Tim Maia

World Psychedelic Classics 4: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia

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Luaka Bop planned this Tim Maia volume in its World Psychedelic Classics series a decade ago. Due to legal struggles, it took until 2012 to get this 15-track retrospective released. It's been worth the wait. Maia, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 55, had a wild, controversial, and creative life, personally and musically. He effectively introduced American R&B, funk, and soul into Brazilian music during the Tropicalia era, and came up with something completely new in the process. He caught the American music bug as a teen. He lived, worked, made music, and committed petty crimes in the States between 1957 and 1964 when he was deported back to Brazil. While this music isn't psychedelic in terms of its sound necessarily, it is in its outlook. Maia was an unrepentant acid head and one-time member of a UFO cult, a hedonist and a spiritual traveler. His themes of universal brotherhood, spiritual transcendence, free love, and collective partying fit the psych era in a decidedly more groove-based musicology. The songs don't feel dated because they are contained in arrangements, compositions, and a production aesthetic that is timeless. The material was compiled from Maia's albums recorded between 1971 and 1978 -- many of them simply entitled Tim Maia (seven bore the title during this period alone). The only other titles in his album discography from the era were his undisputed classics Racional (1974) and its sequel, Racional, Vol. 2 (1975). Six of these 15 cuts come from these last two albums. Opener "Que Beleza" (original title "Imunização Racional") (1974) is a burning meld of funk, big horns, and early-'70s sophisticated soul (with an electric guitar sound that comes right from Ernie Isley's book). Disco makes its presence felt on "Do Leme Ao Pontal," from 1978; the chanted refrains add elements of Brazilian folk music traditions into the mix, too. "Let's Have a Ball Tonight," with its spacey soul, shimmering B-3, and layered guitars gives way to a series of tight, nasty, bass vamps, smooth keyboards, and tinny snare breaks. "I Don't Care," from his 1971 debut, with its interplay between rolling breaks, dramatic strings, vibes, horns, and electric guitars, is a high point. But his ballads work well, too; check "Where Is My Other Half" (1972). The midtempo groover "The Dance Is Over" is one of the sexiest tunes Maia ever recorded. "Rational Culture" (from 1974's Racional) is a monster 12-plus-minute funk jam. It contains the hippest use of a clavinet this side of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia, more than lives up to its title; it is the definitive compilation from his greatest years.

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