This beautiful -- and now legendary -- recording date between iconic Brazilian vocalist Elis Regina and composer, conductor, and arranger Tom Jobim is widely regarded as one of the greatest Brazilian pop recordings. It is nearly ubiquitous among Brazilians as a household item. Regina's voice is among the most loved in the history of Brazilian music. Her range and acuity, her unique phrasing, and her rainbow of emotional colors are literally unmatched, and no matter the tune or arrangement, she employs most of them on these 14 cuts. Another compelling aspect of this recording is the young band Jobim employs here and allows pretty free rein throughout. He plays piano on eight of these tracks, and guitar on two others, but the fluid, heightened instincts of these players -- guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, Luizão Maia on bass, drummer Paulinho Braga, and pianist César Mariano -- reveal them to be at the top of their game for this rather informal date that does include a few numbers with a full orchestra. That said, most of these songs were completed as first takes with very little overdubbing. The ballads are stunning -- check"Modinha," written and arranged by Jobim. The chart, even with an orchestral backing, is amazingly terse because the composer knew Regina worked best within minimal settings. Only two minutes and 16 seconds in length, it nonetheless captures the Portuguese notion of "saudade" perfectly. Of course, most of these tunes are bossa novas. The opening "Águas de Março" features a deceptively simple cat-and-mouse vocal call and response, kicking the disc off on a light, cheerful note; it's a delightful and very sophisticated number, but it feels effortless. "Triste" is one of Jobim's finest tunes, and there is scarcely a better version of it than this one. Even with electric guitars (complete with a semi-funky solo in the middle eight) on top of the nylon strings, the gauzy yet pronounced rhythms and the languid melody delivered by Regina are gorgeous. "Corcovado" is done with an orchestra, full of lilting flutes and a deep string backdrop. It is mournful and sensual. Jobim plays guitar and piano here, and adds a hushed backing vocal to Regina's refrains. It's an unusual reading, but a stellar one. "Brigas, Nuncas Mais" is a wonderfully accented -- if brief -- bossa nova with all the percussion just above the threshold of hearing. It's all guitars, bass, and Regina in the first verse before the Rhodes piano and counterpoint enter near the end. She does more to express the true elegant sensuality of the bossa nova in a minute and 13 seconds than some singers have in a lifetime. Jobim's classic jazz ballad "Inútil Paisagem" is very difficult to deliver well, because it requires incredible restraint and emotion. Accompanied only by Jobim's piano -- and his all-but-whispered backing vocal -- this is truly one of Regina's greatest performances of the 1970s. It closes the album on a stunning high note, leaving nothing to be desired by the listener.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek