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Alaide Costa portrait Alaide Costa started performing professionally at the tail end of the "radio singer" era, and was a quick convert to the new bossa nova sound that swept Brazil in the late 1950s... Although she embraced the new material, her personal style remained rooted in the pop vocals/cabaret tradition of the past. Health troubles sidelined her for much of her career, but for many fans of Brazilian pop, her few albums are hallmarks of classiness, power and emotion. Here's a quick look at her career...


Alaide Costa "Gosto De Voce" (RCA Victor, 1959)
A great debut. Grand, grandiose romantic vocals, with a forceful but unobtrusive orchestral accompaniment: a swooping string section follows her for the first couple of tunes, then comes a toot-tootling latter-day samba sound on "Minha Saudade," which she rides as easily as the slower, slushier stuff. Costa croons and scats with an ever-present smile in her voice, and gets weepy and morose when it's called for... The brightness and youth in her voice is what stands out the most, and her clear exuberance at hitting a wider stage of stardom. Includes a wonderful version of Carlos Lyra's "Lobo Bobo," surely one of the earliest covers of his work. An exciting first album -- it's easy to see why she made such a big splash at the time!

Alaide Costa "Canta Suavemente" (RCA, 1960)
Radio-era samba cancao, on the cusp of the bossa nova revolution. This was Costa's second album, and it's significant for including several of the earliest recorded versions of songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal... several of the main architects of the new sound. The poppish arrangements are a hangover from the 'Fifties, though, a bit clunky in comparison to the sleek bossa tones that would come later on... Interesting historically, but not transcendent in the way as the best-known bossa hits.

Alaide Costa "Joia Moderna" (RCA Victor, 1961)
Another solid set, recorded at the height of Costa's fame. The backing band includes guitarist Baden Powell (who also did the arrangements) and Oscar Castro-Neves, as well as flautist Copinha (who sometimes threatens to overwhelm Costa's vocals) The songs tend to be perky and upbeat, and there's more of a samba/bossa bounce in the air, particularly on songs such as "So De Mentirinha" and "Samba De Nos Dois," as well as some slower, slushier romantic material. Another early gem.

Os Bossais "Os Bossais" (EP) (Audio Fidelity, 1963)
This 4-song EP apparently featured the twin talents of singers Alaide Costa and Claudette Soares, singing a few freahly-minted bossa standards, such as Ronaldo Boscoli and Roberto Menescal's "Barquinho," Joao Gilberto's "Minha Saudade," and a couple of Carlos Lyra tunes.

Alaide Costa "Afinal..." (Audio Fidelity, 1963)
A swell album of mostly new bossa nova tunes. The arrangements here are low-key, her vocals are smooth -- this isn't dazzling or wildly emotive, but it is understated and classy. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking into the classic bossa era...

Alaide Costa "Alaide Costa" (Som Maior, 1965)
(Arrangements by Oscar Castro-Neves)

Another understated album from this revered bossa diva. This is one of those moments that will brand me as a non-Brazilian yankee blasphemer, but I have to admit, I'm not overly wowed by this one, or, particularly, by her performance. It's nice, but a little on the sedate side, a bit too reserved, even for the cool style of the times. There's also a nightclubbish sound, too, that's more of a 'Fifties feel than a 'Sixties vibe. Apparently this is courtesy of sympathetic backing by the Jongo Trio, who recorded a few albums of their own around the same time. After this album, Costa retired from recording for nearly a decade, making this disc a swan song, of sorts.

Alaide Costa & Oscar Castro-Neves "Alaide Costa E Oscar Castro-Neves" (EMI-Odeon, 1973)
An elegant, but ultimately sluggish collaboration between this bossa-era diva and arranger Oscar Castro-Neves. Any song on here, taken by itself, would be a delight, but the album as a whole is a bit of a drudge, since all the songs sound the same -- slow, stately, deliberate, delicate. Costa intones with great precision and regret; Castro-Neves provides demure backing with gentle acoustic guitar, lightly-fusiony keyboards and discreet orchestral touches, some brass and strings, but just the right amount of each. It is quite refined and nice, but it all sounds the same, with an unvarying tempo and identical orchestrations. Still it's quite lovely, and it was Costa's first album in years. Definitely worth checking out, though best taken in small doses.

Alaide Costa "Alaide Costa" (EMI-Odeon, 1975)

Alaide Costa "Coracao" (EMI-Odeon, 1976)
(Produced by Milton Nascimento & Mariozinho Rocha)

Way too syrupy for me, although folks with a higher tolerance for Brazilian cheese might consider this a very classy album. I suppose Costa has to be given her props for still being in the game, decades after her professional debut, but that still doesn't mean I have to listen to the record. Between the influences of producer Milton Nascimento (who also contributes a couple of tunes) and producer Joao Donato (who plays piano throughout) this disc is thoroughly drenched in the sappiest tendencies of mid-1970s MPB. Well, okay, maybe it's not that bad -- there are certainly plenty of records that are worse -- but it's not something I feel a need to come back to anytime soon. Lush, romantic, and a bit cloying, with Alaide in strong voice and keeping pace with youngsters such as Maria Bethania and Gal Costa. Also on board are guitarists Toninho Horta and Nelson Angelo as well as drummer Robertinho Silva, and others from the "usual suspects" crew of '70s MPB session players.

Alaide Costa "Aguas Vivas: Alaide Costa Canta Herminio Bello De Carvalho" (Vento De Raio, 1982)
A syrupy tribute to songwriter Herminio Bello de Carvalho, who had "discovered" Clementina De Jesus back in the 1960s. Costa, too, had her heyday long before this CD was produced -- a veteran of the early bossa nova scene, she is featured her in a torchy style closer to Sarah Vaughan than to most of her lusophone contemporaries.

Alaide Costa "Amiga De Verdade" (Independente, 1988)

Alaide Costa/Various Artists "Brasil" (Movieplay, 1993)

Alaide Costa & Joao Carlos Assis Brasil "Alaide Costa E Joao Carlos Assis Brasil" (Movieplay, 1995)

Alaide Costa "Falando De Amor" (CID, 2000)

Alaide Costa "Rasguei A Minha Fantasia" (Caravelas, 2002)

Alaide Costa "Tudo O Que Tempo Me Deixou" (Lua, 2005)

Alaide Costa "Voz E Piano" (Lua, 2005)



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