Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Jorge Ben
Brazilian Collection from A to Z

Released 1998 on PolyGram do Brasil/Mercury
Reviewed by Le Samourai, 09/10/2000ce

Ahhhhh, Brazil. If you don’t know by now Brazil has created some of the most imaginative, seductive, finely crafted pop music in any “World” you can think of - be it “first”, “second” or “third.” Since the 1960’s that country has produced passionate, progressive pop performers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Milton Nascimento,
Gilberto Gil and many others. However, my all time favorite Brazilian musician has got to be Jorge Ben. His style is unique yet has a undeniably funky swing. His music obviously leans on Brazilian traditions (like the samba and usage of native percussion) yet you can’t say he copies any other Brazilian artists’ style.

That’s why I highly recommend this oddly put together collection of his tunes. I say “oddly” because there are no production notes other than who wrote the songs (which mainly Jorge wrote.) No translations of the lyrics either. I guess Mercury figured the “Bookstore/Coffee Shop That Digs International Pop Crowd” was already seriously intimate with it’s Brazilian roster (I found
this CD at Border’s - America’s premier bookstore/coffee shop/CD rack.) They would be of course dead wrong on that point. But believe me, you won’t care about any of that at all. The “hits” collected here are so rich in ambience and tunefullness the
sequencing of songs itself sets you off on a highly intoxicating trip. If the music of the Orb, Hawkwind or any of the Krautrock acts sets you on a cosmic journey, then Jorge’s music floats you through a mysterious, alluring Brazilian jungle landscape (not a bad trip in itself.)

It starts off with a wild live in concert version of “Charles, Anjo 45” rocketing from acoustic funk groove to heavy Rio Carnival time percussion work out. Jorge vocally caresses the mic while his female backing choir repeatedly chants “Aaaaaahh, Ah.” I usually don’t believe in the hypnotic power of music but the whole things sucks you in like an exotic supernatural Hoover. The rest of the music is just as enchanting. All the song titles are in Brazilian except one which is equally puzzling. “Take It Easy My Brother Charles” might have been his attempt at the U.S. R & B charts yet it’s another lovely Brazilero trance pop number with
Brazilian lyrics and an English only chorus. But don’t bother trying to figure any of it out as it just might spoil the spell.

And for any ladies reading this you’d definitely want this guy to send you a sonnet. “Cade Teresa” should make any woman named Teresa feel twice as lucky. “Que Maravilha” should equally sweep you off your feet. And “Domingas” has got to be THE most
seductive 3 minutes and 35 seconds EVER committed to tape.

Everybody else should enjoy the strong pop penmanship of “Zaguero” and the other songs. Jorge Ben is highly revered in his native country. For me, he has attained a higher plateau of “cool” that no other artist living or dead (yep, including Julian) could reach. And for those looking for a elevator ride to that plain, should seriously pick this CD up.

Reviews Index