Dec 142008

Poor Jorge Ben has suffered far too many indignities for an artist of his stature. His breakout song “Mas Que Nada” was entirely co-opted by the schlocky Brazilian Herb Alpert, Sérgio Mendes, and then further desecrated by a Black Eyed Peas-assisted remake, the closest modern analogue to ’50s-era doo-wop whitewashing. And his titanic Brasil-funk track “Taj Mahal” was outright stolen by Rod Stewart in the midst of his coke-fueled disco-era meltdown and repackaged as the execrable “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” a unforgivable musical theft that was later, of course, vigorously rubbed against by Paris Hilton. Gilberto Gil gets to be the Minister of Culture; Mr. Lolita Complex himself, Caetano Veloso, gets to provide ambience in classy Almodóvar flicks; Jorge Ben gets Fergie. And what did he do to deserve all this? Only release album after album, one (sometimes two) a year for twenty years, of the finest samba, MPB and Brazilian soul ever committed to record. A vida é uma merda.

I have, and fiercely love, all the ’60s and ’70s Jorge Ben albums that have seen US releases, but many of his classic period recordings were never officially released and were essentially impossible to find. I had heard whispers about the excellence of 1970’s Força Bruta, reputedly a slice of the very finest raw Brazilian soul, but it wasn’t even available through the magic of the Internet. So I gave up – and that is why I was surprised and delighted to find a brand new, recently reissued CD copy while browsing the Brazilian section of one of Austin’s many funky record stores.

As promised, it’s fucking awesome. Percussionists Trio Mocotó provide plenty of bottom, and more than enough cuíca to keep the proceedings well lubricated.

Oba lá Vem Ela
“Alright! Here she comes!” For some reason, the killer track on Jorge Ben albums is almost always the first one. The groove is already great; then syrupy Barry White strings get poured all over it and something profoundly delicious results.

Mulher Brasileira
After countless hours of research, I have arrived at a theory: between 90 and 95 percent of all samba, bossa nova and MPB songs are about either: a) how awesome samba, bossa nova or MPB are; b) a girl; c) how awesome a girl dancing to samba, bossa nova or MPB is. This is an excellent example of “b.”

For real. Doesn’t this man deserve better than his lot?

  One Response to “This I dig of late: Jorge Ben”

  1. Hi Michael, i discovered an artist that might interest you – if i recall correctly, you professed an interest in African music. She’s called Nawal, and is from the Comoros, i think. I watched her perform and was totally blown away by her awesomeness. Anyway, i thought of buying you a CD but they were all sold out. She’s currently on tour, so if you hear of her, go check her out. I’ll send you a recording of her concert if i can get one.

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