Sergio Mendes / Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66

Fool on the Hill

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Having hit upon another smash formula -- cover versions of pop/rock hits backed by lavish strings, a simplified bossa nova rhythm, and the leader's piano comping -- Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 produced two more chart-busting singles, again turning to the Beatles for sustenance with the title track (number six) and Simon & Garfunkel for "Scarborough Fair" (number 16). But again, the bulk of the album was dominated by Brazilians, and by one in particular: the hugely gifted Edu Lobo, whose dramatic "Casa Forte" and infectious "Upa, Neguinho" were the best of his four songs. The tracks were longer now, the string-laden ballads (arranged by Dave Grusin) more lavish and moody, and Lani Hall emerged as the vocal star of the band, eclipsing her new partner, Karen Philipp (although Hall is upstaged on "Lapinha" by future Brasil '77 member Gracinha Leporace). Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records. Cultural note: the striking foldout cover art, depicting Brasil '66 at sunset seated on top of a nude woman, somehow made it past the uptight censors of the day and no doubt boosted sales; it was Mendes' highest-charting album at number three.

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