Eu Vim de Bahia
his disc takes on the early careers of five of Brazil’s great pop stars. The year 1965 is documented here, with Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethania, Caetano Veloso and Tom Ze each having two or three songs included. Don’t expect to hear their later brilliance in these early singles, there’s the vivacity of youth (or in Tom Ze’s case an earthy wisdom), but the stars of what was later to be known as Tropicalia had not yet been able to put together the energy or the maturity to make these songs classics.
The first song “Eu a Vim de Bahia” by Gal Costa sets the languid tone that the rest of this disc follows. Comparing the first seasick-string swell to Costa’s intelligent and warm voice sets a contrast between the young genius and the hurried production. The song is full of airy flutes and sighing strings, but they all sound like they were recorded in 1910, not 1965.
Maria Bethania’s heavy voice is an interesting contrast to Gal Costa’s slightly restricted vocals. “Gloria in Excelsis (Missa Agraria)” has a very strong religious feel to it, evidenced both by her strong vocal performance. This song is one of the better ones on the disc. While all of the tracks feel like they are the early work of the artists, Bethania has a presence about her that shines throughout the performance, commanding attention from the listener.
Gilberto Gil’s “Procissao” is included here in a version different from the one included on his classic 1968 album. There are some extra backing vocals in the beginning and arrangement is slower and laced with woodwinds rather than the volume shifting guitar that peppered 1968’s manic composition. This version, though inferior, serves as a good example of the kind of holding back that Gil had to do in his pre-Tropicalia years.
Tom Ze’s tracks are the most interestingly arranged. Ze, the eldest of these performers, had the most inventive mind. His “Sao Benedito” features some versatile guitar work, self-harmonized vocals and various percussive instruments interrupting/augmenting his performance throughout. “Maria de Colegio da Bahia” does a bit more with acoustic guitar and vocals, doing some interesting things with pauses.
Throughout most of this disc, though, the sound quality is pretty bad. Most of the bossa nova recordings made during this time were rushed and these tracks display this. One wonders, if they could afford the orchestras-full of musicians here, why couldn’t they afford to fly over some American engineers? The confidence level isn’t very high either, Gilberto Gil’s tracks, in particular, reveal a hesitancy for full-on experimentation. Caetano’s tracks also feel like he’s a bit pleased to be a rising pop star on the level of Gil. Sounding distracted and a little scared, not at all the dynamic and fiery political Veloso is present here—listeners would have to wait until the 70s for that. What is apparent, however, is the beginnings of a burgeoning movement and the coalescence of a genre that would come to dominate the musical output the country for years to come.
Reviewed by: Tyler Martin
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01