Reflecting the then recent association with Jimmy Cliff, this Gilberto Gil album opens with the reggae "Extra," in which he exorcises the powers of political obscurantism invoking the liberating forces of mysticism. "E Lá Poeira" anticipated the crossover pop/Northeastern music made successful in the world music of the '90s. "Mar de Copacabana" has the old Gil, composer of melodies full of a refreshing feeling but at the same time with the two feet rooted in the samba tradition. "A Linha E O Linho" could be a minor pop ballad if it weren't for the sensitive and indigenous lyrics solution, where he used the metaphor of sewing to talk about two people united by a deep love.
This is an uncompromising retrospective by Gilberto Gil of his career and successes. It may be superfluous for those who already have these hits in previous cult renditions (not the post-'80s fancy versions), but for those who don't, this album stands as a good choice. In simple, predominantly acoustic renditions interspersed with some spoken testimonials, Gil delivers "Eu Vim da Bahia," "Procissão," "Domingo No Parque," "Soy Loco Por Ti America," and "Mar de Copacabana." The dance tracks "Filhos de Gandi" and "Palco" are representative of his frenetic, consumerist phase. He also plays his blue for his mother, "Mamma," and a version of Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You."
Released in the year that Gil commemorated 20 years of career, this release has several rhythms with predominant Afro-Brazilian beats. The lyrics are again combative. After a vignette, the album opens with social criticism in the reggae "Barracos," the hit of the record. "Roque Santeiro, O Rock" is a rock about the urge of understanding the new generations and their iconoclastic preferences. "Seu Olhar" talks about love with a pop/blues beat. "Febril" has bossa nova in another song dedicated to social concerns. Pop and Afro-Bahian sounds propel "Touche Pas Á Mon Pote," where Gil highlights the importance of France through lyrics in French.
Brazilian musicians and studios are fond of backup arrangements quite as mushy as anything the U.S. industry can provide, so live albums of Brazilian performers tend to be a lot more satisfying than studio gigs. That's certainly true of this release compared with his earlier Braziloid album. A punchy backup band does wonders for his attractively laidback style.
Trapped in the sound of 1982, Gil's Um Banda Um album is covered with canned keyboards and synthesizer on virtually every track. And since it's not the best collection of songs he ever released, it's difficult for the listener to get into even after managing to focus on the songs. Though the joyous, nearly five-minute title track is a highlight, there's just a bit too much synthesizer on these songs. If it wasn't for Liminha's rather understated production, Um Banda Um would probably be rated even worse.
Recorded live at the Montreux Casino, in the 12th Montreaux International Jazz Festival, in 14th of July 1978, Switzerland. This live disc contains a spirited live performace that touches on the funkier side of Gil and Brasilian music in general. Especially memorable is the second tune, Chororo, which has a kind of joyous tropical feel to it which is counter balanced by a musical bridge which appears several times that puts the major chords of the vocals against the minor chords of the band, creating an interesting 'tense' section in an otherwise upbeat song. The cover of Tropicalia favorite Bat Macumba is terrific as well, very extended and different than the Os Mutantes version. This disc is a great addition to any MPB collection, and might also be enjoyed by the jam band set due to Gil's band's funky and frenetic back up work.
Mr. Gil didn't prove himself a great popular songwriter until 1967 or so; like most artists, he didn't arrive full-blown and had to learn his craft and make a living. In the early 1960's, while studying business administration at the University of Bahia in Brazil, he cut a few songs under the direction of Jorge Santos, who mostly recorded commercial jingles; that period is laid out for all to hear on the album "Salvador, 1962-1963" (Warner Brazil). These rare singles contain some sweet, bouncy Carnival marchinhas and samba ballads, but no incredible songs; one of the records, "Povo Petroleiro," was financed by an executive at Petrobras, Brazil's major oil company, and contains the lyric "our petrol is Brazilian gold; it's the pride of a petrol people." But as an early look at a great artist in the making it's instructive, like Andy Warhol's 1950's shoe drawings.
This is undoubtedly the equivalent of Gilberto Gil "Unplugged" – Gil, his acoustic guitar, and a nonelectric five-piece band recorded live in a studio – and it is a thoroughly musical triumph as Gil mesmerizes his attentive audience for some 74 minutes. He starts out with the nearly pure reggae of "A Novidade," but before long, he establishes himself in a mostly consistent, loping set of intimate grooves thoroughly rooted in Brazil. Gil had a hand in writing all of this tuneful material except Anastacia Dominguinhos' "Tenho Sede," Caetano Veloso's "Sampa," and a left-field choice, Stevie Wonder's "The Secret Life of Plants," which lends itself very well to Gil's bossa nova approach and proenvironmental position. It is not a complete live portrait of Gil, though; the astounding quickness and flexibility of his voice is fully vented only toward the end of the concert. The later Quanta Live album will give you a wider panorama of Gil's range.
Unlike his friend and fellow Brazilian musical legend, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, through the years, has had a strong tendency to follow the temporary shifts in styles and trends that occur within popular music. Because of this the music of Gil usually has sounded very up to date when it was released, but often his recordings haven't at all aged as gracefully as the timeless music of Caetano Veloso. The tracks on many of the albums of Gilberto Gil have also been of very uneven quality. Refavela is clearly one of the exceptions to this rule. Heavily inspired by traditional African and Afro-Brazilian sounds and rhythms, the songs on this album have aged very well indeed.
The end of the military dictatorship in Brazil left the country lost in its references and opened way for a period of wild hedonism. Realce, one of Gilberto Gil's most disco-influenced albums, is a document of that period. Released in LP format in 1979, it had the disco ideology expressed in several songs like "Realce" (which became slang for a dangerous drug frequently consumed in those places), "Sarara Miolo" (also a danceable tune, finds room for social criticism through black pride, where Gil reproaches the use of straightening and discoloring of hair by his brothers and sisters), "Marina" (featuring Dorival Caymmi), and "Toda Menina Baiana" (a hybrid of disco and Bahian samba).