Erasmo Carlos

Carlos, Erasmo...

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After saying a formal goodbye to the teenage glory of the Javem Guarda with the bracing 1970 album Erasmo Carlos & Os Tremendoes, the artist strove to break more new ground the following year with Carlos, Erasmo.... In 1971, the tropicalia movement had undergone massive changes. Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil remained in exile. Gal Costa had evolved from the breathtaking psychedelic tropicalia of her 1969 self-titled album and embraced Yankee-style rock, blues, jazz, and pop with 1970's Legal. Os Mutantes had suffered the loss of Rita Lee. Carlos enlisted their guitarist Sergio Dias, drummer Dinho Lemme, and bassist Liminha (Arnolpho Lima Filho); psych session guitarist Lanny (Alexander Gordin); pianist Regis Moreira; and percussion, horn, and string sections. He brought back arranger Chiquinho de Moraes and hired Arthur Verocai and Brazilian legend Rogério Duprat as well. The entire set was produced by Manoel Barenbein, rightly considered the tropicalia producer.

This program is easily his most provocative recording to date. Half of it comprises original material co-written with Roberto Carlos; the rest is by the hottest writers on the scene, including Vitor Martins, Taiguara, Marcos and Paulo Sérgio Valle, and Jorge Ben. Veloso, too, sent Carlos a new tune entitled "De Noite Na Cama," which wed fuzzy electric guitars, berimbau, and squawking cuíca in a rock-cum-samba beat. Liminha's sweet waltz "Masculino, Feminino" is delivered as a duet with O Bando's Marisa Fossa, its melody deeply influenced by Neil Young. The first original, "É Preciso Dar um Jeito, Meu Amigo," is a swampy 4/4 rocker with swirling strings, a gritty tenor saxophone break, popping snares, and biting distorted electric guitars. "Dois Animais Na Selva Suja da Rua" contains punchy piano chords, a rumbling bassline, trilling strings, snare breaks, and stinging lead guitars. As wildly different as all these tracks are from one another, they create a foundation for the rest of the album. It never loses focus despite the wide variety of sounds and styles on offer.

Check the shimmering Rascals-inspired balladic soul in "Gente Aberta," the squalling psych in Ben's "Agora Ninguém Chora Mais," and the the greasy funk in "Mundo Deserto." There's 12-string-driven freak folk in "Sodoma e Gomorroa"; hyperactive, angular soul in "Ciça, Cecília" appended by layer upon layer of backing vocals and horns; and fuzzy, jazzy, wah-wah-driven groove in the Valles' "26 Anos De Vida Norma," a true set highlight. "Não Te Quero Santa" is almost a tender look back at the Javem Guarda, but its baroque horns, cinematic strings, and swaying balance of electric and acoustic guitars reflect the influence of post-Sgt. Pepper's Beatles. Carlos, Erasmo... is crazy but kaleidoscopic and complex, the fully mature work of a pop visionary who was not only influenced by tropicalia, but, even late, added significantly to its creative reach. Like its predecessor, the album confounded listeners and was a commercial flop. In the 21st century, it's regarded as a Brazilian rock classic. Even more, it may be Carlos' masterpiece.

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