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Abilio Manoel portrait A unique, creative performer whose legacy has been neglected over the years, singer-composer Abilio Manoel (1947-2010) intersected with several popular Brazilian styles of the late 1960s and early '70s, but he has a sound that was all his own. He is often claimed as part of the funky, Jorge Ben-inspired "samba rock" scene, but he seems like more of a flower-power tropicalia pop singer to me. While not quite as arresting as the work of the original tropicalistas, his music certainly sets itself apart from the prefab teenybopper rock of the jovem guarda crowd (with which he is also sometimes identified...) There's even a wisp of the spacey jazz tendencies of Milton Nascimento and his crowd. Sounds cool? Yeah, it is. Here's a quick look at his work...

Discography - Best-Ofs

Abilio Manoel "20 Sucessos De Abilio Manoel" (EMI, 1999)
As far as I can tell, this generously programmed reissue collection is the only Abilio Manoel album in print. It gathers material from his early albums on Odeon, and includes some of the best songs, as well as several of his singles-only releases... There are some tracks I would have skipped, others I would have included instead, but essentially this is a pretty strong set. Definitely worth scooping up if you want to check this guy out.

Discography - Albums

Abilio Manoel "Abilio Manoel" (Odeon, 1969)

Abilio Manoel "Pena Verde" (Odeon, 1970)
(Arranged by Jose Briamonte)

An enticing tropicalia-era album which evokes the bold, eclectic Rogerio Duprat-inspired work of Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, with the same easygoing mix of rock, folk and samba with classical/orchestral arrangements. Perhaps Manoel wasn't breaking new ground here, but he clearly shared a lot in common with the giants of the genre in terms of his overall artistic vision, and the creative spirit he indulged. A remarkable but little-known artist, Manoel adds to the rock-samba-orchestral mix a bit of acoustic folk delicacy, which suits his modest, understated voice. MPB mainstay Jose Briamonte arranged most of this album, and it's a classy set from start to finish. Worth searching for!

Abilio Manoel "Entre Nos" (EMI-Odeon, 1972)
(Produced by Lindolfo Gaya, arrangements by Jose Briamonte)

Many people consider this a masterpiece album, and it certainly may be the strongest of Manoel's early works. Once again arranger Jose Briamonte sculpts the sound, providing bright, lavish string arrangements and perky sunshine-pop harmonies... But while this album may seem, especially in its first half, to be mimicking North American orchestral pop-rock, but as it gets deeper into the disc, Manoel's own psychedelic/tropicalista innovations assert themselves. There's some great pop ("Poise, Sei La") jagged psychedelic guitars ("Meados De Outubro," which is a lot like Caetano Veloso's "Irene") and several just plain cool tunes ("A Casa E Sua," "Depois Eu Digo," et. al.) and, of course, his widely-anthologized, sambadelic "Luiza Manequim," which is the most overtly Jorge Ben-ish of his songs. There are also a few bland pop flops, but nothing that sounds bad or overtly irritating. As with his earlier work, this is totally in tune with the best of the Gil-Veloso tropicalia canon, and totally worth tracking down. A very interesting album.

Abilio Manoel "Velho De Guerra" (EMI-Odeon, 1973)
(Arrangements by Jose Briamonte & Theo De Barros)

This album is a more straightforward soft-pop outing; the weird, tweaky moments don't come to the fore as they did on Entre Nos, and the record has much more of a mainstream acoustic folk/sunshine pop feel, full of breezy melodies and flowery arrangements. The sound is innocuous but the hooks don't really grab the listener, not me at least. It seems sort of flat, overall, although if you wanted some mellow, easy-on-the-ears pop-folk em Portuguese, this is certainly a fine option. But the innovative edge that Manoel showed on earlier albums seems to have dulled, and his creative spark to have faded out, subsumed by the Brazilian studio system's more mundane tendencies. Oh, well.

Abilio Manoel "America Morena" (Som Livre, 1976)

Abilio Manoel "Becos E Saidas" (Som Livre, 1978)
A nice, sweet folkie set, centered around earnest, urgent vocals and a driving acoustic guitar, with some spacy, searching moments that recall Milton Nascimento, but without the lofty, cosmic tedium. Not a lot of stylistic diversity here -- the album sounds mostly the same from start to finish, with Side Two having sightly more elaborate, more textured arrangements. Still, Manoel has a light, pleasant touch, and is an endearing performer. Worth a spin.

Abilio Manoel "Curso Das Aguas" (RCA, 1984)
(Produced by Abilio Manoel)

A fairly bloodless, wispy album. I suppose this is roughly in the same territory as Milton Nascimento's spacy, amorphous, synthy jazz-MPB of the same era, but it often sounds like a syrupy Italian or Portuguese pop-vocals set. Certainly nt as captivating as his earlier work, though mostly inoffensive, overall.

Abilio Manoel "Voando Baixo" (Studio America, 1998)
(Produced by Abilio Manoel & Pichu)

Yeesh. This opens with a truly disastrous synthy-desktoppy-computery song, "Fonte," but gains a little vigor as the album progresses. It's clear, though, that Manoel produced a lot of this record at home, on a computer, and it has a pretty wimpy, airy feel throughout. Could be of interest to diehard fans, or folks who like Lo Borges, et al. But I have to say, I had to struggle with this one... and I liked his early stuff. A couple of okay tunes, but also a lot of super-iffy material.


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