Wednesday, October 12, 2011
SERGIO MENDES DANCE MODERNO REVISTED BY BRAZILIAN LOVE AFFAIR PROJECT
For most of the second half of the '60s, Sergio Mendes was the top-selling Brazilian artist in the United States, charting huge hit singles and LPs that regularly made the Top Five. His records with his group, Brasil '66, regularly straddled the domestic pop and international markets in America, getting played heavily on AM radio stations, both rock and easy listening, and he gave his label, A&M, something to offer light jazz listeners beyond the work of the company's co-founder, Herb Alpert. During this period, he also became an international music star and one of the most popular musicians in South America.
His early music, represented on albums like Bossa Nova York and Girl from Ipanema, was heavily influenced by Antonio Carlos Jobim, on whose recording Mendes worked. Mendes liked what he had found on his visit to New York and in 1964, he moved to the United States, initially to play on albums with Jobim and Art Farmer, and formed Brasil '65 the following year. The group recorded for Capitol without attracting too much notice at first. In 1966, however, Mendes and his band — renamed Brasil '66 — were signed to A&M Records and something seemed to click between the group and its audience.
The group, consisting in its first A&M incarnation of Mendes on keyboards, Bob Matthews on bass, João Palma on the drums, Jose Soares as percussionist, Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert and A&M's co-founder) on vocals, and Janis Hansen on vocals, was successful upon the release of its first album for the label, with its mix of light jazz, a bossa nova beat, and contemporary soft pop melodies. Their self-titled debut LP rose to number six nationally, propelled by the presence of the single "Mas Que Nada." Their second album, Equinox, yielded a trio of minor hits, "Night and Day," "Constant Rain (Chove Chuva)," and "For Me," but their third, Look Around, rose to number five behind a number three single of the group's cover of the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill," and an accompanying hit with "Scarborough Fair," based on the Simon & Garfunkel version of the folk song. Crystal Illusions, from 1969, featured a version of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and the hit single "Pretty World." Depending upon one's sensibilities, these covers — especially "Fool on the Hill" and "Scarborough Fair" — were either legitimate, internationalized pop versions of the originals, or they were "elevator music."
During this period, Mendes also made several recordings for Atlantic Records separate from his A&M deal, principally aimed at a light jazz audience, and several of them in association with Jobim. Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Hubert Laws, and Claire Fisher were among the jazz figures who appeared on these records, which never remotely attracted the same level of interest or sales as his records with Brasil '66. Mendes successfully walked a fine line between international and domestic audiences for most of the late '60s until the end of the decade. Ye-Me-Le was notably less successful than its predecessors, and its single, "Wichita Lineman," was only a minor hit. Mendes seemed to lose his commercial edge with the turn of the decade, and his next two A&M albums: Stillness, a folk-based collection that contained covers of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and Stephen Stills' For What It's Worth, and Primal Roots, an album of traditional Brazilian music, failed to make any impression on the charts whatsoever.
The group moved to the much smaller Bell Records label in 1973, and then Mendes jumped to Elektra for his first official solo album, Sergio Mendes. He relaunched his recording career two years later with Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77 to little avail, and then, after a five year layoff from the public eye, Mendes returned to A&M in 1982. His 1983 comeback album, Sergio Mendes, was his first Top 40 album in nearly a decade-and-a-half, and was accompanied by his biggest chart single ever, "Never Gonna Let You Go," which hit number four. Since then, Mendes has had limited chart success with the single "Alibis" and the LP Confetti. He remained a popular figure internationally, even when his record sales slumped in America, as evidenced by the fact that his entire A&M catalog (and much of his Atlantic work) from the '60s has been reissued on CD in Japan. Indeed, his popularity in the rest of the world, versus America, was even the basis for a comic vignette in one episode of the television series Seinfeld.
2. Love for Sale13
3. Tristeza De Nos Dois
4. What is This Thing Called Love?
5. Olhou Pare Mim
6. Satin Doll
7. Tema Sem Palavras
8. On Green Dolphin Street
9. Outra Vez
11. Nica's Dream