SIDE ONE: 01. Leros e Leros e Boleros / 02. Filme de Terror / 03. Cala a Boca, Zebedeu / 04. Pobre Meu Pai / 05. Labirintos Negros / 06. Eu Sou Aquele que Disse
SIDE TWO: 01. Viajei de Trem / 02. Não Tenha Medo, não / 03. Dona Maria de Lourdes / 04. Odete / 05. Eu Quero É Botar Meu Bloco na Rua / 06. Raulzito Seixas
I know I am prone to hyperbole on this blog, but if any album deserves its hype, it's this one.
Sérgio Sampiao is one of Brazilian music's "malditos", a chimerical, iconoclastic figurewho was as impossible to categorize as he was to ignore. A look at the album cover with it's B-movie drive-in theater design with the letters of Sampaio's name dripping blood (probably ketchup, naturally), or his truly bizarre stage presence in the performance of the title track from this album in the film Phono 73, might have been enough to make the gatekeepers of 'serious' music dismiss Sampaio without even giving him a serious listen (as gatekeepers are inclined to do). But the truth is that although Sampaio's records sold very little and he's remained a cult figure in the margins, for a certain generation of music fans the song "Eu Quero Botar Meu Bloco Na Rua" is tattooed in the collective memory as a counter-cultural anthem during the worst years of the dictatorship. Written in the style of a slowed-down Carnaval marchinha, you would be hard-pressed to find a more evocative, multivalent snapshot of 1973, of desperation and survival under the violently repressive regime and the terror of a police state as well as exhaustion with the struggle against it. To quote my friend Tchêras about this song, "In plain view of the dictatorship, this song was a huge smash hit, with everyone singing along at the top of their lungs and switching the phrase in the lyrics 'botar pra gemer' for 'botar pra fuder.' " A fine example of the kind of subversive 'hidden transcripts' that were increasingly common in popular song lyrics in the early 70s, the transposition of these two idiomatic expressions are heavy with sexual, hedonistic and social connotations, as if the Black American blues phrases of "screamin/moanin/rollin/tumblin' were transformed into a metaphor for overturning the order of things. Not necessarily in the 'temporary inversion of hierarchy that only serves to reinforce the superstructure' sense blathered about extensively by Roberto DaMatta, but a rupture with hierarchy that has no intention of returning to the status quo because the participants no longer recognize its legitimacy.
But all this exegetical interpretation runs the risk of ruining the poetry of this record; by trying to make the implicit meanings into explicit social critique, we miss the whole point.
Sampiao was a master of the vignette, creating musical dramas or novellas that play out in three to five minutes, pregnant with metaphors and vivid imagery. But he wasn't just a brilliant lyricist. Beginning in the 1960s, the whole world over had no shortage of brilliant lyricists who wrote boring music. Sampaio's gifts for melody and for using his voice to maximum effect are impeccable. (Although his guitar playing may have been technically rudimentary - he once said in an interview "I play guitar like a person who doesn't know the erogenous zones makes love to a woman..." This album was produced by Raul Seixas, with whom Sampiao participated on a kind of underground 'supergroup' called "Sessão das Dez" a few years earlier, credited to the Sociedade de Grã-Ordem Kavernista (comprised of Sérgio and Raul, Edy Star, and Mirium Batucada). But while that album is saturated in lysergic irony and chaos, this album is focused and coherent. You can hear where Sampaio's compositional style and vocal delivery had a profound influence on the early records by Seixas, who would take it's nuance and delicacy and inject it with his oversized Dionysian personality and the cryptic pseudo-mystical ramblings of Paulo Coelho's lyrics. "Eu quero botar meu bloco na rua" certainly has it's moments of psychedelia, like the spaced-out "Viajei De Trem" and production flourishes scattered throughout, but it's always in the service of a very precise, sophisticated vision. There isn't a superfluous or self-indulgent note anywhere on this album. The orchestrations of strings, horns, harps and Moogs and are flawlessly mixed and never overdone. Seixas surely deserves some credit for this, as he employed some of these same production ideas on his own albums from this period (check out that opening horn riff of "Labarintos Negros" and tell me it doesn't sound like like pure Raul). Musically and lyrically Sérgio could straddle the humorous, melodramatic, and deadly serious and often leave you wondering which is which. There are no bad songs on this album but some gems shine particularly bright. "Filme de terror" (leave the children with the neighbors!), the idiosyncratic sambas "Cala a Boca Zebedeu" and "Odete," and the aforementioned "Viajei de trem" and the title cut. Over the last week I've been playing the beautiful track "Eu Sou Aquele Que Disse" over and over. It's as close to a love song as you'll get on this album.
This record is strangely and shamefully out of print. Original vinyl copies are hard to come by, 1980s repressings are out there but usually overpriced, and the last time (maybe the only time?) it was released on CD was this Samba & Soul series. Ricardo Garcia usually does a very nice mastering work, but he really outdid himself on this one. A mastering engineer's job often involves having to crank out a large volume of work in short space of time and I sometimes imagine the engineer being on autopilot, keeping themselves alert with coffee and maybe only half listening to an album as they tweak and adjust their settings. Not so with this album - it sounds to me like Garcia and project director Charles Gavin had a special affection for this album and probably spent a bit more time on it. The one glaring exception is the track "Da Maria de Lourdes," which has had a heavy noise filter applied to it that mangles the higher frequencies. You should be able to hear this without any kind of fancy playback equipment, but if you pop on a pair of headphones you'll really hear it. It's too bad because it's a blemish on what is otherwise a very gratifying remaster. And kudos to them for reprinting the entire lyrics featured on the inner sleeve of the LP.
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