Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tropical Fever: Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 with "Pais Tropical"

Pais Tropical by Sergio Mendes on Grooveshark

I remember back in the 70s and listening to AM radio because that's all we had back then, and being fascinated by a song called Fool on the Hill. I didn't realize it was a Beatles song at the time, I just thought that the song was exotic (probably due to the bossa nova beat) and those lovely female voices. The song was a cover, actually a reinterpretation, by Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. The two female singers were Lani Hall (wife of Herb Alpert) and Karen Philipp (later to play Lt. Dish on two episodes of MASH). Listening to the song in the present, I am still very captivated by the rendition, largely because I love Brazilian music and largely because it takes me back to that turbulent but hopeful time. While the Beatles version of the song is melancholy, it seems impossible to have a bossa nova or samba song that is anything but upbeat with a touch of naivete and very little of the saudade that characterizes some other types of Brazilian music. I mentioned it once before in this blog and I'll mention it again: if I go to heaven I want to hear lots of Brazilian music there.

Of course, perhaps such a feeling about life comes from living in a "pais tropical" like Brazil. Today's song, Pais Tropical, is a throwback and also from the legendary Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. Mendes is a Brazilian musician who plays bossa nova infused with jazz and funk. One of the early practitioners of bossa nova in the late 50s in Brazilian nightclubs, he played with his mentor Antonio Carlos Jobim as well as many American jazz musicians who toured Brazil. He formed and played in some Brazilian bossa nova bands, but it was Brasil '66, which featured two American female singers (Lani Hall and Karen Phillipp) and songs in both Portuguese and English but with that bossa nova beat, that brought him to the attention of the world. Their first album, Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, went platinum and the band had successive hits performing songs by Burt Bacharach, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and Simon and Garfunkel. His later work has featured collaborations with R&B, pop and hip hop artists such as The Black Eyed Peas, Erykah Badu, India.Arie, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder. Pais Tropical is a song celebrating life and music in a tropical country, and is from the 1971 album of the same name and the 1972 album Foursider. I dare you not to dance or at least sing along!