Walter Franco was an avant-rock/post-tropicalia oddball artist who, like many Brazilians, started his music career as a competitor in the early 1970's song festivals, but who swerved into weirdo territory as soon as possible. His debut album, Ou Nao, vies with Caetano Veloso's equally experimental Araca Azul as one of the worst-selling Brazilian albums of all time. Although later albums were more commercially viable, Franco's avant streak persisted, making his work some fo the most challenging -- and intriguing -- in the Brazilian rock canon. Let's take a look...
Walter Franco "Ou Nao" (Continental, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Rogero Duprat)
Bizarraloid, weirdo stuff, with a similar vibe to Tom Ze and Lula Cortes... This is primarily acoustic, but pushing hard against the boundaries. The first half of the record is freeform, deconstructionist folk-rock, and only midway through, on the forro-flavored "Xaxados E Perdidos," does a more recognizable, Brazilian-tinged musicality come into play (bit even then, the bouncy accordion is interrupted in the middle of the song, and replaced by near-silence until bursting back again...) This is artsy difficult-listening, played on a world music stage, purposefully abstract and inaccessible, certainly not for everyone, but probably of interest to the receptive few.
Walter Franco "Revolver" (Continental, 1975) (LP)
A very cool album, and one that really, really needs to be reissued. The opening track is a leaden, electric guitar-laden rocker, but things quickly get much more interesting, with Franco progging and psychedelicizing in ways worthy of many cutting-edge contemporaries, Brazilians and non-Brazilians alike. Syd Barrett, Brian Eno, Tom Ze and Frank Zappa come to mind, but Franco's really off on his own, unique trip here. Although this is purposefully difficult music, it's also very skillful: the synthesizers on the salsa-flavored "Partir Do Alto/Animal Sentimental" are ahead of their time; "Toque Fragil" would have made the Tubes or Devo proud; the English-language "Nothing" is a novelty song worthy of Dr. Demento-ization, and by the time Franco returns to more straightforward '70s rock, you'll feel much more forgiving; indeed a few songs are surprisingly quite listenable. This is bizarre, challenging stuff, but it's fun, funny, well-crafted and definititely worth tracking down. Even though I'd have a hard time listening to it recreationally, I'd say this is Franco's masterpiece.
Walter Franco "Respire Fundo" (CBS-Epic, 1978)
A spacy, more acoustic-based album, but with mellow, melodic cosmic folk-rock leanings and strong echoes of David Bowie. I don't think there's much here I'd want to listen to just for fun, but it's a cool, quirky Brazilian rock album, a good one to "know about," for sure. Lots of heavyweight talent playing on here, including Joao Donato playing piano on about half the tracks, Sergio Dias (of Os Mutantes) playing guitar, percussionist Chico Batera and guest appearances by folks such as Geraldo Azevedo, Ze Ramalho, Sivuca, Lulu Santos, and the band <"terco_01.html">O Terco, to name a few. A creative, far-flung outing, though challenging and perhaps a bit inaccessible to many listeners. In other words, another kooky Walter Franco album!
Walter Franco "Vela Aberta" (Columbia-Epic, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Romeu Giosa & Carlos A. De Sousa)
Impassioned, proggy pop-rock with some catchy riffs and a Latin/Brazilian undertone... This is a little overblown, but certainly easier on the ears than some of his early work. Sergio Hinds (of the band O Terco) plays lead guitar, and certainly some of his proggy leanings are on display... Some tracks, like the thumping "Canalha," even lapse into Spinal Tappy grandiosity -- it's still relatively difficult music, but kind of cool if you're into proggy-hard rock kitsch.
Walter Franco "Walter Franco" (1982) (LP)
Walter Franco "Tutano" (YB Music, 2001)
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