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Blame It On The Bossa Nova: Él Compiles Brazilian Classics, Plus: “Pop! Goes the West”

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The gentle guitars of a bossa nova band and the blazing guns of the American West don’t seem to have much in common on the surface. Yet the sun-drenched music of Brazil and the dramatic landscape of the American West both have their own distinct mythologies. And as the 1960s dawned, both bossa nova and western music swept the pop charts. Cherry Red’s Él label is celebrating these two very different styles with a pair of new anthologies. Festival of Bossa Nova is a primer on the early days of the genre (1957-1961, with one song from 1950), while Pop! Goes the West compiles cowboy classics that crossed over into pop and rock territory between 1952 and 1961.

Although 1964’s Getz/Gilberto is usually recognized as the album that set the bossa nova craze in motion internationally, it wasn’t even the first American album in the style. The music literally translating to “new trend” had taken root years earlier in Brazil, gaining traction with the success of 1959’s Black Orpheus and its score by Luis Bonfá, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius deMoraes. Bossa nova was the result of societal upheaval in Brazil, calling for its own soundtrack; a period of democratic freedom and economic development under President Juscelino Kubitschek led to unprecedented optimism. His promise of “fifty years of progress in five” was reflected in the forward-thinking music, which was both sophisticated and breezy. Identified by gentle acoustic guitar and sometimes piano, and often adorned with subtle string or horn accents, bossa nova was based on the rhythms of the samba. It soon was adapted on stages from the concert hall to Broadway, spawned the “lounge” genre and influenced countless musicians across the genre divide.

Festival of Bossa Nova brings together 32 tracks from the earliest days of bossa nova. All are sung in their original Portuguese and have the instantly recognizable, frequently mellow sound that would influence a generation of musicians in both pop and jazz. Of course, “the Brazilian Gershwin” Antonio Carlos Jobim (credited with deMoraes and Gilberto as having written one of the earliest true bossa nova songs, 1958’s “Chega de Saudade”) is represented via songs performed by singer/guitarist Joao Gilberto (including the now-standard “Insensatez” and “Corcovado”) and organist Walter Wanderley (“Agua de Beber”). Lyricist/poet deMoraes also collaborated with Carlos Lyra and Baden Powell, both of whom are also heard on Festival of Bossa Nova. Another major name you’ll hear on the new disc is Sergio Mendes, before he defined the sound of AM (and A&M!) pop with Brasil ’66. Mendes, quoted in the liner notes, offered a most apt description of bossa nova as “so refreshing and new…it was all so seductive. So sensual.”

Other familiar artists on hand include guitarists/composers Oscar Castro-Neves and Laurindo Almeida, and singer Elis Regina. The legendary Bonfá is on hand performing his own “Variacoes” and as co-composer, with Jobim, of “Amor Sem Adeus” smoothly performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney, born Farnésio Dutra e Silva, with a lush orchestral backing. Some of the tracks are actually rather dramatic (Dolores Duran’s “Solidao”) or boisterous (Os Cariocas’ “Preto Velho Bossa Nova”) but all are the product of a heady, experimental time. With a refreshing blend of well-known songs and unfamiliar material, Festival of Bossa Nova is a great starting point to explore the varied genre.

Another cleverly-compiled collection, Pop! Goes the West, joins Festival of Bossa Nova from Él. We’ve got details after the jump, plus track listings and order links for both titles!

Film soundtracks have played a major role in the Él catalogue, with a previous release even anthologizing songs from The Wayne-Ford Westerns. The scope of Pop! Goes the West is even more broad, however, encompassing both soundtrack recordings and popular songs from and inspired by Western movies. Like many of Él’s releases, Pop! Goes the West is possible due to current U.K. public domain laws affecting material 50 years of age and older.

Two John Wayne films get ample representation. The set opens with five tracks from Howard Hawks’ 1959 epic Rio Bravo, also starring two accomplished singers: Dean Martin and Rick Nelson. Dino and Ricky duet on the brief “My Rifle, My Pony and Me,” while the former croons the movie’s title song and the latter takes on “Restless Kid,” written by Johnny Cash. Nelson Riddle is heard leading his orchestra on Dimitri Tiomkin’s theme “De Guello (No Quarter).” The very next year, Wayne directed one of his most personal pictures, The Alamo. Opposite his Davy Crockett was teen idol Frankie Avalon, as well as Richard Widmark and Laurence Harvey. Dimitri Tiomkin again provided the score, and three songs have been drawn from it, all with Paul Francis Webster’s lyrics. Avalon sings “Tennessee Babe,” while The Brothers Four are represented with “The Green Leaves of Summer” and Marty Robbins with “Ballad of the Alamo.” Marty Robbins was no stranger to western stories in song, having topped the charts in 1959 with the evocative “El Paso.” John Wayne’s North to Alaska (1960) yielded its own title song, included here in Johnny Horton’s rendition.

The dramatic voice of Frankie (“Jezebel”) Laine is heard on five songs on Pop! Goes the West including Tiomkin title songs to High Noon and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as well as George Duning and Ned Washington’s 3:10 to Yuma. There are a few fun tracks from stars not usually associated with the western song genre, including the versatile Psycho star Anthony Perkins (Irving Gordon’s “The Kentuckian Song” from 1955’s The Kentuckian) and another singing actor, Tab Hunter (“I’m a Runaway” from 1958’s Gunman’s Walk in which he played opposite Van Heflin and James Darren). Sultry chanteuse Julie London delivers Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ “Saddle the Wind” from the 1958 film of the same name, in which she also starred. And no compilation of cowboy music would be complete without Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ immortal “Happy Trails.”

Not wanting to be outdone, renegade producer Joe Meek got into the act when he created The Outlaws. This instrumental band, according to the uncredited liner notes essay, even travelled via stagecoach down London’s Shaftesbury Avenue to promote their first single! “Ambush” and “Western Sunset” are samples of their work. An even more famous British combo, The John Barry Seven, offers up two tracks including the most famous theme on this set, Elmer Bernstein’s “The Magnificent Seven.” Little could Barry have known that he would within a short time be as respected a film composer as Bernstein! The 1961 British film The Singer, Not the Song featured the music of Philip Green, excerpted here with the Knightsbridge Strings’ title theme and “Anacleto’s Theme.” Like Festival of Bossa Nova, Pop! Goes the West includes a well-designed booklet with liner notes but, alas, no original discographical information.

Both Pop! Goes the West and Festival of Bossa Nova are available now from the Él label and can be ordered below.

Various Artists, Festival of Bossa Nova (Él ACMEM236CD, 2012)

  1. Goeto do seu olhar – Oscar Castro-Neves
  2. Cancao do olhar amado – Carlos Lyra
  3. Nada como ter amor – Carlos Lyra
  4. Agua de Beber – Ana Lucia
  5. Agua de Beber – Walter Wanderley
  6. Corcovado – Joao Gilberto
  7. Insensatez – Joao Gilberto
  8. Brigas nunca mais – Joao Gilberto
  9. Samba de nos dois – Alaide Costa with Baden Powell
  10. Fluido de saudade – Baden Powell
  11. Menina Feia – Lucio Alves
  12. Castigo – Lucio Alves
  13. Tristeza de nos dois – Sergio Mendes
  14. Samba feito pra mim – Elis Regina
  15. Murmurio – Elis Regina
  16. Murmurio – Walter Wanderley
  17. Pela luz dos olhos teus – Vinicius de Moraes
  18. Solidao – Dolores Duran
  19. Braziliance – Laurindo Almeida
  20. Preto velho bossa nova – Os Cariocas
  21. Teleco teco – Ed Lincoln
  22. Chora tua tristeza – Agostinho dos Santos
  23. Chora tua tristeza – Oscar Castro-Neves
  24. Sambop – Leny Andrade
  25. Doi, doi, doi – Isaura Garcia
  26. Recado a solidao – Maysa with Luis Eca
  27. Perdido de Amor – Pery Ribiero with Luis Bonfa
  28. Variacoes – Luis Bonfa
  29. Duas contas – Sylvia Telles
  30. Muhler de trinta – Walter Wanderley
  31. Amor sem adeus – Dick Farney
  32. Ceu e mar – Roberto Menescal Cojunto Bossa Nova

Tracks 1, 3, 6, 9-13, 17, 21-23, 25, 28 & 32 rec. 1960
Tracks 2, 8, 20 & 31 rec. 1959
Tracks 4, 5, 7, 14-16, 24, 26, 27, 30 rec. 1961
Track 18 rec. 1958
Track 19 rec. 1950
Track 29 rec. 1957

Various Artists, Pop! Goes the West (Él ACMEM235CD, 2012)

  1. Rio Bravo Introduction by John Wayne
  2. My Rifle, My Pony and Me – Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson
  3. Restless Kid – Ricky Nelson
  4. Rio Bravo – Dean Martin
  5. De Guello – Nelson Riddle
  6. Ballad of the Alamo – Marty Robbins
  7. The Green Leaves of Summer – The Brothers Four
  8. Tennessee Babe – Frankie Avalon
  9. North to Alaska – Johnny Horton
  10. The Comancheros – Claude King
  11. Ambush – The Outlaws
  12. The Magnificent Seven – The John Barry Seven
  13. I’m a Runaway – Tab Hunter
  14. Texas Rider – Burt Blanca et ses Guitares Magiques
  15. The Kentuckian Song – Anthony Perkins
  16. Vaquero – The Fireballs
  17. High Noon – Frankie Laine
  18. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – Frankie Laine
  19. City Boy – Frankie Laine
  20. 3:10 to Yuma – Frankie Laine
  21. Comanche – Link Wray
  22. Zapata – The John Barry Seven
  23. The Guns of Rio Muerto – Johnny Western
  24. Riders in the Sky – The Scorpions
  25. Man Without a Star – Frankie Laine
  26. Apache – Jorgen Ingmann
  27. The Plainsman – Judd Proctor
  28. The Singer, Not the Song – The Knightsbridge Strings
  29. Anacleto’s Theme – The Knightsbridge Strings
  30. Saddle the Wind – Julie London
  31. Chet Atkins – Bonita
  32. Happy Trails – Dale Evans and Roy Rogers
  33. Western Sunset – The Outlaws

Tracks 1-5 from Rio Bravo (1959)
Tracks 6-8 from The Alamo (1960)
Track 9 from North to Alaska (1960)
Track 10 from The Comancheros (1961)
Track 11 from HMV single POP 877, 1961
Track 12 from The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Track 13 from Gunman’s Walk (1958)
Track 14 from National Records (France) EP 16204, 1961
Track 15 from The Kentuckian, 1955
Track 16 from Top Rank single 2054, 1960
Track 17 from High Noon (1952); Tracks 17-20 all appear on Frankie Laine, Hell Bent for Leather, Columbia LP CS-8415, 1961
Track 18 from Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
Track 20 from 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Track 21 from Comanche (1956)
Track 22 from John Barry, Stringbeat, Columbia (U.K.) LP SCX-3401, 1961
Track 23 from the television series Have Gun Will Travel (1958)
Track 24 from Parlophone single R-4740, 1961
Track 25 from Man Without a Star (1955)
Track 26 from Jorgen Ingmann, Apache, Atco LP 33-130, 1961
Track 27 from Parlophone single R-4769, 1961
Tracks 28-29 from The Singer, Not the Song (1961)
Track 30 from Saddle the Wind (1958)
Track 31 from Chet Atkins, Chet Atkins’ Workshop, RCA Victor LP LSP-2332, 1960
Track 32 from The Roy Rogers Show (1952)
Track 33 from The Outlaws, Dream of the West, HMV LP CLP-1489, 1961

The above discography corresponds to the film in which a song was featured, not the original appearance on LP or single, except for Tracks 11, 14, 19, 22, 24, 27, 31 & 33

Written by Joe Marchese

August 17, 2012 at 07:52

One Response

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  1. I ordered the Bossa Nova disc. Even with more than a dozen Bossa albums, I only have one or two of those tracks!

    Sean

    August 17, 2012 at 16:03


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