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22 Apr 2017

Jorge Ben “Fôrça Bruta” 1970 Brazil Latin Jazz,Samba Soul,Samba Rock

Jorge Ben “Fôrça Bruta” 1970 Brazil Latin Jazz,Samba Soul,Samba Rock
An effortless mix of bossa nova, samba, and acoustic swing, this gem of an album from Brazilian giant Jorge Ben Jor is simultaneously an invitation to chill out while soaking in a sunset and to get up and dance, even if you’re physically incapable. From the pitch perfect opening, the playful soothing of “Charles Junior,” to the more percussive “Apareceu Aparecida,” and finally the assertive closing, the album lives up to its name, ‘Brute Force’; obviously not through aggression, but through such a vulgar display of sheer talent and quality……. 

Exquisite tropicalia exhibition from master of the genre Jorge Ben. The Brazilian singer songwriter daubs his delectable, dazed-out ditties with Amazonian river flows of samba and bossa nova rhythms, overgrowing groves of gambolling guitar under a sweltering canopy of swonky, surreptitious orchestration. Sounds of paradise feature often, whether it be exotic bird calls or chicks singing like exotic birds. Sultry, saintly, sun-soaked, utterly swinging, it’s an enrapturing work from start to finish and would not be out place on the first Austin Powers movie….by…rupert X…………… 

First time on CD in the US - and first time in the world in over 15 years! A groundbreaking album from the young Jorge Ben - one of Brazil’s most soulful singers ever - heard here at a pivotal point in his career! Forca Bruta is a record forever transformed Brazilian music with its unique blend of samba and soul - and it features some tremendous rhythm work from Trio Mocoto - who bring in a wide variety of percussion techniques to make the whole thing groove. There’s an earthy, laidback feel to the whole set - one that makes the album feel like a spontaneous expression of genius, even at the few points when larger orchestrations slide into the mix. The album’s easily one of Jorge Ben’s greatest - and it’s a much-heralded Brazilian treasure that’s finally getting reissued!……. 

The combination of Jorge Ben and Trio Mocotó had already produced great things when Força Bruta first appeared in 1970. Ben’s self-titled album of the year before had reeled off a succession of Brazilian hits, including “País Tropical” and “Cadê Teresa,” and made the four musicians very busy as a result. Força Bruta was a slightly different album, a slice of mellow samba soul that may perhaps have been the result of such a hectic schedule during 1969. One of the hidden gems in Jorge Ben’s discography, it’s a wonderful album because it kept everyone’s plentiful musical skills intact while simply sailing along on a wonderful acoustic groove that may have varied little but was all the better for its agreeable evenness. The songs may have been more difficult to distinguish – virtually every one began with acoustic guitar, similar instrumentation, and Ben’s caressing vocals over the top – but it made the record one of the best in Ben’s hearty career……… by John Bush……….. 

I haven’t discovered Jorge Ben’s music until late 2006. I’ve personally discovered Brazilian music in 2005, when I was introduced to Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso & Azymuth. I admit since then, I was turned out and fell in love with Brazilian music. In this day and age, where most new music is simplified, many people like myself embrace old music that doesn’t tarnish. Music that has meaning to it. It took me awhile to get into Jorge Ben’s music, because most of his back catalogue is out of print and has been for years and even decades. Some of his albums have never even been released on CD before. 

I would personally like to say that Jorge Ben is like the James Brown/Al Green/Stevie Wonder of Brazil. Without saying his style is reminescent to the R&B artists that I have mention, In Brazil, he is embraced just like the R&B artists that I’ve mentioned. Although he has been around since 1963, his music is becoming more popular as the decades go by. Although he was a phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s, he is more known than he was back then. This is mainly because more people worldwide are becoming familiar with his music. Once people listen to his work, they become addicted, like I have. Jorge Ben was a bad MF and it’s only fair that even though he’s becoming more known worldwide, his music will become more avaiiable to the public someday. 

“Forca Bruta” is Jorge ben’s 7th studio album that was produced and released in 1970. After listening to this album, I just knew that I had to have a copy. This is one of Jorge Ben’s five greatest albums, alongside with “O Bidu/Silencio no Brooklin”, his self-titled 1969 album, “Sacudin Ben Samba” and “Negro e Lindo”. This album was done the year after Jorge ben decided to go back to his home recording company (Philips/Mercury). Of all of the albums Jorge Ben has done, this one is just as free-spirited and exuberant as his two previous albums (“O Bidu/Silencio no Brooklin” & “Jorge Ben” [1969]). 

This is an album that I can listen to all the way through without skipping tracks and is a much better album than the overrated (1976) “Africa Brasil” album. I am happy that it has been reissued on CD. Although the sound is great, this reissue isn’t the best. I say this only because the reissuing company (Dusty Groove) used a worn LP cover for the artwork and the lyrics and additional photos that originally came with this album are missing. 

Although back catalogues for Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso have been reissues within the past few years, we have yet to see many of Jorge Ben’s works reissued and I can’t say why at this time. I just hope for the day when Jorge Ben’s entire back catalogue will be reissued. 

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: “Ze Canjica”, “Charles Jr.”, “Pulo, Pulo”, “Apareceu Aparecida” & “Mulher Brasileira”….ByLWNORWAY……………… 

From humble beginnings in the Rio Comprido area of Rio de Janeiro, son of a stevedore and a part-Ethiopian mother, Jorge Duílio Lima Menezes has left a gigantic footprint on the world of music that said world is only now beginning to comprehend. Jorge Ben’s career has seen its share of twists and turns over its almost five-decade duration. The furor that greeted his 1963 debut LP Samba Esquema Nôvo on Philips quickly gave way to diminishing returns on three hasty follow-ups over the next 18 months. Jorge was hustled into the studio and obliged to crank out lesser versions of his debut classic, padded out with sometimes-questionable covers of tunes by other writers. After 1965’s Big Ben, a strained relationship had reached its breaking point and Jorge and Philips parted ways. This constituted a low point for Jorge, whose trailblazing sound had few if any precedents at the time and was impossible to neatly categorize or classify. Thus, he was able to appear on the Elis Regina-hosted O Fino Da Bossa TV show playing acoustic guitar as well as on Roberto Carlos’ weekly rock-fest Jovem Guarda playing electric. (The latter appearance earned him a ban from Elis’ show!) Left adrift, without a label, 1966 was shaping up to not be Jorge’s year. But then Sergio Mendes stepped into the picture. 

Having left Brazil several years earlier on a mission to find fame and fortune in Hollywood, Mendes was at that point still shaping his band and his plan to conquer the U.S. At first he started to gain notice in jazz circles when the band was still named Brasil ’65. Mendes knew many of the best players back home would jump at the chance to escape the stiflingly competitive and insular music scene back home to get a chance to strut their stuff in America. At one point Mendes wanted to include both Jorge and Marcos Valle, but the latter fled back to Rio after getting a draft notice for Vietnam. Jorge didn’t find life in California much to his liking, especially after the incident wherein he tried to get a haircut from a bigoted barber. He also missed his beloved Flamengo football team. So back he went as well. Mendes, though, had by this time hit upon the formula with which he would shortly conquer the world in the form of the two-female-fronted Brasil ’66. And the opening track on their A&M debut was none other than Jorge’s “Mas Que Nada,” which had set his own career off to such a fast start. Incredibly enough, despite being a samba sung in Portuguese, it became a hit single that spawned countless cover versions by everyone from Miriam Makeba to Ella Fitzgerald. Philips’ US branch had already issued Samba Esquema Nôvo domestically as Big Ben (not to be confused with the Brazilian release of the same name), and followed it up with Big Ben Strikes Again, an altered version of 1964’s Ben É Samba Bom. Thus, Jorge was making considerable inroads into the U.S. market already, at a time when his career in Brazil was virtually DOA. 
Journeying back home to remedy that situation, Jorge decided a change of scenery would do him some good and moved to São Paulo. His old teenage chums Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos were then at the height of their 60s teenybopper fame, and Jorge was always welcome on their Jovem Guarda TV program, which was then a religion of sorts for Brazilian teenagers. Jorge signed a deal with a tiny São Paulo-based record label named Artistas Unidos and promptly recorded what has since come to be one of his most highly-regarded and influential LPs, O Bidú. The rock and blues component of his music really came to the fore on this album, which features his earliest recorded work on electric guitar. Caetano Veloso, always Jorge’s most vocal champion, cites this record, and the track “Se Manda” in particular, as providing the initial impetus for the musical aspect of the Tropicália movement. In all respects a transitional record, O Bidú retains a freshness and energy despite a rather flat production job and remains beloved of Jorge fans old and new. It flopped resoundingly upon release although it still gained a US release on Kapp under the title “From Brazil,” with a radically different mix and what appear to be different takes of certain tracks. Meanwhile, Jorge continued refining his craft, making the rounds of SP’s nightclubs and befriending future collaborators like singer-songwriter Toquinho and a fun-loving bunch of percussionist-singers named Trio Mocotó. 

By 1968, Jorge had really nailed down the style that would take him back to the top, and the songs were flowing from his pen like water. The Artistas Unidos label didn’t have the necessary distribution clout to make a dent in the market, but Jorge continued cutting the odd single for them. One of these featured “A Minha Menina,” which Jorge would memorably contribute to the debut album that year by a young SP rock band named Os Mutantes. Another significant song during this period was “Zazueira,” which would be recorded by Jorge’s buddy Wilson Simonal and a number of others including Elis Regina. All this activity resulted in Philips taking a renewed interest in our hero. Label exec André Midani, formerly of Odeon, had recently taken the reins at Philips after a few years running EMI’s Mexican branch. Under his guidance, Philips would dominate the 70s MPB scene by building a roster of certified superstars. It was Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, prior to their exile, who prevailed upon Midani to re-sign Jorge, promising to help promote him at every turn. And so it was that Jorge re-signed to his former label in early 1969 after a four-year layoff. 

It’s important to note at this point that the MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) establishment was coalescing and assuming its definitive form. “Brazilian Popular Music” really means any music produced in Brazil and sung in Portuguese. Should, anyway. But the standard definition of MPB quickly became that of a group of singers, musicians and songwriters working within a stylistic framework descended directly from Bossa Nova. The harmonic and melodic structures established by Bossa Nova could always be discerned, even when pop, rock, soul and jazz influences surged to the fore. Lyrically, MPB was always meant to be highly literate and collegiate, in the image of the middle-class and generally white Brazilians who created it. This last part is very relevant given that the military dictatorship was now entering its darkest years, and the middle- class college kids of MPB were a constant thorn in the right-wingers’ side. Jorge Ben has always been a bit of an outsider within the top ranks of the MPB establishment. No one denies that he belongs in that establishment, but his style and MO have always set him apart. For starters, his lyrics have long come in for a bit of derision from the aforementioned earnest college-campus lyricists. For Jorge, it’s not so much about the meaning of the words as it is about their sound. Instead of writing 20 lines, Jorge often preferred to write two that sound very cool and repeat them ten times. And his subject matter revolved around a handful of subjects: a woman whose name he would repeat constantly while singing her praises; soccer, or more specifically Rio’s Flamengo team, the Yankees of Carioca football; or quirky observations of banal everyday life replete with made-up words. All set to his patented hard-strummed 4/4 samba groove, which was shortly to inspire a whole underground movement known as samba-rock. It all added up to a devastatingly effective formula which, with the odd tweak here and there, was to carry him through a string of masterpiece albums over the next decade. The first of these albums was his legendary eponymous comeback LP for Philips, released in November 1969. Sporting an iconic psychedelic Tropicalia-style cover painting, it was crammed with songs Jorge had been storing up over the last year or two. Many of these had been gigantic hits for other artists in the months leading up to the album’s release, like “País Tropical” (Wilson Simonal), “Cadê Tereza” (Os Originais Do Samba) and “Que Pena” (Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso). But every single track on this album is a highlight for a variety of reasons. Jorge captured the tenor of the times in his own left-field fashion. Witness these words from “Take It Easy My Brother Charles”: 

Ever since the first man marvelously set foot on the moon 
I feel more in tune with my rights and principles 
And the dignity to free myself 
This is why, with no prejudice, I sing 
I sing of fantasy, I sing of love 
I sing of happiness 
I sing of faith 
I sing of peace 
I sing of suggestions 
I sing in the middle of the night 
Take it easy my brother Charlie 
‘Cause I even sing it to the girl I love 
The girl I desire, the girl I await 
The girl I adore…. 

The “Charles” in question turns up in another very noteworthy song entitled “Charles Anjo 45.” This song addresses a shadowy underworld figure of the Rio favelas, who leaves his ghetto community sad when he disappears to serve a jail term. Over a rolling samba groove, Jorge sing-speaks the lyrics, and the subject matter wouldn’t be out of place on a hip-hop mixtape: 

Hey, hey, my friend Charles 
What’s up Charles 
How’s things going Charles? 

Charles….Angel 45 
Protector of the weak and the oppressed 
Robin Hood of the ghetto, king of the hustlers, 
A real man with true courage 

Only thing is, one day Charles slipped up 
And had to unwillingly go take a little vacation in a penal colony 
And then the foolish wannabe hustlers screwed everything up 
And our ‘hood became a huge mess 
It was like a heaven and has now become a hell 
But God is good and just and before the season’s over our Charles is coming back…. 

The rest of the lyric details the delirious celebrations in the ‘hood when Hustler Chuck gets out of the pen. This was daring subject matter in Brazil in 1969, and his performance of it at one of the many TV-broadcast song festivals set tongues wagging. Caetano, true to his word, cut a cover version in folk-ballad-lament style with Jorge himself backing him up, a day or two before leaving into exile. Jorge was an honorary associate of the Tropicália movement, and the ’69 LP can be seen as his contribution of sorts to that all-too-brief adventure. He even hosted an episode or two of “Divino, Maravilhoso,” the short-lived Tropicalismo program on TV Tupi, when Caetano and Gil suddenly “disappeared.” 

So with the release of this epochal LP, Jorge was back to stay. The back cover even had an approving liner note by Armando Pittigliani, the man who initially signed and later dropped him! Meanwhile, the stash of tunes Jorge had built up was providing hits for a myriad of artists like Wilson Simonal, Claudette Soares, Elizabeth Viana, Os Incriveis, the Golden Boys and countless others. Jorge even managed to get in on his own extracurricular activity by appearing on the new album by his sometime roommate Toquinho, contributing guitar and vocals to three tracks, all of which became hits: “Que Maravilha,” “Carolina Carol Bela” and, to a lesser extent, “Zana.” Meanwhile, the weekly leftist humor tabloid O Pasquim (then all the rage in college circles) had started a trend of including free singles with exclusive songs with some issues. Featuring both established artists and up-and-comers, the singles caused a splash and Jorge’s contribution was an improvised jam with Trio Mocotó titled “Cosa Nostra,” which poked good-natured fun at the paper’s entire editorial staff and became an oft-covered anthem. Jorge’s next album, Força Bruta, was released in September 1970, and represented a bit 
of a departure from Jorge’s by-now-patented happy-go-lucky style. The music was the same, but had now taken on a slightly darker and moodier quality. Jorge’s guitar playing was reaching new heights of idiosyncratic proficiency but the lyrics at times indicated that MPB’s court jester was preoccupied with deeper thoughts, as demonstrated by yet another “Charles” chapter, this one called “Charles Jr.” Set to a dramatic backdrop of swirling strings, infernal Mocotó percussion and stinging acoustic guitar, Jorge stakes his claim as an artist and as a Black man: 

My name is Charles Jr. 
And I’m an angel too 
My name is Charles Jr. 
And I’m an angel too 
But I don’t want to be the first 
Nor be better than anybody 
I just want to live in peace 
And be treated as an equal among equals 

For in exchange of my love and affection 
I want to be understood and taken into consideration 
And, if possible, loved as well 
‘Cause it doesn’t matter what I have 
I’m no longer what my brothers once were, no, no 
I was born of a free womb 
Born of a free womb in the 20th Century 
I have love and faith 
To go into the 21st century 
Where the conquests of science, space and medicine 
And the brotherhood of all human beings 
And the humbleness of a king 
Will be the weapons of victory 
For universal peace 
And the whole world will hear 
And the whole world will know 
That my name is Charles Jr. 
And I’m an angel too….. 

Heady stuff, although Jorge misses out on the crystal ball award given the events of the 21st century so far, compared to the wishful thinking in the song. Still, such lyrics served as a rejoinder to those who felt that his words were puerile, childish nonsense and little else. The album overall was another scorcher despite its relatively more somber tone, and it produced several more hits in the form of “O Telefone Tocou Novamente” and “Mulher Brasileira.” The following album, 1971’s Negro É Lindo, retained much of its predecessor’s cloudy-sky and somewhat melancholy atmosphere. Arthur Verocai’s arrangements lent new shadings to the standard Ben sound, perfectly complementing the record’s enticingly low-key vibe. The title, “Black Is Beautiful,” was a further nod to a prevalent issue of the time, and Jorge’s take on it is spelled out on the title track: 

Black is beautiful 
Black is love 
Black is friendship 
Black is also a child of God 
I just want God to help me see my son be born 
To grow up and be a champion 
At no one else’s expense because 
Black is beautiful…. 

The sedate, melodic nature of the song belies the heaviness of the lyric, thereby driving its point home even more forcefully. Elsewhere on the album, “Zula” and “Comanche” (jacked wholesale and without credit by the Black Eyed Peas for “Fallin’ Up”) step the tempo up to great effect, and “Rita Jeep” describes a brief fling with Os Mutantes’ Rita Lee. And “Cassius Marcelo Clay,” co-written with Toquinho, is a memorable tribute to the great fighter: 

Cassius Marcellus Clay 
20th century hero, successor to Batman, Captain America and Superman 
Cassius Marcellus Clay, with the cadence of a samba school 
And the 4-3-4 of a soccer team 
Save Black Narcissus, save Mohammed Ali, save Fight Brother 
Save King Clay 
The eternal champion, truthfully a worldwide idol 
With the posture of the Statue of Liberty 
And the height of the Empire State Building 
Save Cassius Marcellus Clay 
Soul Brother 
Soul Boxer 
Soul Man…. 

The response to this wonderful album was generally positive yet somewhat muted. Jorge was, as ever, following his own path, and the songs were simply gushing out of him. And the next record, released in late 1972, would be the one to put him on top once and for all, as well as becoming one of the quintessential classic 70s Brazilian LPs. 

For many years, Brazilians have pointed to Ben in particular as a record they wore out several copies of growing up in the 70s. Virtually each one of its 11 tracks became either a hit single or simply a widely-loved popular favorite, always heard at parties. Despite the size of Jorge’s ‘fro on the cover, it’s not a soul record by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s basically a samba record, Jorge-style, with lots of bluesy chords. “Taj Mahal” makes its debut appearance here, as does “Fio Maravilha,” one of Jorge’s biggest hits ever, a singalong about a journeyman soccer player on Jorge’s favorite team. (The player, Fio, would eventually sue for a piece of the royalties). Jorge’s obsession with self-reference was beginning to take shape on “Domingo 23,” among the first of many songs where he repeats his own name often throughout the lyric, rap-style, as well as casting himself as a mythological hero: 

Sunday 23rd, Sunday 23rd is Jorge’s Day 
It’s the day he rides through on his white horse 
So the whole world can see how it is 
With knight’s armor and cape 
And a gold-plated sword 
Noble gesture, serene look in his eyes 
Of a horseman 
Warrior of jusitice 
Unbeatable in the extreme 
Thus is Jorge 
And save Jorge, hail Jorge 
Long live Jorge 
For with his wisdom and courage 
He showed that with a rose 
And a bird’s song 
One is never alone in this world 

Another classic on Ben was “Caramba!…Galiléu Da Galiléia,” with the following verse: 

Like the man from Galilee said 
True hustlers don’t flinch 
If a hustler knew how good it is to be honest 
He would make honesty a part of his hustle 

Ben proved to be a career high point for Jorge to rival 1963’s debut LP and 1969’s self-titled album in importance. Caetano Veloso has been repeatedly quoted as declaring it to be among the greatest albums ever made by anybody anywhere (still keeping his promise to Philips to get his audience to buy Jorge Ben albums). So with his career at its peak, Jorge’s next project was a retrospective project commemorating the ten years since his initial signing to Philips. 1973’s Dez Anos Depois gathers many of the songs that had marked his trajectory up to that point, re-recorded in medley form. This is significant, because the medley format is one to which he has adhered religiously in live performance ever since. So many songs, so little time! Although the album suffers from a somewhat shoddy production and mix, it definitely has its moments. Of greater interest is the hyper-rare “Jorge Ben On Stage” live LP released only in Japan around this time, as well as the stunning “Jazz Potatoes” single which has never appeared on any compilation or reissue since. 
Jorge’s next album proper provided the final proof that the man is a giant and remains his own personal favorite among his albums. It was widely felt that Ben would be hard to top, but 1974’s A Tábua De Esmeralda turned out to be an absolute masterpiece and arguably Jorge’s finest ever. Again, his style wasn’t broke, so he wasn’t fixing it, merely improving it. For a guy who once claimed to read only comic books, the themes dealt with here proved surprisingly esoteric. Fascinations with alchemy, medieval history and Egyptology made their debut here and would dominate the next several albums. During the worst moments of the military dictatorship (on which Jorge’s personal position was never clearly defined; mixed signals abound in his work), he continued to invest heavily in the concept of almost autistic happiness at any cost. At the same time, he took subtle shots at deserving figures, such as the corporate company man in “O Homem Da Gravata Florida” (The Man With The Flowery Necktie): 

Here comes the man in the flowery necktie 
Oh my God, what a beautiful tie 
What a sensational tie, look at the details on it 
What a color combination, what tropical perfection 
This isn’t just a tie, it’s a story 
About harmony with beautiful things 
It’s a garden hanging from the neck 
Of a friendly and happy guy 
Happy, happy because with that tie 
Any ugly man becomes a prince 

Friendly, friendly, because with that tie 
He’s awaited and loved anywhere he goes 
Anywhere he goes flowers and love bloom in his wake 
With a flowery necktie like that one it’s so good to be alive…. 

This sly dig at Johnny Corporate is matched for tongue-in-cheek wit by his observation of 
“O Namorado Da Viúva” (“the widow’s lover”): 

The widow’s lover is passing by 
In a hurry, lost in thought, wary 
Glancing on all sides 
Because he knows that around the city 
Bets are on that he won’t make the grade 
Who is this widow? 
Everybody wants her but they’re scared 
Nervous about being her man 
They say she’s gifted physically and financially (I wanna see!) 

Elsewhere on this fabulous album, Jorge’s increasing fascination with the esoteric (announced in no uncertain terms on the symbolism-rich cover art) and the generally spaced-out results in lyrics like those of “Errare Humanum Est”: 

There are days when I wake up 
Thinking and wanting to know 
Where our impulse to explore outer space comes from 

Starting with the shadows over the stars 
And thinking that they were astronaut-gods 
And that one could fly to the stars 
Well before recorded history 

Gods from other galaxies came 
Or from a planet of impossible possibilities 
And to think we’re not the first terrestrial beings 
Because we’ve inherited a cosmic legacy….. 

Pretty impressive for a man who professes never to have done a drug in his entire life, or even drank! In any event, A Tábua De Esmeralda was a crowning achievement in Jorge’s output, and it brought rock fans, sambistas and MPB progressives under one roof in agreement for one of the rare times in their lives (other than at a Tim Maia concert). The vaguely Beatlesque “Minha Teimosia, Uma Arma Pra Te Conquistar” (“My Stubbornness, My Weapon To Win You Over”) became a small hit, and “Zumbi” was a strong addition to Jorge’s racial-awareness songs. 

The following year’s Solta O Pavão has often been seen to suffer in comparison to its illustrious predecessor, when in fact it’s an admirable follow-up and is of a piece with Tábua. The preoccupation with Egyptian mythology and mysticism in general remains, and several classics quickly emerge, most notably “Jorge De Capadócia” and the rocking “Se Segura Malandro,” later covered by Caetano Veloso (once again!) among many others. Also notable are “Cuidado Com O Bulldog” with its stunning and prescient pre-punk-rock bassline and and the witty “Para Ouvir No Rádio (Luciana),” a sly paean to marketing: 

I’m gonna write a simple song so you can remember me 
When you listen to the radio 
On medium waves, short waves or in frequency modulation 
To remember me when listening to the radio 
But if you can’t hear it 
For lack of time or lack of a radio 
Somebody is sure to pass by singing and whistling it 
Right nearby you 
And if even after all this you still haven’t heard it 
Because you didn’t want to or had some other problem 
I’ll come up and down the hill where you live 
Like a triumphant warrior 
Singing my hymn of love 
Luciana, Luciana, Luciana…… 

1975 also saw the now-legendary jam session between Jorge and his peer Gilberto Gil, the result of a single afternoon/evening acoustic encounter at Philips’ studio. The album, entitled Ogum Xangô, emerged as a double LP with the pair extemporizing on each other’s tunes for eight or nine minutes on average, some reaching up to fifteen minutes! Among fans of the two, opinions on the album tend to be divided into extremes….love or hate. Philips also released an edited single-LP version of the session simply entitled Gil & Jorge. 

Jorge’s career was going from strength to strength at this point, as evidenced by the France-only release of the Jorge Ben A L’Olympia LP on Philips, a result of ever-more-intensive international touring. The venues were getting bigger and required a bigger sound, which perhaps explains Jorge increasingly turning to the once-taboo electric guitar. This development would alter his music permanently, and not without a measure of controversy among his longtime fans. The first fruit of this metamorphosis on record, however, turned out to be a universally-revered heavyweight funk masterpiece. 
Africa Brasil, released in 1976, didn’t come out of a vacuum. It was something Jorge had been building toward for some time, a record he was bound to make sooner or later. Gathering a veritable football-club’s worth of musicians into Philips’ new 16-track studios in Barra Da Tijuca, Jorge plugged in his electric guitar and unleashed a hurricane of samba-tinged funk kicked off by the now-immortal “Ponta De Lança Africano (Umbabarauma),” powered by a riff that must have made Keith Richards jealous. Track after track, the album never lets up the intensity and is the most obvious point of entry into Jorge Ben for many a funk-bred record digger. The combination of muscular plugged-in grooves and insistent samba percussion is lethal, resulting in Jorge’s most sonically in-your-face album up to that point. Ironically, “Umbabarauma” (about an African soccer player) was never a hit in Brazil, never even released as a single, and began to garner its now-widespread popularity when David Byrne made it the opening track on 1989’s “Brazil Classics Vol. 1: Beleza Tropical” compilation on Luaka Bop. “Xica Da Silva” was more of a hit at the time both in Brazil and in hipper Stateside circles, particularly in and around the disco scene. Import copies of “Africa Brasil”were omnipresent in better record stores in the States, especially on the coasts, and Jorge’s influence was bigger than ever, as was about to be spectacularly demonstrated. “Taj Mahal,” with its infectious, wordless singalong chorus, had made its first appearance in 1972 on “Ben.” A faster, punchier version, with added lyrics, was featured on “Africa Brasil,” and again on “Tropical,” an LP recorded in the UK for Island Records for international release. Rod Stewart and his drummer Carmine Appice apparently got their hands on one of the two albums (or both!), and the infamous wordless chorus became “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” about a year later, credited to Stewart and Appice. After “Sexy” became the global mega-smash that it did, a lawsuit ensued, and Stewart and Appice ended up donating much of the royalties from the song to UNICEF. On a lighter note, eclectic blues singer-guitarist Taj Mahal later covered the tune, renaming it “Jorge Ben”! Jorge finally left Philips in 1977, after a decade and a half of stellar work, and signed to Som Livre, the record branch of the all-powerful TV Globo network. He kicked off his new label association with the incredible A Banda Do Zé Pretinho LP, still one of his funkiest and most underrated albums. The hits and albums kept flowing, albeit with a more streamlined approach in keeping with the comparatively pasteurized sound of the 80s. The records were considerably less gripping than before but were still filled with killer party-starting tracks (and special mention to “Natal Brasileiro,”a single that stands as one of the most incredible year-long-listenable Christmas tunes of all time!). Jorge scored his last major Brazilian hit single in 1992 with the infectious “W. Brasil,” a perennial party and concert singalong, and a guaranteed feature of his live shows to this day. Jorge’s concerts are marathons lasting up to three hours or more, Springsteen-style, where he has to combine his many, many hits into medleys. His energy level and appearance belie his age, as does his continuing relevance to successive generations in a variety of different genres. 

His reluctance to go back to the acoustic guitar has become legendary, but the one time he agreed to play it again, for MTV Brasil in 2002, it was headline news and a live CD of the event was released. 
One of the truisms of Jorge Ben’s entire career is that his music has always been like a picnic basket left unattended and other artists are like ants. With or without permission, others just can’t stay away from his work. The Black Eyed Peas, to give just one example, based “Fallin’ Up,” from their debut album, entirely around a sample from 1971’s “Comanche.” 

Jorge officially changed his stage name to Jorge Ben Jor in 1989, supposedly because George Benson was accidentally receiving his royalty statements (although, to be honest, Ben Jor sounds a lot more like Benson than Ben does!). Another version has it that an interest in numerology brought about the modified moniker. Whatever the case, no matter what the stars might say, Jorge Ben (Jor) is truly a wizard, a true star. Salve Jorge!………..BY ERIC SANDLER……… 

Cuica – Fritz Escovao 
Percussion [African Drums] – Joaozinho Parahyba* 
Producer – Manoel Barenbein 
Tamborim – Nereu Gargalo 
Vocals, Guitar, Written-By – Jorge Ben 

TracklistA1Oba, Lá Vem Ela 
A2Zé Canjica 
A3Domenica Domingava Num Domingo Linda Tôda De Branco 
A4Charles Jr. 
A5Pulo, Pulo 
B1Apareceu Aparecida 
B2O Telefone Tocou Novamente 
B3Mulher Brasileira 
B5Fôrça Bruta

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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