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Elba Ramalho portrait Elba Ramalho emerged in the wake of a resurgent northeastern sertao pop scene as the champion of a revitalized forro music. Possessed of one of the most improbably mousy voices of any pop star since Buffy St. Marie, Ramalho moved swifty towards more elaborate production on her albums, and more into the eclectic, hyperactive axe style. Nowadays her music can generally be described as disco with accordions. I can't say as I'm a huge fan, but her stuff can be worth checking out.


Elba Ramalho "Ave De Prata" (CBS, 1979)

Elba Ramalho "Capim No Vale" (Sony/Epic, 1980)
When people stick up for Ramalho by saying, "yeah, but she was originally a forro artist..." this is the period they were talking about. In retrospect, there is something charming about the scrappy, ragged tone of the forro work on this album, and her quavering, unprocessed voice (a bit like Marlene Dietrich, perhaps?)... It is cool to hear her as a sertao revivalist, and other than the sometimes-iffy vocals, this is pretty solid musically, with songs by Luiz Gonzaga, Alceu Valenca, Sivuca and others... But midway through the album a few tracks give an ominous hint of the icky crossover sound that would later dominate her work. All in all, worth checking out.

Elba Ramalho "Elba" (CBS, 1981)

Elba Ramalho/Various Artists "Brasil Night - Ao Vivo Em Montreux" (Barclay, 1981)
Also features Toquinho and Moraes Moreira.

Elba Ramalho "Alegria" (Ariola, 1982)

Elba Ramalho "Coracao Brasileira" (Ariola, 1983)

Elba Ramalho "Do Jeito Que A Gente Gosta" (Barclay/Polygram, 1984)
Glossy Northeastern MPB, but -- of the titles I've heard -- one of her better albums. The forro influence is stronger than on her disco-era releases, and the arrangements generally carry more oomph. There are plenty of weak points, though -- an intrusive, kloodgey synth-pop bass line, a few outright icky tracks and, of course, Ramalho's vocal limitations, which are most apparent on the slower numbers. Still, she's perky as all hell, and the pair of live tracks that end the album are a nice glimpse into her appeal. Not a keeper in my collection, but you could do worse than this one while checking into her back catalog. Produced by the much-reviled Mazola.

Elba Ramalho "Fogo Na Mistura" (PolyGram, 1985)

Elba Ramalho "Remexer" (PolyGram, 1986)

Elba Ramalho "Elba" (PolyGram, 1987)
Ah, that famous Brazilian knack for great, creative album titles!

Elba Ramalho "Fruto" (PolyGram, 1988)

Elba Ramalho "Popular Brasileira" (PolyGram, 1989)

Elba Ramalho "Felicidade Urgente" (PolyGram, 1991)

Elba Ramalho "Encanto" (PolyGram, 1992) (LP)

Elba Ramalho "Devora-Me" (PolyGram, 1993)

Elba Ramalho & Oscar D'Leon "En Brasil Com Elba Ramalho: Salsa Brasileira" (PolyGram, 1994)
A collaboration with salsa star, bandleader Oscar D'Leon.

Elba Ramalho "Paisagem" (PolyGram, 1995)

Elba Ramalho "Leao Do Norte" (BMG, 1996)

Geraldo Azevedo/Elba Ramalho/Ze Ramalho/Alceu Valenca "O Grande Encontro" (BMG, 1996)
A collaboration with several of the other leading lights in the northeastern pop scene.

Elba Ramalho & Moraes Moreira "Frente A Frente" (Sony, 1996)

Geraldo Azevedo/Elba Ramalho/Ze Ramalho "O Grande Encontro II" (BMG, 1997)

Elba Ramalho "Baioque" (BMG, 1997)

Elba Ramalho "Flor Da Paraiba" (BMG, 1998)

Elba Ramalho "Solar" (BMG, 1999)
A 2-CD set with one disc live, one recorded in the studio. The studio album, which features a slew of special guests -- Chico Buarque, Alceu Valenca, Lenine, Dominguinhos and others -- is uniformly awful. The concert material is a lot better, or at least less leaden and more upbeat... it's also harder to zero in on her vocal shortcomings. Not my cup of tea.

Elba Ramalho "Eu So Quero Um Forro" (BMG, 2000)

Elba Ramalho "O Grande Encontro 3" (BMG, 2000)

Elba Ramalho "Ao Vivo" (Polygram-Mercury, 2000)

Elba Ramalho "Cirandeira" (BMG, 2001)

Elba Ramalho "Elba Canta Luiz" (BMG, 2002)
A tribute to forro and baiao pioneer Luiz Gonzaga.

Elba Ramalho "Elba Ao Vivo" (BMG, 2003)

Elba Ramalho "Balaio De Amor" (Biscoito Fino, 2005)

Elba Ramalho & Dominguinhos "Elba Ramalho & Dominguinhos" (Sony-BMG, 2005)

Elba Ramalho "Qual O Assunto Que Mais Lhe Interessa?" (BMG, 2007)


Elba Ramalho "Brilhantes" (Columbia)
For a comprehensive look at her earliest work, this is as good a collection as you could ask for. Collects tracks off her first three albums, with plenty of her rootsier -- and mousier -- moments, as well as some early stabs at funk-tinged pop. Probably the most interesting moments are on the tracks where she tries her hand at singing Portuguese-style fado... Still, in all honesty, her voice can be really annoying, particularly on these early tracks.

Elba Ramalho "Personalidade" (Verve, 1987)

Elba Ramalho "O Grande Forro De Elba Ramalho" (Polygram, 1993)
Not, I think, her finest moment. Basically more disco with accordeons -- far too glossy and on occassion completely disasterous. There are a couple of good tracks, and about a dozen that made me want to pull the stereo plug out of the socket. She's still great at delivering tounge-twister lyrics, though -- I'd put her up against Eric B any day!

Elba Ramalho "Millennium" (Polygram, 1998)

Elba Ramalho "Focus: O Essential De Elba Ramalho" (Sony, 1999)

Elba Ramalho "20 Supersucesos" (Sony, 1999)

Elba Ramalho "Serie Sem Limite" (Universal, 2001)


  • Elba Ramalho's Home Page is pretty frustrating... it's pretty to look at, but dominated by artsy animation programs and an intentionally mystifying design that don't offer the browser a lot of navigational control, making it pretty hard to find information quickly. (A non-Flash version is accessible at the bottom of the main page, but you have to search for it...)

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