Various Artists - Disco É Cultura Vol.1 (Mad About Records, 2020)
Mad About are at it again with an essential reissue compilation that shines a light on the stunning sounds of the 70s Brazilian Boogie and Funk scenes.
Reissues always remain a welcome addition within the contemporary musical landscape, with their ability to shine a light into past scenes and contexts providing a continual sense of wonderment. It was a time of imports, DJs, record shops, radio play and general word of mouth, where the successes and enriching contents of a particular scene would quietly make their way around the world, pushed by the prevailing trends and ambitions of particular labels and PR companies, and for many they fell in love with the sounds they had only just heard for the first time. America has continually been a source for many scenes around to fuel their own musical ambitions, a country that has seemingly influenced countless musicians around the world in widely varying contexts, who often infused their own country's musical flavours with the sounds of soul, funk, disco and jazz, which in turn crafted some phenomenal music indeed. It was a time where unparalleled pairing and experimentation took place, and would continue well beyond the 70s and further into the house, techno and hip hop scenes that exploded towards the end of the 80s and early 90s, as American influence remained undeniably important and significant during this time frame. For many, these scenes become somewhat of an outpost for genres, with many flocking to regional centres where the new sounds were coming from, crafting a network of places around the world unified by their shared loves, passions and beliefs. More often, we get to experience the big pieces, the records that caused a significant ripple when they first landed, but in many cases a lot of enthusiasts crafted just the one 7', a 12' or perhaps a small handful of records, and slipped into the norms of a life away from music, their sole singles or records standing within the midst of time for rediscovery, celebration and collation. All these little treasures associated with differing scenes and contexts remain as the core driving sound, a collection of differing styles and tastes that make up a backdrop of exceptional flavour and colour, a meandering walk through all that the localised environment has to offer. Compilations in this sense offer a very complete and dense view into the past and all it had to offer, providing a vivid backdrop for the listener to reside within as the sounds that pulsate from a certain place and time wash over us, providing an image of the time and place so brilliantly. These kinds of collections do so much to transport us to places we haven't yet graced before, a ethereal meandering back in time to a space where the music found on the comp filled the air, people dancing smiling and conversing with one another, the sun kissed skies descending into the night and the life of the party.
To be transported back in time is always a wonderful feeling, and some reissue labels really do get the balance right across the board, with Portuguese imprint Mad About Records doing that constantly since its inception back in 2011. Founded by producer Joaquim Paulo, the label has specialised in releasing rare jazz, soul, funk and Brazilian records, with a continually spreading discography that not only finds some excellent records from the aforementioned genres, but fills in the gaps a lot too, with many reissues residing in very interesting spots indeed. Many of the records found on the label go above and beyond, always displaying an inherent level of musical dexterity and poise, being able to find the right mixture of differing blends and feels that comes together in a pure melting pot of ideals and sounds. There's also such a wonderful narrative that dips and weaves from each record, a undercurrent of beautiful hypnotic groove that swells up significantly with each release that gives over so much about the past and all its glories, all set within a thread that maximises the identity of the label and draws so much focus to the stories it looks to tell. Its a testament to Paulo and his enduring passions that has lead people to become so enamoured with Mad About, such is his ability to not only source fantastic records to reissue, but to see how they fit into his views and visions for his imprint and the direction it looks to go in. As a result, the quality and audial consistency of the music found within remains exceedingly high, with a wide spectrum of jazz, funk and fusion on display that all sings directly to the soul and of course the mind. To pick from such a stellar discography is no easy task, but here are some of our selected favourites, which include the the excellence in jazz contained within the stunning Toshiko Akiyoshi collection 'Her Trio, Her Quartet', that showcased the Jazz pianists tracks from 56-58', with the record landing in 2014; the jazz fusion vibes found on the 'Desenhos' record by renowned Brazilian jazz saxophonist Victor Assis Brasil, that landed in 2016; the wonderful soul tinged stylings of Brazilian musician Toni Tornado and his brilliant 1972 self titled record, that was reissued in 2018; the diving and weaving psychedelic sounds that overflow from the 'Procura-se Uma Virgem' record by Orquestra St. Moritz and Erlon Chaves, that also arrived in 2018; the intoxicating spectrum of soul found on the self titled Ronie & Central Do Brasil record, that arrived in 2019; the beautiful driving grooves found on the 'Out Of The Blue' record by Imani, that arrived in 2019; the utterly phenomenal grooves found on the supreme 'Sol' record by Joe Gallardo & Sol, that landed earlier this year; the equally brilliant soul funk genius that flows from the 'Everything Is On The One' release by the World Quake Band, that also arrived earlier this year; and finally, the quirky sun drenched breeze that is the fabulous 'Between The Swells' record by Jay Days, that also arrived earlier this year. For some more contemporary freshness, be sure to check out Gary Corben's exciting 'Gods In Brazil' record, that landed last year, and brings the label full circle in relation to its reissuing and the sound it pushes within the current musical context. There's much to celebrate about the Mad About collection, and with each release there seems to be an even bigger push deeper into the realms of funk, soul and Brazilian music, with a seemingly never ending pool of talent and genius to pick from. No matter what, you can expect one thing from the label, and thats gracing us with continually extraordinary releases that sing to the same song sheet, but are always on the lookout to add their own lines of narrative to the continually evolving narrative. If you want the most epic of dives into the past, then look no further than gliding through the exceptional back catalogue of this supremely brilliant label, trust us, its very much worth your time.
With all the excellence that has come forth from the label, the time seemed right to bring all the roads together and converge at one of their latest offerings, 'Disco É Cultura Vol.1', which brings together one of the strongest ensemble casts of music together this year. The compilation, compiled by label head Paulo, draws focus to some ultra rare Brazilian funk and soul gems that will fill up your life and the room you reside in with unreal levels of passion and feel, the sunshine and Latin vibes just overflowing from every conceivable corner of this record. From slow and sultry, to uptempo and groovy as hell, to the swells and the dwells, with some excellent vocal work thrown in for good measure, its quite the trip back in time to a context we really want to get to know. And, with this collection of tunes, you really do get taken back in time to a certain time, a certain mood, a certain sense of expressionism that remains very much of the time but now spreads its influence over the ages. There's enough here to have you grooving for years to come, and with that, lets dip right into this.......
Up first comes Brylho with their track 'Se Você For A Salvador', and we couldn't think of a better place for the record to start. The wah wah effect pedal comes striking right through the heart of the track, crafting a rhythmic base thats really hard to deny, with the drums then signalling the rest of the melodic features to follow, which features a full on brass section and lavish keys, which all come together in the most brilliant of ways. The track quickly moves into the vocal section, which chimes between the lead and the backing choral lines, with each acting off the previous to create a wonderful call back effect, with the vocals acting wonderfully on top of an expertly tight rhythm section. The verse builds and builds until the dramatic melodic break, that then leads into the gorgeously unwinding choral section, that features high end backing lines and the lead line moving across the mid section, with the chorus then descending into a utterly phenomenal instrumental bridge that you just have to listen to to really get. The flows keep on coming as the next verse comes into view, and by this point we are totally on fucking board, this track just has everything, with there being one final swing through the choral line, a chorus we will never get bored of. The track then sees itself out on its impeccable groove, content in its knowledge that this is certainly one of the best rhythms going, seriously. What a tune. Up next comes Lafayette with his track 'Sol De Verão', and the energy levels remain very much on point with this one. The track opens up with the lead horns taking centre stage, before the spaces between their chimes is occupied by all manner of groovy features, with the drums crafting the pulse as multiple guitar lines add further to the feels. This all sets the stage up perfectly for the vocal line, that glides in like a dream into proceedings, distinctly wordless perhaps as a means to add further to the instrumental brilliance on display, acting as a lead in bringing the track forwards via its varying instrumental incarnations. The track moves between funk laden territories before descending into early disco leanings, swinging between the two with such confidence and meaning, with the instrumental work absolutely top draw. The vocals pull away for a moment to provide space to the groove, allowing it room to slow down a bit before building things up to the inevitable vocal climax, a new crest in the ever flowing waves of sound. The vocal line once more takes the lead going forward, encouraging all the other elements to pick themselves up, a thread for which the flow of the track is bound to, as it sees itself out in the most fabulous of fashions, its missing completely and utterly complete. Wow. Up next comes Paulo Jerônimo with the cut 'Vida Agitada', and the tempo comes down a fair amount into the simmering realms of Brazilian soul. The track begins off with a fairly bombastic energy, as the short sweet snaps of the horns signal the start of proceedings, before the song flows directly into the most sultry of movements. The vocals lovingly lay themselves over a gorgeous swinging instrumental bed, with the guitar crafting a looping rhythm with the drums lightly keeping tempo in the backdrop, as the piano occupies the spaces on the left hand side of the panning. The track in full on mode is quite something indeed, with every single element adding another layer of beauty to the sequence, our minds completely wrapped up in the comings and goings, occupying a little space in the forward momentum that remains ours, as we swim within a sea of pure heart and soul. A real stunner.
Up next comes Cornelius with their track 'Deixa', and we enter into yet another snapshot of pure gold. The guitar chimes along on top of the beat, as little melodic touches and the vocals add a real sense of togetherness - the backing vocal line of 'la la la' is truly something else, as the main vocal line slides right into view, and the overall tone is just so on point. The track dips and dives around the instrumental, weaving along between the highs and lows, getting to know and understand every facet of its sound, and the overall picture is one of pure fascination. The flow continues on for a few bars, before taking a dip into the pure instrumental side of things, before moving right into one final injection of vocal energy, and like that we breeze out into the night, ready to take on the dance, with a big old smile on our face. Franco is up next with the cut 'Ei, Você Psiu', and once more this one delves right into proceedings almost immediately. The funk is really aflowing from this one, with the low slung beat providing a basis for the wicked guitar riff and horn section to permeate within the groove, and when the vocal line - silky, all encompassing and intensely fast paced - moves into view, the illusion is very much complete. The key here is the relationship between the vocals and the instrumentals, which flow along very much to each others drums, carrying a real sense of rhythm, responding so well to each other as the momentum of the track continues to hold real weight and presence. A wicked cut. Up next comes Adriana with the track 'Contigo', and this one takes the pace way down. A wonderfully melodic and tear jerking instrumental intro leads into the beautifully entrancing vocal line, something that after all that wonderful groove holds such weight by itself, a slowed down look at the view around us and a moment to reflect and pause. The initial phase is milked for all its worth, smoothly running between the lines, taking in all it has to offer, before there's a semi lift off of sorts, where the beat comes into to occupy the spaces left in the groove established by the keys and guitar, with the vocals becoming more quick paced as a result. The strings that align themselves within the backdrop make for very compelling listening indeed, crafting a hypnotic blend of feel that is hard to deny and so beautiful to dip your head within. The track remains content to continue wrapping around our minds for a good while yet, leaving an imprint in our minds that we certainly won't shake for a good while yet. Up next comes the Brazil Very Happy Band with their cut 'Brazil Very Happy Band', and the feel moves very much into the very up tempo territories. Every single element is brilliantly up tempo, with a high octane horn section setting the scene as all manner of other elements and notions flow on and within the cut, content to move and groove within a spectrum that directly speaks to the happy elements of our mind, eager to make us dance and move with each passing second. The vocals remain the key draw here, moving in and out of the picture, constantly moving the crowd and making us keep moving time and time again. Lovely stuff!
Up next comes Aloísio with the track 'Tema, R', and this begins off once more with the horns blasting right through the panning. The track then quickly gathers pace, with the guitar signalling the start of the momentum going forward, and before long we descend into a proper jazz fuelled landscape, with fast paced wordless verses bookended by fast paced horns, with the inbetweens characterised by beautiful layered instrumentals. The groove is simply excellent, one that carries itself so beautifully as the track saunters along at its own jazz fuelled pace, with wonderful solos adding colour and vibrancy to the forward momentum. The track reaches a sonic peak when the riding rhythmic key solo comes sliding through, offering one final thought on the driving nature of this track, and its simply wonderful. 'Pássaro Selvagem' by Os Carbonos slides into view next, and oh yes this is boogie at its very finest. The intro sees the drums churn up interest, with the bass line pounding right through the middle, with distant synths adding intrigue to proceedings, as the main groove drivers develop and swell in depth, before it all switches up as the guitar riff slides right into view. Its brilliantly achieved, with all instruments working alongside each to craft such an infectious rhythm, the momentum of which is so beautiful and incredible, with the previous rhythmic line moving back into view as the guitar is given free range to do some soloing, but we quickly move right back into the main driver of proceedings. Such a effortless groove, one that will very much wrap you up in its arms, as you move into some very blissed out realms indeed. Superb shit. Up next comes San Rodrigues with the track 'Fofa', and the flows very much continue on this one. After a very sweet introduction indeed, we move right into the main drivers of the track, with the combination of rising vocals working alongside the constantly shifting rhythms and melodic features, with all the features working alongside each other effortlessly. The horns in particular add a little extra sparkle to the forward momentum, adding pieces of variation into proceedings that keep the groove flowing so very well indeed. The chorus as well is particularly epic, with the rising vocals and diving groove creating a lovely contrast, and furthering our adoration for the cut. Up next comes Gay Vaquer with the cut 'Disco Pode Ser Cultura', and once more the intro really captures the imagination very early on indeed. The woodwinds, keys, violins, drums and guitar do much to paint the scene, and before long we move straight into the core groove, with the guitar acting as the core groove moving forward, delightfully rising and descending around the driving rhythm section, which moves on and on with a slow yet very meaningful and emphatic pace. The overall picture is one of real compositional and arrangement excellence, where each element is perfectly placed to craft a view that contains so much brilliance, a picture that says a thousand words. The way it switches up towards the end, with the guitar riff moving the track onwards into new realms of groove, has us wondering what that might sound like. Hey, our imaginations can do the work for us. To wrap things up on this incredible collection of music, we have Grupo Natureza with the track 'Pode Acreditar (Versão Vocal)', and here's one final chance for this comp to show us exactly why we are pouring so much praise on it. The intro gets right into it, from the singular drum fill right into the most expansive of scenes painted yet, with the horns typically taking the boundaries of the sound as the infill is made up of gorgeous keys, drums and of course the vocals, that fill up the view with their meaning and passion. Its truly extraordinary, and a perfect send off for this record, a ship sailing into a deep orange sky, the start of the night, the laughs, the loves, the frills, the euphoria. The kind of compilation that makes you want to just put it right back to the start and loose yourself in all kinds of boogie funk excellence. Simply marvellous.
When moving through this compilation, you get a fill for all your itches, be it sultry funk, delightful boogie, warm soul or feverish semi Latin disco, its all here, and what a journey you descend on with it all. The music itself is all so expertly pulled off, with the intricate rhythms and grooves calculated and crafted by highly talented musicians who know and care for what they want, all bought together within a record that delights continually with each passing second. Its a wonderful insight into the sounds of the 70s in Brazil, where musicians paired traditional Brazilian music with American funk and soul, and their interpretation of it is nothing short of extraordinary. The big horns, the incredible vocal work, and above all else a deep understanding of intricate groove that has the ability to recede and swell with equal ease, transitioning between movements and tones at breakneck speed or at the slightest of moments. Its all here, a picture book soundtracked by some of the finest of that era, all here for you to close your eyes and experience. This one might just be the compilation of the year. Just maybe.
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