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Carlos Lyra portrait A member of the original bossa nova crowd, Carlos Lyra was once of the earliest bossa nova artists to record an album; many of his compositions from the 1960s are standards now, including several songs he wrote with Vinicius de Moraes. In the late 1950s, Lyra was part of the youthful, music-loving "gang" that gathered in Nara Leao's home to play guitar, praise their musical idols and dream of becoming stars themselves. Along with Lyra and Leao, songwriters Ronaldo Boscoli and Roberto Menescal formed the nucleus of the nascent bossa nova scene, taking up the musical ideas set forth by Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius DeMoraes and helping transform them into Brazil's new popular culture. Lyra was also one of the first MPB stars to use his music to openly criticize the military dictatorship that took power in 1964. Like many artists, Lyra spent several years in exile outside of Brazil after the dictatorship became particularly oppressive. His was a light, romantic touch, and many of bossa's sweetest songs came from his guitar... Here's a quick look at his work...




Discography

Carlos Lyra "Carlos Lyra" (Philips, 1960)
Early on, the whispery, suave Lyra gave Joao Gilberto a run for his money in the cool department. The production here may be cornier than it needed to be -- Lyra's coolness tends to get lost on the poppier and more ornate numbers, but not always. Some touches, like the woodwinds and reeds, are distracting, though not disasterous. Lyra sounds a lot like the young Chico Buarque (or is that putting the cart before the horse?) -- cool, reserved, but intimate and kinda sexy. All the songs on here were composed by Lyra; you may recognize many of them, especially tracks like "Maria Ninguem" and "O Bem do Amor."


Carlos Lyra "Bossa Nova" (Philips, 1961)
Similar terrain to his previous album, but a little more accomplished and relaxed, and less corny. Better arrangements, and plenty of great Lyra compositions, especially "Coisa Mais Linda," "Voce E Eu," and "Caminho Do Adeus." Recommended!


Carlos Lyra "Depois Do Carnaval: O Sambalanco De Carlos Lyra" (Philips, 1962)
With arrangments by Luiz Eca, and guest vocals by Nara Leao.


Carlos Lyra & Paul Winter "The Sound Of Ipanema" (Columbia, 1964)
Carlos Lyra & Paul Winter "The Sound Of Ipanema" (Columbia, 1964) [US domestic]

A nice pairing of a mellow West Coast jazz player and one of bossa nova's founders. Winter's saxophone accompaniment here is understated, though a bit staid. What makes this record so sweet is Lyra's gorgeous guitar and intimate vocals, as well as all the great songs he wrote. Sergio Mendes and Milton Banana sit in on piano and drums, respectively, and though Winter is slightly less swinging than the "authentic" bossa musicians, this is quite a nice little record.


Carlos Lyra/Moacir Santos/Dulce Nunes "Pobre Menina Rica" (Sony Columbia, 1964)
A misty-eyed, politically themed collaboration between poet Vinicius de Moraes and guitarist Carlos Lyra. Also features input by arranger Radames Gnattali, and vocals by Thelma, and Dulce Nunes. Some of this is rather "stagey", while there are also a brace of fine romantic tunes and latter-day bossa nova tunes.


Carlos Lyra "Gravado No Mexico" (Capitol/Odeon, 1968)


Carlos Lyra "Sarava" (RCA, 1970)
(Produced by Ruben Fuentes)

A nice mellow, old-school bossa album, recorded in Mexico, where Lyra and other Brazilian luminaries were in cultural exile. This dips a bit into iffy pop territory, but mostly it's exactly the sort of gentle gem that fans of lounge, bossa and jazz are looking for all across the world. Recommended!


Carlos Lyra "...E No Entanto Preciso Cantar" (Philips, 1971)
(Produced by Roberto Menescal; arranged by Theo De Barros)

Disappointingly wimpy, post-bossa, light pop. Here Lyra sounds like a tranquilized rendition of Chico Buarque (who guests on one track, by the way). Gentle, calm, but also placid and mildly cloying. Snoozy arrangements, mostly. Reissued on a single CD, along with the "Eu & Elas" album.


Carlos Lyra "Eu & Elas" (Philips, 1971)
Still pretty snoozy and EZ, but with slightly more elaborate production (subtle reverbs, etc.). Tasteful almost to a fault, and a bit dull. Reissued on a single CD, along with the Preciso Cantar album.


Carlos Lyra "Carlos Lyra" (Continental, 1974)


Carlos Lyra "Heroi Do Medo" (Continental, 1975)
(Produced by Carlos Lyra & Hugo Bellard)

Eeep. Although there are some moments of grace to be found, this disc is also lamentably packed with goofy, kitschy old-fashioned synthesizer riffs, squiggly little bits reminiscent of Captain & Tennille's "Muskrat Love." To be fair, I suppose it must be said that that sort of thing was cutting edge at the time, so Lyra can't entirely be faulted. Still, it's distracting, and while this album is worth it for fans to pick up, you may have to work a bit to appreciate its charms.


Carlos Lyra "25 Anos De Bossa Nova" (3M, 1987) (LP)


Carlos Lyra "Bossa Lyra" (BMG-Ariola, 1993)


Carlos Lyra "Carioca Do Algema" (EMI-Odeon, 1994)


Carlos Lyra/Various Artists "Vivendo Vinicius Ao Vivo" (BMG, 1999)
An all-star tribute to Vinicius De Moraes, one of the other early pioneers of the bossa nova style. Also on this 2-CD set are guitarists Baden Powell and Toquinho, as well as vocalist Miucha.


Carlos Lyra "Sambalanco" (Trama, 2004)


Carlos Lyra/Various Artists "50 Anos De Musica: Ao Vivo" (Biscoito Fino, 2004)


Carlos Lyra/Various Artists "50 Anos De Musica: Ao Vivo" (Biscoito Fino, 2004)




Best Ofs

Carlos Lyra "Mestres Da MPB" (Warner-Brasil, 1994)
An interesting, mixed-bag retrospective which leans heavily on a 1987 concert album and several early-'70s efforts. The live stuff is great: Lyra performing bossa classics solo acoustic to a lively and appreciative audience. Recommended!


Carlos Lyra "Millennium" (Universal, 1999)


Carlos Lyra "Sambalanco" (Universal, 1999)


Carlos Lyra "Enciclopedia Musical Brasileira" (Warner, 2000)


Carlos Lyra "Best Selection From 1959-1963" (3D, 2003)


Carlos Lyra/Various Artists "Coisas Mais Lindas" (Sony-BMG, 2005)


Carlos Lyra "Pure Bossa Nova" (Verve, 2008)


Carlos Lyra "Brazilian Bossa Nova Classics" (Essential World Masters, 2011)




Tribute Albums

Wilma De Oliveira "Tribute To Carlos Lyra" (Sony, 2005)


Various Artists "CARLOS LYRA SONGBOOK" (Lumiar, 1992)
Features tracks by Lyra, along with Tom Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Joao Bosco, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Nana Caymmi, Joyce, Simone, Leny Andrade, Roberto Menescal, and Nico Assumpcao, all covering Lyra's work.




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