A quintet of wonderful records from the legendary Astrud Gilberto! First up is the Astrud Gilberto Album – pne of Astrud Gilberto's greatest albums of the 60s – a classic session produced for Verve by Creed Taylor, and featuring sweet gentle arrangements from Marty Paich, co-arranged with Antonio Carlos Jobim, who also plays guitar on the session next to the piano of Joao Donato! That's a mouthful of heavy-hitters, we know – but the result is a totally great session that has Astrud's light and gentle vocals drifting over some of the most magical bossa backings you'll ever hear. The whole thing's great, stuffed with bossa classics done in English – and titles include "Once I Loved", "Aqua De Beber", "O Morro", "Dindi", "Dreamer", and "Photograph". Look To The Rainbow is one of the moodiest Verve albums from Astrud Gilberto – a set that has some surprising arrangements by Gil Evans – working here on one of his few 60s dates with a singer! Astrud's blue-tinged vocals work perfectly with Evans' backdrops – and Al Cohn also takes over the helm on two of the album's tracks, but still does a very good job of keeping the groove.
There's a nice mix of sadness and lightness in the set – and titles include a wonderful version of "Berimbau" that actually features berimbau playing by Dom Um Romao, a great take on "El Preciso Aprender A Ser So" with English lyrics, and the titles "Bim Bom", "Lugar Bonito", "Frevo", and "Once Upon A Summertime". For Certain Smile Certain Sadness, Verve Records got the great idea of teaming up its (then) biggest Brazilian imports – vocalist Astrud Gilberto and organist Walter Wanderley – both of whom were selling plenty at the time! Astrud's lovely vocals are matched beautifully with the lean, rhythmic bossa grooves of Wanderley's trio – and the result is a record that's near-perfect in execution.
Most of the tracks are quite short, as is the record itself – but it's a perfectly concentrated dose of the Verve bossa sound at its best, with tracks that include "Portuguese Washerwoman", "Tu Meu Delirio", "A Certain Smile", "Call Me", "Here's That Rainy Day", "A Certain Sadness", "It's A Lovely Day Today", and a vocal version of Wanderley's big hit "Summer Samba", redone here as "So Nice"! Windy is one of the hardest to find Astrud Gilberto records on Verve – and one of the best! Deodato, Don Sebesky, and Pat Williams did the arrangements – and the sound here is a bit different than some of the straighter Gilberto sets of the time – still very bossa-inspired, but also in a style that mixes in some great Sunshine Pop and 60s easy influences too – particularly on the tracks arranged by Williams!
Tracks are all quite short, but get a heck of a lot of magic into a tiny space – and the album features some really wonderful songs that break Gilberto's pattern a bit – including versions of the Marcos Valle tracks "Crickets Sing For Anamaria" and "Chup Chup, I Got Away" – plus takes on "Windy", "Sing Me A Rainbow", "Never My Love", and "Where Are They Now?" I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do is one of the darkest albums ever recorded by Astrud Gilberto – her 60s last session for Verve Records, and a batch of beautifully moody tunes throughout! Arrangements are by Albert Gorgoni, who'd handled Gilberto's previous September 69 album – but the style here is a bit mellower, a bit sadder – touched with more adult themes of love, life, and loss – and very much in keeping with Astrud's tear-stained image on the cover!
There's a sound here that almost mixes Gilberto's earlier bossa with the more baroque modes of Scott Walker at the end of the 60s – and as with Scott Walker's classic solo sets, the album shows a side of Astrud's talents that we never would have expected a few years earlier! Titles include "Wailing Of The Willow", "Where's The Love", "Wee Small Hours", "If", "Without Him", "Trains & Boats & Planes", "The Sea Is My Soil", and "Didn't We?". ~ Dusty Groove