The all-female vocal quartet Quarteto Em Cy were major fixtures on the 1960s bossa nova scene, singing backup for several major stars, and numerous recording albums featuring their own ambitious, ornate vocal arrangements. Personally, I am not much of a fan -- I find their music both contrived and bland, but there are a lot of fans out there who will strongly disagree with me. So, you must find your own path with regards to this chirpy vocal ensemble. Here's a quick look at their work...
Quarteto Em Cy "Quarteto Em Cy" (Forma, 1964)
Quarteto Em Cy "...And Roses And Roses" (Odeon, 1965)
Quarteto Em Cy "Som Definitivo" (Forma, 1965)
Baden Powell & Vinicius De Moraes "Os Afro-Sambas" (Forma, 1966)
(Produced by Roberto Quartin & Wadi Gebara)
Unquestionably one of the greatest and most magical Brazilian albums ever made, this disc mysteriously remained largely out of print for decades. Well, now that I've finally shelled out the big bucks for a pricey Japanese import, I'm sure cheap copies will soon flood the market. At any rate, this collaboration between guitarist Baden Powell and bossa poet Vinicius De Moraes is incandescent and timeless; the music leaps out at you, as vibrant now as it was all those years ago. It's also probably the career highpoint for the female vocal group, Quarteto Em Cy, who later became overly polished and bland, but here sound youthful and even a bit unruly -- like a mob teenage girls dragged in to sing for an after-school choir. The mix of moody, unsettling bossa nova melodies and somewhat abrupt African rhythms was wisely left a bit rough around the edges, and as a result retains an eerie, haunting strength. Powell rerecorded this album twenty-five years later (albeit without Vinicius' help; De Moraes had been dead for over a decade...), and while that version has its moments, it is nowhere near as transcendent as the original. If you can track this album down, it's a classic.
Quarteto Em Cy "Quarteto Em Cy" (Elenco, 1966)
Quarteto Em Cy "Pardon My English" (Warner Brothers, 1966)
Dorival Caymmi "Caymmi (Kai-ee-me) And The Girls From Bahia" (Warner Brothers, 1965)
Dorival Caymmi "Caymmi" (EMI Odeon, 1967)
Apparently, these two titles are the same album, recorded in Hollywood, with arrangements by Bill Hitchcock, and originally released in the US. This disc features versions of several well-known songs such as "Berimbau" and "Saudade De Bahia". Although they are uncredited on the Brazilian LP, the backup vocals have got to be the Quarteto Em Cy, and this actually is one of the best uses of their talent I've heard. Caymmi is also in top form here, fronting lush, lilting string sections and a relatively sparse orchestra. All in all, a pretty swinging album!
Dorival Caymmi & Vinicius De Moraes "Caymmi No Zum Zum" (Elenco, 1967)
A collaboration with bossa nova poet Vinicius De Moraes, samba composer Dorival Caymmi, the Quarteto Em Cy vocal group and Oscar Castro-Neves band.
Quarteto Em Cy "Marre De Cy" (Elenco, 1967)
Quarteto Em Cy "Em Cy Maior" (Elenco, 1968)
Cynara E Cybele "Cynara E Cybele" (Columbia, 1968)
(Produced by Helcio Milito, arrangements by Dori Caymmi)
A fairly sedate, even monotonous bossa-orchestral outing from two of the gals in Quarteto Em Cy... The good news is they don't indulge in any of the vocal gymnastics of the quartet, but these duets and Dori Caymmi's overly-studious arrangements are a bit dreary. A strong repertoire, mixing classics by Lamartine Babo and Noel Rosa with newer material by Caymmi, Chico Buarque, Marcos Valle and others... But by and large this album doesn't really come alive -- maybe it was just because the folks at Columbia were too fusty to really get what was going on at the time? Anyway, this is worth checking out, but don't get your hopes up too high.
Cynara "Pronta Para Consumo" (Elenco, 1969)
(Produced by Helcio Milito, arrangements by Ruy Faria)
Quarteto Em Cy "Quarteto Em Cy" (EMI Odeon, 1972)
An early album by this much-vaunted easy-listening vocal ensemble.. While admittedly more energetic than their cloying later work, this is still pretty weak material. Cover versions of great songs such as "Underground" and Milton Nascimento's "Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser" only barely hint at the tremendous vigor and melodic richness at work in Brazilian music at the time. Wimpy, even with help from high-class arrangers Edu Lobo and Luiz Eca.
Quarteto Em Cy "Antologia Do Samba Cancao" (Phonogram, 1975)
Quarteto Em Cy "Antologia Do Samba Cancao, v.2" (Phonogram, 1976)
Quarteto Em Cy "Resistindo" (Phonogram, 1977)
(Produced by Wellington Luiz)
An atypical album for the Em Cy gals -- live and backed by a small, four-piece band -- a welcome change of direction that might give nonbelievers (like myself) an opportunity to reconsider our not-so-unreasonable dislike of their particular bossa-jazz formula. And, yeah, hearing them in a more stripped-down context makes them more palatable. It's still not my cup of tea, but I would recommend this record ather than just about anything else of theirs that I've heard. Included in the ensemble is pianist Laercio De Freitas, along with guitarist Luiz Claudio Ramos, who also did the arrangements. For once, you can really hear the musicians doing something other than tightly structure, bombastic arrangements, and the gals also get to sing solo and in a less regimented, more intimate style (as on "Capricho - Memoria") And yet, it's still Quarteto Em Cy, and they still bug me. Can't help it.
Quarteto Em Cy & MPB-4 "Cobra De Vidro" (Phonogram, 1978)
Quarteto Em Cy "Quarelas Do Brasil" (EMI Odeon, 1978)
This was enough for me to call it quits on these gals. Even with material by Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque and other hotshot songwriters, this is pretty drekky. Typically, this album includes a couple of mildly intriguing tracks -- a Jorge Ben cover, for example -- but it's just sooooooo sugary and contrived, why bother with this easy listening poo-poo when the original versions are out there instead? Also, the blithe abuse of the mini-Moog is not particularly helpful.
Quarteto Em Cy "...Em 1000 Kilohertz" (Phonogram, 1979)
Quarteto Em Cy/Various Artists "Flicts" (Polygram, 1980)
Quarteto Em Cy "...Interpreta Gonzaguinha, Caetano, Ivan E Milton" (Polygram, 1980)
Quarteto Em Cy "Caminhos Cruzados: Caymmis, Lobos E Jobims" (RGE, 1981)
Quarteto Em Cy "Pontos De Luz" (Som Livre, 1982)
Another horrific, disco-tinged album, with swooping, tight harmonies. Think: the original Charlie's Angels theme mixed with the macarena, and you'll be in the general ballpark. Fans won't be disappointed, however: the gals can still sing up a storm, and their voices seem fairly undiminished by time. If anything, they're singing better now than they did back in the 1960s and '70s. I just can't stand their style of music.
Quarteto Em Cy/Vinicius De Moraes/Toquinho "Show Ao Vivo" (Philips, 1986)
Quarteto Em Cy & Chico Buarque "Chico Em Cy" (Companhia Industrial de Discos, 1991)
Too much Quarteto Em Cy, too little Chico. Okay, so it's really just a tribute album... He sings on one track, Edu Lobo appears on another, and the ever-perky gals of the Quarteto fill the rest of the space on this disc. After a while, their ultra-smooth, easy-listening harmonies wear on the nerves.
Quarteto Em Cy "Bossa Em Cy" (BMG-Victor, 1992)
Quarteto Em Cy "Vinicius Em Cy" (CID, 1993)
A tribute to ...
Quarteto Em Cy "Sing Vinicius De Moraes" (Iris Musique, 1996)
Quarteto Em Cy "Vinicius Em Cy" (CID)
Two different albums with the same basic concept: a tribute to bossa nova's pioneering poet-crooner, Vinicius De Moraes...
Quarteto Em Cy "Tempo E Artista" (CID, 1994)
Quarteto Em Cy "Brasil Em Cy" (CID, 1996)
Quarteto Em Cy & MPB-4 "Bate-Boca" (Polygram, 1997)
Quarteto Em Cy & MPB-4 "Somos Todos Iguais" (Polygram, 1998)
A dual tribute to MPB songwriters Djavan and Ivan Lins, with guest appearances by each (Djavan sings on Lins' "Novo Tempo," while Lins sings on Djavan's "Passaro.")
Quarteto Em Cy "Gil E Caetano Em Cy" (CID, 1999)
Quarteto Em Cy & MPB-4 "Vinicius: A Arte Do Encontro" (Som Livre, 2000)
Quarteto Em Cy/Various Artists "Hora De Crianca" (CID, 2001)
Quarteto Em Cy "30 Anos" (Universal, 1994)
A best-of set...
Quarteto Em Cy & MPB-4 "Millennium" (PolyGram/Mercury, 1998)
Absurdly perky, obscenely cheesy, pop-bossa vocals. If you wouldn't take my word about all those old out-of-print albums listed above, then here's a retrospective CD that may settle the point. Reluctantly, I'll admit that by and large this collection (which covers both groups from the late '60s through the early '90s) is better than their original LPs, but it doesn't take long for this stuff to drive me buggy. Despite all efforts to convince me of their popularity, I still can't see the attraction. Compared to US vocal acts like the Four Freshmen or even the Pied Pipers, both these groups -- the guys and the gals -- are unchallenging and vapid.
Quarteto Em Cy "O Melhor De Quarteto Em Cy" (CID, 1999)
Quarteto Em Cy "Serie Sem Limite" (Universal, 2001)
Quarteto Em Cy "I (Heart) MPB" (Universal, 2005)
Quarteto Em Cy/Various Artists "Canta Brasil" (Iris Music, 2005)
Quarteto Em Cy "A Arte De Quarteto Em Cy" (Universal, 2007)
Quarteto Em Cy "Aleluia: 1964-66" (Cherry Red/El, 2008)
An overview of their early years, with backing from various bossa-era jazz players. Includes an album from 1965, with backing by Luiz Eca and the Tamba Trio.
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