Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66

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Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil '66 at the peak of its form. Here Mendes released himself from any reliance upon Antonio Carlos Jobim and rounded up a wealth of truly great material from Brazilian fellow travelers: Gilberto Gil's jet-propelled "Roda" and Joao Donato's clever "The Frog," Dori Caymmi's stunningly beautiful "Like a Lover," Harold Lobo's carnival-esque "Tristeza," and Mendes himself (the haunting "So Many Stars" and the title track). Mendes was also hip enough to include "With a Little Help From My Friends" from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper LP. As things evolved, though, the one track that this album would be remembered for is the only other non-Brazilian tune, Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love," in an inventive, grandiose arrangement with a simplified bossa beat. The tune just laid there on the album until Mendes and company performed it on the Academy Awards telecast in 1968. The performance was a sonic disaster, but no matter; the public response was huge, a single was released, and it become a monster, number four on the pop charts. So much for the reported demise of bossa nova; in Sergio Mendes' assimilating, reshaping hands, allied with Herb Alpert's flawless production, it was still a gold mine.

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