Review Psychedelic Pernambuco
Listening to Psychedelic Pernambuco for the first time was akin to when I was first given a copy of The Roots of Chicha. On first listen I couldn’t believe this music actually existed, that it was so damn good, and that I knew nothing about it. Afterwards I went on a pilgrimage to find out as much about the music and artists involved as possible. In truth, with Psychedelic Pernambuco I was well aware of Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho’ Paebiru album but could never have imagined that so many other albums of similar beauty could possibly have been made!
Before more hyperbole though, let’s take a step back and define what this album is. Psychedelic Pernambuco is a collection of 19 songs from Brazil’s Rozenblit label, a label which released a series of vinyl records in the 1970s documenting the vibrant psychedelic rock scene in Pernambuco. Now, Mr Bongo Records have got hold of the catalogue and will be reissuing a number of the vinyl records from this period, as well as putting together this compilation as a primer for the whole project.
Psychedelic Pernambuco starts with “Sorriso Selvagem” by The Gentlemen, a song halfway between free-jazz and funk with tribal drumming that makes the whole thing sound not too dis-similar to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. In some ways it’s the most conventional psychedelic song on the album, fitting the accepted sound of psychedelia perfectly. After this opener the compilation is shared between four artists: Lula Côrtes (solo and with Zé Ramalho), Flaviola e o Bando de Sol, Marconi Notaro and the partnership of Geraldo Azevedo and Alceu Valença.
Paebiru, an album by Lula Côrtes and Zé Ramalho, was reissued in 2005 and has since been known as the holy grail of Brazilian psychedelia. Here, the songs “Bailado Das Muscarias”, “Marácas De Fogo” and “Beira Mar” are taken from the album. They all bring together a high level of musicality, a real sense of not knowing where the songs are heading (did the musicians even know?) and a feeling of light or air which could only really have come from the 70s.
What I never realised though was that Paebiru should just be a starting point for the songs taken from two other Lula Côrtes albums, 1973’s Satwa and 1980’s Rosa de Sangue are just as impressive with “Alegro Piradissimo” from the first of these one of the most hypnotic guitar pieces I’ve ever heard.
The two tracks from Flaviola e o Bando do Sol feel more of a traditional folk variety, not taking the same risks with structure, melody and tuning as Côrtes, but still achieving some real moments of bliss. Marconi Notaro on the other hand is another keen on experimentation constructing a mixture of repetitive songs soaked with the sound of the Amazon and other odd noises and other tracks which don’t sound too far from early Tom Zé, with “Fidelidade” in particular sounding like it could easily have come out of the tropicália movement.
This just leaves one act to mention: Geraldo Azevedo and Alceu Valença. These two are definite one of the main draws of this compilation. Their songs “Mister Misterio”, “78 Rotacoes”, “Novena” and “Virgem Virginia” are all instant psych-folk classics, each one possessing it’s own identity while also offering up great vocals, melodies and musicianship. The best of all their tracks though is “Planetario”, a driving song with one killer guitar hook and both singers at the height of their powers.
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