This is an uncompromising retrospective by Gilberto Gil of his career and successes. It may be superfluous for those who already have these hits in previous cult renditions (not the post-'80s fancy versions), but for those who don't, this album stands as a good choice. In simple, predominantly acoustic renditions interspersed with some spoken testimonials, Gil delivers "Eu Vim da Bahia," "Procissão," "Domingo No Parque," "Soy Loco Por Ti America," and "Mar de Copacabana." The dance tracks "Filhos de Gandi" and "Palco" are representative of his frenetic, consumerist phase. He also plays his blue for his mother, "Mamma," and a version of Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You."
Released in the year that Gil commemorated 20 years of career, this release has several rhythms with predominant Afro-Brazilian beats. The lyrics are again combative. After a vignette, the album opens with social criticism in the reggae "Barracos," the hit of the record. "Roque Santeiro, O Rock" is a rock about the urge of understanding the new generations and their iconoclastic preferences. "Seu Olhar" talks about love with a pop/blues beat. "Febril" has bossa nova in another song dedicated to social concerns. Pop and Afro-Bahian sounds propel "Touche Pas Á Mon Pote," where Gil highlights the importance of France through lyrics in French.
Brazilian musicians and studios are fond of backup arrangements quite as mushy as anything the U.S. industry can provide, so live albums of Brazilian performers tend to be a lot more satisfying than studio gigs. That's certainly true of this release compared with his earlier Braziloid album. A punchy backup band does wonders for his attractively laidback style.
Reflecting the then recent association with Jimmy Cliff, this Gilberto Gil album opens with the reggae "Extra," in which he exorcises the powers of political obscurantism invoking the liberating forces of mysticism. "E Lá Poeira" anticipated the crossover pop/Northeastern music made successful in the world music of the '90s. "Mar de Copacabana" has the old Gil, composer of melodies full of a refreshing feeling but at the same time with the two feet rooted in the samba tradition. "A Linha E O Linho" could be a minor pop ballad if it weren't for the sensitive and indigenous lyrics solution, where he used the metaphor of sewing to talk about two people united by a deep love.
Trapped in the sound of 1982, Gil's Um Banda Um album is covered with canned keyboards and synthesizer on virtually every track. And since it's not the best collection of songs he ever released, it's difficult for the listener to get into even after managing to focus on the songs. Though the joyous, nearly five-minute title track is a highlight, there's just a bit too much synthesizer on these songs. If it wasn't for Liminha's rather understated production, Um Banda Um would probably be rated even worse.
Recorded live at the Montreux Casino, in the 12th Montreaux International Jazz Festival, in 14th of July 1978, Switzerland. This live disc contains a spirited live performace that touches on the funkier side of Gil and Brasilian music in general. Especially memorable is the second tune, Chororo, which has a kind of joyous tropical feel to it which is counter balanced by a musical bridge which appears several times that puts the major chords of the vocals against the minor chords of the band, creating an interesting 'tense' section in an otherwise upbeat song. The cover of Tropicalia favorite Bat Macumba is terrific as well, very extended and different than the Os Mutantes version. This disc is a great addition to any MPB collection, and might also be enjoyed by the jam band set due to Gil's band's funky and frenetic back up work.
Mr. Gil didn't prove himself a great popular songwriter until 1967 or so; like most artists, he didn't arrive full-blown and had to learn his craft and make a living. In the early 1960's, while studying business administration at the University of Bahia in Brazil, he cut a few songs under the direction of Jorge Santos, who mostly recorded commercial jingles; that period is laid out for all to hear on the album "Salvador, 1962-1963" (Warner Brazil). These rare singles contain some sweet, bouncy Carnival marchinhas and samba ballads, but no incredible songs; one of the records, "Povo Petroleiro," was financed by an executive at Petrobras, Brazil's major oil company, and contains the lyric "our petrol is Brazilian gold; it's the pride of a petrol people." But as an early look at a great artist in the making it's instructive, like Andy Warhol's 1950's shoe drawings.