s strange.  The instrumentation and even overall feel of this recording is comparable in many ways to recent dud, the Flamenco sounds of Cameron, but where not even the sound of fingers flying on the guitar strings could capture my attention or affection, this Mexican variation is utterly captivating.

Maybe it’s the addition of the horns?

It’s a little bit Jazz in its freewheeling joy.  A little bit Classical in its concrete structure.  A little bit the aforementioned Opera, with Latin flourishes and outsize character.

And it is all pure entertainment.

Next Week:  Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 157 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 157 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (131 of 157 = 83%)

[155] Camaron De La Isla – Le Leyenda Del Tiempo

1 Apr

I love the sound of a guitar.  Electric or classical, picked or strummed – even more than vocals, the guitar tends to be the touchstone for my musical appreciation.

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And the technical ability on display here from the very first notes is impressive.  It can be hectic fun in the more familiar, high energy flamenco moments, but these make up less than half of the recording.

It’s amazing that an album quite so short – the run time is just over a half hour- can be quite so scattershot.

Beyond the guitar work, this album is too eclectic even for my newly opened ears, too all over the place, with weird electric piano solos, odd disco riffs, chanting and wailing which appears to veer far from the Spanish roots one might expect,

The vocals are fervent, but quite raw and almost monochromatic.  Just one more facet of the sound that leaves me wanting . . . not more, precisely.  Perhaps the correct idea is wanting something different.

It’s kind of a mess, and not in an interesting or engaging way.

I want more wandering guitar, less experimentation, more melody and less uncomfortable wall of sound rhythm.  It has its moments, but not many of them, and they are not nearly consistent enough.

Is it that the sound is alien to me, or that it is actually less accomplished than most of the recordings to date?  Tough to tell, but I know I’m not enjoying it, and this time there is not enough surprise or suspense to hold my attention once I realize that this isn’t something that I want to be listening to.

Next Week:  Can – Tago Mago

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 155 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 155 = 14%)
Recommend? No.  (129 of 155 = 83%)

[153] Cafe Tacvba – Cuatro Caminos

18 Mar

Take the fire of post-punk, throw in a good helping of 60s melody makers, a dollop of world beats and you will come close to the recipe for this wonderful sound.

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The range of influences is impressive, from obvious Clash riffs, through No Doubt ska-pop and Beatles harmonies, to the catchiest video game soundtracks.  It is modern without sounding like it will become dated, since it is so anchored in other established sounds.

I can imagine rocking out to these tunes at a club even today, can understand how Cafe Tacvba could engage a teen encountering them for the first time the way that Queen and Bon Jovi captured my young attention.  There is a fresh earnest energy that goes hand in hand with the polished songcraft which results in a potent final product.

It’s so poppy, so much fun, and it is only my chauvinism that makes me wish it was in English.  Imagine how much more I might enjoy this if I could genuinely sing along.  But still, it is easy to recommend such an eclectic and accomplished recording which is also so undeniably enjoyable.

Next Week:  Uri Caine – Urlicht/Primal Light

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 153 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 153 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (128 of 153 = 84%)

[147] Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey

5 Feb

I may not have much of a context for appreciating Reggae, but the metronomic rhythm and socially conscious lyrics of this 1975 recording proves to be a hugely effective primer.

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Hypnotic, repetitious, coiled and poised always at the very point of action, each track bobs along in technically impressive and sonically pleasing haze, with the chanted vocals of Winston Rodney providing the structure for the horns and percussion to wind sinuously around.

While Reggae does not excite me the same way that Rock or Jazz can, I am greatly enjoying the juxtaposition of safe and comforting rhythms contrasting with on the nose lyrics – “Do you remember the days of slavery?”  And with repeated plays, the simple melodies and gentle relentlessness drill deep down into my brain, providing a contentment which is priceless.

There is very little variety among these 10 tracks, but very little is required in just of half an hour of music.

Nothing world altering, but not everything has to blow my mind to be enjoyable, memorable, worthy of revisiting.

Next Week: R L Burnside – Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 147 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 147 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (122 of 147 = 83%)

[145] The Bulgarian Women’s National Radio and Television Chorus – Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

22 Jan

Here is a masterclass in harmony.

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This traditional choir singing modern arrangements of ancient Bulgarian Folk songs provide harmonies as far as the ear can hear – some familiar, some quite unexpected, but all beautiful and unforgettable.

Unlike the Gregorian Chants which were supposed to sooth but ultimately infuriated several months ago, these sounds are meant to entrance and engage and achieve this with a simplicity which is astonishing.

Here is a wall of sound, just a surely as any Phil Spector recording.  It fills a room, fills your head, removes any other distractions, demanding attention.

Rationally, I am aware that there are at least some instruments playing here, accompanying the vocalists.  But in my heart and in my imagination this is an a capella experience, many women holding and wavering notes in fascinating combinations until even the occasional discord is gorgeous.

Once more, Tom Moon has effortlessly and pleasingly expanded my range and scopr of musical knowledge, reminding me how much I di not know, how enjoyable finding out can be.

Next Week: Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 145 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (20 of 145 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (120 of 145 = 83%)

[122] The Boys of The Lough – Live at Passim

7 Aug

Exciting and authentic, if I were to describe this album to you, it would sound identical to a description of The Bothy Band’s Old Hag You Have Killed Me, but each album is worthy and distinct in its own right.

Live at Passim

Live at Passim

In truth there is more range here than on the contemporary yet somehow more traditional Bothy album.  There are at once Classical leaning explorations (“The Day Dawn”) and wild Jazz tinged tangents on this live recording.

The highlight for me is the almost tape-loop minimalist effect achieved by the fiddles on “The Hound and the Hare” – it approaches Free Jazz levels of experimentation and is a wonder to hear.

The scope of what is heard here is larger than on most of the albums in any genre today, even including multiple hugely engaging moments of spoken word humor.

I enjoyed The Bothy Band well enough, but now I wonder if I might have found them a little lightweight if I had heard The Boys of the Lough first.  Perhaps it would be as valid to ask if I might have found Live at Passim impenetrable if I had discovered it before Old Hag . . .

In the end, for all the superficial similarities, there is certainly room for these two top notch examples of Celtic music from the 70s in my collection, and perhaps yours too.

Next Week: Johannes Brahms – Sonatas for Cello & Piano, Opp. 38, 99, 108

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 122 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 122 = 16%)
Recommend? Yes. (101 of 122 = 83%)

[120] Boukman Eksperyans – Kalfou Danjere

24 Jul

Long ago, watching Fame on TV (whether the movie or the series I no longer remember), one of the characters said a line which has stuck with me ever since.  “Timing is everything.”

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Of course plenty of others have used the line before and since, but as if to prove the point, this particular delivery is the one that has stayed with me for decades.

Which brings us to Boukman Eksperyans.

I’m not quite sure what I would make of these light and airy, percussion driven melodies in the depth of a Winter morning, on a crisp Fall evening, or a wet Spring night.  But here and now, on a warm July afternoon, with a slight breeze and just enough humidity to let you know this could only be Summer, the rhythms and harmonies are perfect.

This is less high octane that the good Juju of King Sunny Ade, but no less pure Summer music, at home hanging in the air over a barbeque in the sun.  It is a much more modern sound, featuring plenty of history and tradition, but also fully embracing modern production techniques and influences.

So it is jarring to discover that these beautiful songs are in fact barely-veiled protest songs about corruption and lies.

Rarely has revolution sounded so sweet.

Next Week: David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 120 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (18 of 120 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (99 of 120 = 83%)

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