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Som Imaginario portrait Som Imaginario was a groundbreaking Brazilian psychedelic/prog rock band which had its origins as part of the "Clube Do Esquina" musical collective surrounding Milton Nascimento, including guitarist Frederyko and keyboardist Wagner Tiso. They were joined on their first album by rural-rock pioneer Ze Rodrix, crafting a wild, expansive experimental rock sound that set a high bar for other Brazilian bands in the early 1970s. Here's a quick look at the group's work...


Som Imaginario "Som Imaginario" (Odeon, 1970)

Som Imaginario "Som Imaginario" (Nova Estrela) (Odeon, 1971)
An impressive set of remarkably forward-thinking psychedelic hard-rock and jam-band prog, with heavy, grungy guitars and spacy, Pink Floyd-ian astral flights, and only a few dips into the absurdist carnival burlesques of the Os Mutantes crowd. Mostly, this is a solid rock record, one that stands up toe to toe with anything coming out of the US or the UK at the time. Often Brazilians, like other "foreign" rockers, were a little bit behind the Anglo pioneers, but in this case, they were right up there at the head of the pack. Ze Rodrix had left the band, but Frederyko's guitars, soaring into cosmic territory, more than make up for it. Some stuff is "a bit much," but mostly this is a very strong album: you can see why this band had such a big influence on Brazilian rock... Definitely worth checking out!

Som Imaginario "Matanca Do Porco" (Odeon, 1973)
Wagner Tiso takes over as the primary songwriter on almost all these songs, delving deep into fusion-y, spacey, indulgent jams with his keyboards front and center... Here, the band is scaled back to a four-piece combo, with Tavito on guitar, Alves on bass and Robertinho holding down the drums, with guest performers such as Milton Nascimento and Danilo Caymmi in the mix... Overall this is just too groovy and gooey for me, a clear portent of where Tiso's solo work would take him later in the decade. Listeners drawn to the hard rock/prog of earlier Som Imaginario may be less thrilled by this album, though fans of fusion bands such as Azymuth or Return To Forever, etc., may really get into it. This compact lineup would follow Tiso for a while longer, backing Nascimento on the Milagre Dos Peixes album, below. After that Tiso went "solo," and they all continued to work prolifically as MPB session pros.

Milton Nascimento "Milagre Dos Peixes: Gravado Ao Vivo" (EMI, 1974)
(Produced by Milton Miranda & Lindolfo Gaya)

A revamped lineup of Som Imaginario backs Milton Nascimento on these passionate yet ponderous live performances from May, 1974... Toninho Horta joins Wagner Tiso, as well as a phalanx of orchestral players under the direction of Lindolfo Gaya, Radames Gnattali and Paulo Moura... The album opens with the oceanic, interminable classical-prog of Wagner Tiso's "A Matanca Do Porco/Xa Mate," and drifts into vaguely more "pop" material. For the most part, I find this whole album torturous to listen to, though if you are a Milton Nascimento aficianado, you'll definitely want to check it out. If nothing else, it gives a clear picture of the precision and clarity that Milton and his crew could summon in their live shows. It's on a par with his Clube Da Esquina albums, and doesn't fall into any of the easy formulae of his later albums. Definitely worth checking out. Also, the set list does not follow the Milagre Dos Peixes studio album, a lot of other material is included here, including intriguing covers of songs by Carlos Lyra and Tito Madi. The last hurrah of Som Imaginario, with the group coming full-circle back to their Clube Do Esquina origins.


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