CRYSTAL ILLUSIONS - Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66

Discussion in 'Look Around: Sergio Mendes/Brazilian Music Forum' started by Harry, Nov 21, 2018.

  1. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator Thread Starter

    I had occasion yesterday to listen to CRYSTAL ILLUSIONS. I hadn't heard it in quite awhile, and it was good to hear again. I know that some of our members give it lower marks for Dave Grusin's orchestrations, but that's one of the things I like about it. I feel that Brasil '66's sparser setting had been in evidence for the bulk of the prior four albums, and it was time for something a little different.

    The way that the Tijuana Brass sound was enhanced with Shorty Rogers' work on WARM parallels CRYSTAL ILLUSIONS. Indeed, both albums include the song, "Pretty World."
     
  2. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    US
    It's a polarizing album for sure. Some of the tracks sound like The Dave Grusin Orchestra with special guest Lani Hall. I barely hear Sergio on this record at all.

    "Song of No Regrets" though is one of my favorite tracks on any of Sergio's records! And that quiet segue into the first verse of "Salt Sea" is priceless.
     
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  3. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I haven't listened to it in entirety for quite a while either, but I should do that. I never really disliked the Grusin arrangements on the album, but I do miss hearing more of Sergio's acoustic piano. I like the title tune the best... I love listening to the orchestra on that song. I've always wondered how many musicians are in that orchestra, it sounds pretty huge! And I love the interplay between Sergio and Lani on the vocals. That's my favorite, but there aren't really any songs on the album that I don't like.

    The production has a very "cool" overtone to me, all the way to Lani's vocals which don't have much vibrato this time out. She sounds kind of detached a lot of the time, compared to the early albums. This makes the album an acquired taste, but once you get used to the feeling of it, it's a winner in my book.

    I seem to go in cycles, I'll listen to a lot of Herb, then a lot of Sergio. I tend to listen to Sergio more in the winter, for some reason. Last weekend I worked the store by myself all day Saturday so I played a bunch of Sergio albums via Amazon Music. I think I played Horizonte Aberto, Stillness, the A&M Sergio Mendes album, and the Celebration compilation.
     
  4. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    US
    That's my thing--I listen to a Sergio Mendes album...to hear Sergio Mendes.
     
  5. Trevor

    Trevor Member

    Unsure where Karen Philipp appears on this album. Anyone????

    Crystal Illusions is one of my favorite songs of Sergio's. When I hear the live version of Viola on the Expo'70 album, I wonder what this album would sound like with less orchestration. AND to contradict myself - the orchestration is what makes the song Crystal Illusions so amazing.
     
  6. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

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    I'm a bit contradictory myself--it works on a couple of the tracks. "Song Of No Regrets" is the highlight, and the title track is a great mood piece.

    But on the whole, I'd rather not hear Sergio be a guest artist buried somewhere on a Dave Grusin album...
     
  7. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    My favorite Sergio is when he plays acoustic piano. Starting with Fool on the Hill he went more and more for the Rhodes and then once leaving A&M, he got into more synthesizers. I think that's partly why I like Stillness, Pais Tropical and Primal Roots so much -- he really featured the acoustic piano on those albums.
     
  8. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

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    I can handle the Rhodes now. I admit it was overplayed by many for quite a while, but now that we've had a break from it, I actually like how it sounds. (A well-maintained vintage Fender Rhodes these days costs a mint.) I wonder if he used any other keyboards on his A&M records...listen to "Batucada." That is definitely some kind of electric organ. (Farfisa, maybe?)

    Agreed on the synths. For me, they work well in bands that are centered around synths (think Depeche Mode, especially when they got more density to their sound after about five or six albums, or the Minneapolis sound...Prince, Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis, etc.), but they still feel awkward in other settings.

    Worse, the synth is probably the one instrument that can make music sound very dated (depending on the synth voices used). Synths from the 70s and 80s are antiques compared to the technology available today. Thank goodness he never used a Mellotron! :laugh:

    The good ol' piano is definitely something I prefer. Which might be why I gravitate towards the earlier albums. He has a unique style and those early records have been a showcase for his talents. (His opening vamp for "One Note Samba" dates back to his second recording, Quiet Nights. Classic Sergio piano riff! I miss that.)
     
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  9. Bobberman

    Bobberman Well-Known Member

    I was fortunate to have been born at the beginning of the moog synthesizer period of the late 60s (one of my earliest memories was hearing the Screen Gems closing logo and jingle the jingle written by Eric Siday who was one of the early synthesizer artists of the time) and I liked the fender Rhodes sounds that were heavily used as well now my Yamaha YPT-310 Keyboard ( as with most modern keyboards) has almost all the capabilities of those old moogs and beyond I nicknamed it "My Band In A Box"
     
  10. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    A little synth goes a long way. I think the records from the "synth era" that have held up the best are the ones where just a small amount of synth is employed. I'm thinking of Alan Parsons' albums....you listen to a song like "I Robot," which has a lot of synth, but then it's followed up with songs where the synths are in the background if they're there at all. Another favorite is the song "Only In Your Heart" by America, it has an ending with a bunch of synths overdubbed. But they didn't go overboard with them most of the time.

    I've always wondered about the organ on Sergio's "For Me." What type of "combo organ" is that?
     
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  11. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

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    It almost sounds like something similar to a Hammond B3 run through a lot of reverb. (That kind of organ can have quite a few sounds to it.)

    And yes on the synths--some for a little added flavor are fine. The ones where it's overboard really sound dated.
     
  12. lj

    lj Active Member

    I agree with you Mike--Sergio Mendes is at his best with the acoustic piano. For example, he's at his best using the acoustic piano with the Brazilian jazz format on "Zanzibar" and "The Circle Game" from the A&M Brasil 77 period.

    For me the acoustic piano is where it's at. It has been said that this piano is like having an entire orchestra at your keyboard--from the highest treble sounds to the lowest bass sounds and every sound and texture in between. The electric piano is ok, but it only has medium to high sounds, what's lacking is a low bass line you find on an acoustic piano. And while a synthesizer can be ok, way too often the composer get's carried away and some of the weirdest, coldest sounds in the world come out of it--like a machine would produce in some spaceship racing to another galaxy. For me it's a tragedy that so often film soundtracks now feature only the cold, mechanical sounds from one synthesizer in place of a real orchestra which has the warmth of acoustic strings, brass and reed instruments. This is why classical music will never die--there is nothing like hearing a symphony orchestra. I remember reading that Herb Alpert said along with his love of great jazz, there is nothing like hearing Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
     
  13. Brasil_Nut

    Brasil_Nut Well-Known Member Moderator

    Crystal Illusions is an extension of Fool On The Hill in so many ways. Lani is featured, yes, but so is Karen. A beautiful album as far as I'm concerned...Song Of No Regrets and Viola being favorites, not to mention Pretty World, which was on radio quite often in those days.
     
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  14. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator Thread Starter

    The "Brasil Nut" returns!
     
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  15. Brasil_Nut

    Brasil_Nut Well-Known Member Moderator

    Yes, Harry...here I am. It's been a tough couple of years. Glad to be back.
     
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  16. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Welcome back, you've been missed!
     
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  17. rockdoctor

    rockdoctor New Member

    This album, I probably listen to more than the others as it was my favorite from the A&M period.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the orchestrations and I have played this for others and they have enjoyed it as well.
    In July, I was transporting some of my scouts home from summer camp and played "Fool On The Hill" and they got a kick out of that album. One boy was confused by the cover. I told him it is just a sand dune.







     
  18. Michael Hagerty

    Michael Hagerty Well-Known Member

    Leslie speaker?
     
  19. Bobberman

    Bobberman Well-Known Member

    Welcome Back Brasil nut you have been missed
     
  20. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    US
    I'm thinking just reverb--like an organ at the far end of a long hallway. It doesn't have that phasey sound that a Leslie cabinet has. Yet I see in the All Music review that the reviewer calls it a "combo organ."
     
  21. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Right, that's where I got the phrase in my post above. I suppose that reviewer was picturing the small keyboard instruments you used to see in a lot of bands -- just a keyboard sitting on two C-shaped legs.
     
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  22. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    US
    "Combo organ" reminds me of combined spleen, gall bladder and liver, for some reason. :D I figured that's where you had seen the reference, once I read it. :thumbsup: It seems to be a general term for one of any number of organs that were sold in the 60s and 70s. There is even a site specializing in combo organs (the musical kind).

    What's amazing today is that musicians don't have to travel with a huge bank of keyboards anymore if they don't want to. Many synthesizers today have so many emulators and samples that they can recreate the sounds of most of the synthesizers (even the Moogs) and acoustic keyboards (grand piano, Rhodes, Farfisa, Hammond B3, etc.) all in one instrument. I played with one at Guitar Center that actually named the presets after popular rock and jazz fusion band names, and all it took was a couple of notes to figure out which song the preset was named after. Some touring musicians today carry a MIDI keyboard and a small laptop which will do the same. Cool stuff!
     
  23. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I am listening to Crystal Illusions (the album and the song) right now. I am always struck by the violin parts on the orchestra arrangement on the title song. The last couple of minutes, that must have been a killer to play that violin arrangement, especially the "beginning of the ending" where they play two trilled notes repeatedly with a third note thrown in just before each downbeat. Fascinating stuff.

    (Now somebody will pop in here and tell me that was done on a synthesizer and bust my balloon!)
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
  24. Brasil_Nut

    Brasil_Nut Well-Known Member Moderator

    Thank you, Harry! Been a tough couple of years, health-wise. Better now. Let's do lunch again soon!

    Jon
     
  25. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator Thread Starter

    Ready when you are chief!

    Did you see the announcement of Sergio in Orlando in April?
     

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