Brazilian rock'n'roll first hit in the late '50s, at roughly the same time as the beginning of the bossa nova boom... For the most part, the early roqueiros were looked down on, and rock was seen as an inferior North American import that only "kids" could like. Naturally, the music persisted, and found a home in the long-lived television show, Jovem Guarda, which was hosted by the charismatic vocalist, Roberto Carlos. Numerous bands flocked under its banner, and thousands of viewers tuned into the show with the same intense loyalty as shows such as American Bandstand and Ready, Steady Go enjoyed in the USA and England.
Jovem Guarda pop (also known as ie-ie-ie, once the Beatles hit...) was justifiably seen as a cutesy, prefab creation of the international record industry, which was eager to capitalize on the potentially lucrative South American youth culture, as it had in the U.S. and Western Europe. Most of the bands weren't that good, and their best material came from cover versions of foreign pop songs. Still, it was out of this early, commercialized teen scene that the hippie-ish tropicalia movement arose, blending psychedelic rock with the previously-separate bossa nova and samba traditions, along with a subversive new brand of often-surrealistic cultural politics. Despite the greater celebrity (and cultural relevance) of the tropicalia innovators, many of the ie-ie-ie groups persisted well into the 1970s, although most gradually devolved into soft pop outfits, rather than take up the more radical rock stylings of the early-70s counterculture. Here's a quick look at some of the high points (and low) of the Jovem Guarda scene...
Various Artists "BASEMENTVILLE! Volume 2: THE SOUND OF JOVEM GUARDA" (Misty Lane, 2000)
I suppose this set could be considered jovem guarda, but whereas most of the better-known, more mainstream jovem guarda bands had a mostly watered-down, teenybopper pop style, most of the groups on this excellent set of garage rock obscuros really knew how to rock. Glancing at the scans of old album covers and LP labels, it seems that '60s punk bands generally were excluded from the major label rosters -- these releases on Mocambo, Palladium, GMD and Caravelle and others (with a few on CBS, Polydor and Continental) have a wildness that was largely missing in the Brazilian rock scene, at least until Gil and Veloso showed up. This reissue LP is highly recommended, although your best bet for tracking a copy down might be to contact Misty Lane Records directly, in their misty Roman lair.
Various Artists "HEARTS OF STONE/CORACOES DE PEDRA v. 1-3" (Magica, 2000)
Yeah, baby. This is the real deal. Brazilian beat from the mid-'60s, with plenty of cover tunes but also a healthy dose of originals, generally much harder than the standard-issue ie-ie-ie of the JG teen beat. The best-known groups on here are (of course) Renato e Seus Blue Caps and Os Beat Boys, but mainly this is for-real, off-the-beaten-track, honest-to-goodness teen beat from the British Invasion days. For those of us who like kitschy cover tunes that don't suck, and who are trying to delve into the dim, misty past of Brazil's pre-tropicalia rock scene, this is an ultra-cool find. Plus, it's even got (gasp!) great, well-written liner notes. Three volumes so far, and they're all pretty darn good!
Various Artists "JOVEM GUARDA" (Polydor, 1999)
Well, THIS was a huge disappointment. I took one look at the cover in the stores and got all giddy: it's just what I was looking for!! A sampler of all the goofy Brazilian roqueiro acts that appeared on Roberto Carlos' sixties TV show, Jovem Guarda! How cool is that?? Not very, as it turns out. Who would have ever imagined that, instead of putting out a collection of Mod-era oldies, Polygram would instead get all these geezers together for a 1995 studio session to re-record their songs? Yeah, many of the big names are here -- Erasmo Carlos, Wanderlea, The Fevers, Renato & Seus Blue-Caps -- but in watery, smoothed out modern form, with all the vigor of an ABBA cover band playing at the county fair with a hangover. Sigh. The only mildly noteworthy track is Caetano Veloso relaxing and having a toss at a version of "Road Hog," a song that Robeto Carlos used to do back in the day. Roberto, himself, is notably absent from this project.
Various Artists "(AS 16 MAIS DA) JOVEM GUARDA" (Globo/Universal, 2000)
Ye gods! What is wrong with the record execs down Rio way? Why do they keep putting out these tepid Jovem Guarda reunion albums, when what we wanna hear are the original recordings by these artists back when they were innocent-eyed teeny-boppers? Pretty much the same deal as the PolyGram collection listed above, with a little overlap, and perhaps marginally better performances. Also, still no participation from Roberto Carlos, bless his little heart. This is okay, I guess, but what's the point? It's the Brazilian equivalent of Sha Na Na!
Various Artists "NA ONDE DO IE-IE-IE v. 1" (EMI/Copacabana, 2000)
Various Artists "NA ONDE DO IE-IE-IE v. 2" (EMI/Copacabana, 2000)
My frustration with the tepid and false jovem guarda releases listed above led one Slipcue reader to take pity and steer me towards these excellent 2-CD sets, which are packed with the chirpiness and spunk I was looking for. I guess Philips had its hands full with bossa nova, so it took teenybopper rock even less seriously than other labels. It turns that some of the best stuff was on Odeon and Copacabana... and thank goodness EMI has had the good sense to re-release so much of it! These samplers are probably a better bet than their individual artist collections -- more variety and less margin for error. There's certainly plenty of charming material. Sure, it's not earthshattering or Elvis, but these recordings are still fun and cute.
Various Artists "OS GRANDES SUCESOS DA JOVEM GUARDA, Vol 1-2" (CBS, 1975)
Now, THIS is more like it. I guess the trouble with the disc above is that CBS and Columbia made most of the rock records in Brazil, instead of PolyGram, who had better things to do at the time. Anyway, these LPs deliver the goods-- teenyboppers like Wanderlea, Katia Cilene and Jerry Adriani share the air with Renato & The Blues Caps and Roberto Carlos. Sappy Fabian-style ballads are represented by a kid named Leno, and rocker Raul Seixas lurks in the background as a producer and songwriter. Honestly, this isn't earthshaking rocknroll, but it's pretty cute... If anyone can suggest a CD equivalent of these discs, I'd be glad to hear about it!
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.1: FESTA DE ARROMBA" (Polygram, 1997)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.2: EU SOU TERRIVEL" (Polygram, 1997)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.3: O CALHAMBEQUE" (Polygram, 1998)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.4: E PAPO FIRME" (Polygram, 1998)
Various Artists "30 ANOS DE JOVEM GUARDA, v.5: SPLISH SPLASH" (Polygram, 1999)
A five-CD series showcasing the best of the PolyGram teenybopper catalog. Each volume has 14 tracks, which seems a little skimpy, but still, from the looks of things, this series is pretty decent. (I haven't heard it yet...)
Various Artists: "TROPICALIA: OU PANIS ET CIRCENSIS" (Polygram, 1968)
(Produced by Rogerio Duprat)
This was the album that really broke the mould for Brazilian rockers, and inspired several generations of experimentation. A collaborative statement of purpose for the hippie-ish tropicalia movement, with contributions from Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Nara Leao, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso. Not quite the Sgt. Pepper's it was meant to be, but still an amazing burst of youthful vigor, wry intellectual ironies and playful, artsy experimentation. Recommended!
"Jovem Guarda: Em Ritmo De Aventura"
By Marcelo Froes
(Editora 34, 2000)
An affectionate, authoritative look at the jovem guarda scene. Profiles of many of the style's best proponents -- such as Roberto and Erasmo Carlos, Celly Campello, Wanderlea, Jerry Adriani, Renato e Seus Blue-Caps, Os Fevers and Ronnie Von -- are amplified by copious photographs and an extensive, annotated discography section. Marcelo Froes, a music historian and 'zine writer who has specialized in the jovem guarda movement, has also recently done some astounding reissue work for several of Brazil's major labels. Cool resource! (In Portuguese.)
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