Sonhos e Memórias: 1941-1972 is the third in Erasmo Carlos' classic trilogy from the early part of the decade that includes 1970's Erasmo Carlos & Os Tremendoes and 1971's Carlos, Erasmo... Unlike its predecessors, though, the singer/songwriter's hyperactive ambition here is of a more intimate variety. Its two halves sound like they originated on different albums, each reflecting one-half of its title ("Dreams and Memories" in Anglo).
Carlos enlisted Jairo Pires (Tim Maia) as producer. The core of his studio band included pianist/organist José Roberto Bertrami, bassist Alex Malheiros, and drummer Ivan Conti -- the trio that became the jazz-funk fusion outfit Azymuth -- and guitarists Tavito and Luiz Claudio Ramos, among others. The "Sonhos" side opens with the unlikely but beautiful "Largo Da 2ª Feira," a Brazilian pop song with a decidedly Laurel Canyon take on country. "Mane Joao" melds Afro-Latin rhythms and jazzy soul. "Minha Gente" sounds like Meddle-era Pink Floyd backing Nick Drake on Five Leaves Left, while "Mundo Cão" closes the first half with slippery samba-flavored pop and affectionate glances at late doo wop and early Northern soul -- it's also more musically ambitious. On "Soriso Dela" Carlos, complete with Duane Eddy-esque guitar, haunting organ, a caporeira rhythm comprised of tom-toms and percussion, and a slow-walking circular bassline pays subtle homage to João Gilberto. "Sabado Morto"'s intro sounds like sun-kissed retro bossa, but its jazzy syncopation (one wonders if Michael Franks heard this album before recording 1976's The Art of Tea) eventually transforms itself into rocking, psychedelic soul. Capoeira chant informs the stacked harmonies on "Vida Antigua," answered by shimmering snares, breezy 12-string acoustic and hollow-body electric guitars, and a tenor saxophone break. (Think Stevie Wonder's Where I'm Coming From). "Meu Mar" offers pillowy psych-pop textures and incessant, chanting choruses. "E Proibido Fumar" is the hardest rocker here and ultimately travels into the psych stratosphere at its zenith. For Sonhos e Memórias: 1941-1972, Carlos loosened his grip on the Tropicalia influence that framed his previous two records; he made room for new sources of inspiration. His experimentation with the lineage of Brazilian rhythms and harmonies, alongside influences from the emerging West Coast singer/songwriter scene, Harry Nilsson, abstract soul, folk, jazz, and rock, all formed part of MPB's next step during this era (its sibling recordings are Edu Lobo's 1971 date Cantiga de Longe, Caetano Veloso's Transa, and Milton Nascimento's and Lo Borges' Clube Da Esquina, both of which are also from 1972). This album was not a commercial success at the time, but has since become a classic, and deservedly so. Carlos stuck with this vein of exploration for a time and dug in even deeper with its follow-up, the more uneven yet completely worthwhile Project Salva Terra in 1974.