Fool On The Hill – Critique and Discussion

Which selection best characterizes the group's music at this point (mid '68)

  • Fool On The Hill

    Votes: 4 44.4%
  • Festa

    Votes: 2 22.2%
  • Casa Forte

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Canto Triste

    Votes: 1 11.1%
  • Upa, Neguinho

    Votes: 1 11.1%
  • Lapinha

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Scarborough Fair

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • When Summer Turns to Snow

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Laia Ladaia

    Votes: 1 11.1%

  • Total voters
    9
Status
Not open for further replies.

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Fool On The Hill – Critique and Discussion

Then suddenly – before you could say “Neto, Bassini,& Romao” everyone was gone – well, except for Sergio, of course…er, well, and apparently Lani (…and, for what it’s worth, Dave Grusin). Janis was replaced by another American female singer (Karen Philipp...who coincidentally just happened to be hot, tall, hot, slender, hot, cool and probably a bunch of other stuff, too) and Joao, Jose, and Bob were replaced as well by a select group of Brazilian musicians who, collectively, offered a distinctive visual alternative relative to the fashionable and very handsome former Brasil ’66 placeholders.

Why – at what appeared to be the brink of major success – would a group leader comprehensively re-organize?

As one version of the story has now been revealed – via a recent Janis Hansen interview – Sergio apparently fired the group, en masse, in one hot-blooded Latinesque swoop...perhaps following a confrontational episode in which "Brasil 66" apparently accused its leader (Sergio) of hoggin’ the dough… Not knowing the monetary details, the claim certainly has merit as by winter/’68 the band was becoming very popular. The supposition is that Sergio “owned” the name (and, later, its variants -- Brasil '77, Brasil '88, Brasil ‘99, Brasil ‘666…you get the idea...) and could just fill the group with whomever he desired.

He did just that.

I suppose Cristo Redentor was smiling down on Sergio and NewCrew by subsequently and immediately blessing the re-grouped group with what would be their greatest hit of all, Fool On The Hill, issued later in '68.

(The fired members – all being excellent musicians – immediately went about forming a new group: Carnival, it was called. Unfortunately, they hooked up with Bones “that’s OK, I’ll have my session men record the tracks” Howe – whose wrecking crew preference was a point-blank insult to the admirable artistic and technical skills of both Matthews and Palma. The whole episode is even more disdainful given Bones' idea to mold Carnival into a “Brazilian 5th Dimension”. It’s beyond farcical to believe LA’s wrecking crew was more suitable for Brazilian music than Matthews and Palma. No wonder Bob and Joao took a hasty exit from Carnival…(Bonez pulled the same crap with the Association, too: hiring the usual LA wrecking dudes to play music the band was more than competent to play. Don’t get me started.)

As for the re-organized group, the rhythms are notably more aggressive – likely owing to having Bassini permanent planted in front of a pair of congas in place of Jose’s simple percussive embellishments, as well as the more punchy feel of Neto’s electric bass guitar supplanting Bob’s bulkier standup acoustic. More aggressive, too, are the orchestrations, which, following a 50% entitlement to Look Around, are so abundant on Fool On The Hill, that the LP is nearly under the Grusin spell in toto: Indeed, Fool On The Hill crosses that international threshold from a “Brazilian/Ameri-pop record supplemented with American orchestral accoutrements”, to an “American pop-orchestral record with Brazilian/Ameri-pop accoutrement”. If that makes any sense.

The formula introduced on Look Around is in solid form on the new LP: 2 contemporary songs (by Pauls McCartney and Simon) are Brazilianified for AM airplay; 2 lengthy, nearly dour ballads are readied for Lani; and a couple up-beat, festive pieces. New twists for this outing include: an instrumental, Grusin’s assuming the post of “orchestra arranger” ( he even writes a melody for Bergman-Bergman), Sergio’s introduction of electric piano, and his attainment as a full-fledged lead-vocalist (I don’t believe the new male members sing, so Sergio is most likely handling all male vocal parts).

Then there’s the goofy album art business. (There’s a reason why there’s no spine information on the outer gatefold…) Fool On The Hill might not have been the choice title given Sergio’s somewhat perched position in the group shot (of course, there are hills observed in the distance; then again, I suppose he’s really seated on a waistline). Similarly, the colour photos within the gatefold exhibit most of the band seaside enjoying a nice casual walk in the sand…inexplicably dressed in slacks replete with dress shoes and socks! Aside from Amish colony visitors, it’s doubtful anyone else on God’s semi-green earth would normally negotiate the sandy beach in such attire…much less a group of Brazilians working on an LP photo shoot. The semi-keen eye even detects the same background for virtually every shot – suggesting a clear lack of originality, creativity, and quality time. Hey, at least they cleaned the beach of four pieces of litter!

Fool On The Hill. All things considered, the Beatles are probably my favourite of the “modern” (i.e., post-1963) pop groups. Given the unstoppably likeable tunesmithery – particularly at the hands of Paul McCartney – the covers of their music during the day were about as common as changing plugs and points on a ’64 Ford Falcon. Sergio’s and Dave’s take on Paul’s piece is, nevertheless, altogether uncommon and fascinating – particularly so in reworking the simple 4/4 into 6/4 and adding extensions; and their introductory melody is now taken as standard with the original piece. The performance does well to introduce the “new” Brasil ’66 with its continually driving percussion and electric bass guitar. Another nice slice of SoCal sunshine pop – albeit with orchestra in full tow. Lani and Karen fully embrace the lyrical content with a skillful use of dynamics [His head in the clouds, the man of a-thousand voices talking perfectly loud! But nobody ever hears him or the sounds he appears to make...] as does Dave Grusin’s fine scoring by adding ever-increasing intensity to the ending fragments [...and the eyes in his head see the world...]. I’m sure Paul liked what Sergio and Dave cooked up – although the undersold ending short-changed an otherwise sociable arrangement. Definitely not my fave, but credit is assigned where it’s due. A+

Festa. With its stops and starts, Portuguese and English, Festa is an attractive listen. I like the song fine, but Grusin’s employment of countless harp glissandi gets quite annoying after one VAAAAAAARRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOP.

Casa Forte. Finally. It’s been a 4-LP wait – and here it’s with a different “band” – yet, we finally get to witness Brasil ‘66 chops center stage. Their first instrumental is a bundle of excitement, only heightened by strategic use of time changes, and a very tasty Sergio solo. This selection, devoid of the Grusin touch, does well to illustrate the new Brasil ’66 instrumental lay: Whereas the original group employed continuous trap set augmented by usually one percussion instrument; here, Romao, though perched on the drummer’s throne, is only using his feet (kick drum and high-hat), while playing hand-percussion; Bassini, on congas fuels the proceedings as does Neto’s nice electric bass guitar work. It’s clear the three new members are quite comfortable in their new home. A+

Canto Triste. The arrangement and performance of Lobo’s piece was no doubt wholly influenced by the amazing Lani/Grusin performance of So Many Stars. Unfortunately, Lani’s vocal isn’t as comparatively compelling; a difficult melody to sing for sure – and surely not one that would suddenly kick into the average listener’s head while shopping for sneakers at Woolworth’s. Unlike So Many Stars, the song doesn’t really offer traditional tension and release points for Grusin. Indeed, Lobo’s melody is a slow trek through a mountainous region. Striking, for sure. A tip of the cap to Sergio for trying something this enterprising.

Upa, Neguinho. Another unique Lobo piece with Lani and Sergio sharing the vocal chair. A competent cover – but I’ll take the writer’s debute version which is a faster, lighter offering un-weighted by orchestration.

Lapinha. Though no one knew it at the time, this closely approximates the Stillness / Pais Tropical [‘66/’77] band. The proceedings bounce nicely along and do well to continue the festive vibe that closed Side 1. I particularly like the added percussion and acoustic guitar – the latter of which, although very much identifiable with Brazilian music, is essentially absent on all Brasil ’66 records.

Scarborough Fair. The decision to sing only one verse of a lyrically-compelling piece was an eccentric decision. Seriously, the first time I heard this, I thought it was some sort of musical joke… Reducing Simon’s mesmerizing 9/8 + 6/8 Anglo folk composition into some sort of silly pseudo-hip urban groove, resulted in the least impressive Brasil ’66 piece to date. Even the electric piano solo is overcome by Grusin’s suffocating magic. Adding to the black magic disappointment is the vocal delivery: whereas on Fool On The Hill the singers truly vocalize the lyrical content, here they merely sing words…over and over and over and over and over. I’m confident Paul Simon wasn’t impressed. (The song is credited to Garfunkel-Simon; actually, Scarborough Fair/Canticle is the only Simon & Garfunkel song that Artie co-wrote – penning the “Canticle” section – which, of course, was omitted in this absurd one-verse arrangement.) More than any other piece on Fool On The Hill, Scarborough Fair is a signpost of things to come.

When Summer Turns to Snow. Like Canto Triste, this new Bergman-Bergman piece is a Lani-solo vehicle; it’s definitely more successful in its performance than the former. With Grusin basically on good behaviour, there’s at least some room for even Sergio’s plaintive voice to make a quality statement. Heard, too, is harpsichord – an uncommon keyboard instrument featured on every Brasil ’66 LP to date. Nice job.

Laia Ladaia. Taking its cue from the title cut of Look Around, this Lobo song is very American in its style. While it doesn’t exhibit the carefree Pacific Coast Highway flow of its model, it’s an enjoyable listen nonetheless – notwithstanding the messy trombone throw-up splats that open the arrangement.

Fool On The Hill introduces the re-vamped Brasil ’66 lineup. The LP is very much influenced by the program offered on Look Around; and although not as artistically successful, overall it’s a pleasant listen. The LP is heavily orchestrated; though for the most part, Grusin’s orchestrations don’t battle for center stage – yet, their continuous presence does dilute the new driving percussion sounds; and to this pair of ears they serve no overt artistic purpose to the majority of the performances. For those of us who are not always receptive to continuous orchestrations, an LP filled with music consistent with Casa Forte and Lapinha would have been preferred – and perhaps somewhere in the A&M archives lives the clean version of this LP. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of the Grusinization of Brasil ’66.
 

nightcat

Member
This is my favorite Brasil 66 lp just edging out Equinox. I have to go with Fool On The Hill as the song that best characterizes the group's music in mid 1968. In my opinion, this was easily the best pop tune they ever did. The new Brasil 66 lineup took this Beatles number and completely made it their own. It is the Brasilian songs however that made this album great. Casa Forte would be a decent choice as it represents their new sound well, but so does Fool. I'll go with the pop hit here.
 

Dave

Well-Known Member
sp4160.jpg

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66's version of "Fool..." is one of the most definitive and distinctive Beatles covers, though lacking authenticity of the original, it adapts well to the "Brasilian Breeze", which has been supplanted in this brave, new sound...!

Among the even more and sometimes excessive orchestrations is the ambition to go one-step further in introducing American audiences to Brasilian rhythms and song...

It helps that this is a self-contained musical unit with the equally conglomeration of even more Studio "Wrecking Crew"-type musicians entering the field and the attitude of record companies making singers backed with their crack rhythm sections, string orchestras and brass bands, actually preferred...

"Upa Neguinho" would later be covered by Herbie Mann, and while characterized by his style of Jazz Improvasions, here it remains as "Autentico Brasilian" as ever, in a clever, fun and vivacious way... Sort of like what it would be like if Walter Wanderley had done in in the manner of his version of "Asa Branca"--or even "Soulful Strut"...!!!

"Casa Forte" seems done right with vocals as it tells more of what the song is about... And worthy of mention in-relation is J.J. & Kai's version, which equally translates well into the Instrumental format... However, both Sergio Mendes' and Edu Lobo give the "summary, with words" a much better presentation...

Added to this eclectic collective of songs is none-other than Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair", although a traditional melody as "Canticle" seems so associated with its principal "writers" in making it a definitive 60's anthem, which throughout the decade, many have covered... And Brasil '66 delivers in, in the many STYLES of Interpretations of other performers, a very Brasilian vein... Look for the Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 version to appear on Ralph Bakshi's HEAVY TRAFFIC Soundtrack; I've rented both movies and think I prefer FRITZ THE CAT, a lil' bit more...

The clean sound (that is, un-orchestrated stuff) somehow has been Over-orchestrated, and while not quite in Full-Tilt as Crystal Illusions would be, the "sweetening" by David Grusin seems to be done way more than Modest... The exception of course, seems to be on Sergio's singing of "When Summer Turns To Snow", augmented by a cool John Pisano guitar solo... If only more of Sergio's stuff could be like this--especially when he sings...!

A Fairly good outing and comes in at a close-second to Look Around which preceded it... More eclectic and authentic in capturing an all-around portrait of Bossa-Nova, as the Now Sound!!!



Dave
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Tough to pick a favorite here but I finally had to go with "Laia Ladaia." To me it's one song where the Grusin arrangement fits in quite well, and I really like the piano work on it too.

I enjoy "Scarborough Fair" a lot more than James does - it's a close relative of "Crystal Illusions" in its structure (another heavily Grusinized song and another where I think his arrangement adds to the proceedings).

"Festa," "Casa Forte," "Upa, Neguinho" and "Fool" are other favorites of mine, and Gracinha's vocal debut on "Lapinha" is a standout track as well.

It's much easier for me to pick a least-fave on this album...it's "When Summer Turns to Snow," which is not only my least favorite on this album but probably my least favorite in the whole Brasil '66 catalog. Both of the ballads sound kind of out-of-place here. An occasional ballad is OK but these songs are just TOO draggy, unlike the smooth propulsion of "Like a Lover" or "So Many Stars." Unfortunately Sergio would continue this trend until the end of his first A&M era, putting at least one of these party-stoppers on every album.
 

Dave

Well-Known Member
I actually prefer the "Laia Ladaia" done by Tamba 4, and even more, the hopped-up version by the "Mendes-Imitation Band", The Carnival, which really SMOKES the other two...!

However, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 do a fairly good, basic version of "Laia Ladaia (Reza)" and good enough that it should'a gone in my initial review, but it is easily one of my least favorites here, though I like the way it closes the album; just seems compatible with their delivery and compared to the other versions mentioned, kind'a justifies its "sparse" quality...



Dave
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
JO said:
Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of the Grusinization of Brasil ’66.

If it weren't for his overbearing orchestrations, I would have enjoyed these a lot more. Sergio put so much into these songs and his band ("Casa Forte" is a real workout on this album, as a great example), and then some of the songs get covered up, often to the point of obscuring the band's sound.

IMHO, Brasil '66 was not an instrumental/orchestral pop band with vocalists. The song "Pretty World" (from the next album) could have been done by any instrumental group--it's almost like Sergio was guesting on his own album.

I know I've been blasted here before for saying it, but Grusin can't arrange his way out of a paper bag. Yeah, he's tolerable as a film composer and all that, but these orchestrations often dumb down the songs they were meant to accompany. Good arrangements complement the music behind it (see Dick Hazard), not walk all over it with army boots. It's like nobody is going to accept a top-drawer Brazilian band, but hey, maybe if we have Grusin disguise most of it with M.O.R. strings and horns, the public will buy it.

"Lapinha" and "Casa Forte" are the true Brasil '66 here, the real deal. Too bad the rest of the album had to be bludgeoned with strings and horns. A little sweetening is fine, but if I had wanted to hear this type of instrumental muck, I'd buy a Grusin album.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Not all of us dislike the Grusin arrangements; in fact some of us really like his work. I'm among them.

FOOL ON THE HILL to me is what Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 is all about. The definitive album, if you will. A perfect blending of Brazilian and Western music. Six of the nine songs have names that could be strange to the American ear, and two are familiar covers. Yet all of them form a cohesiveness around each other that flows perfectly. I can't imagine the album in any other track listing configuration.

I've also never considered "Casa Forte" as an instrumental, though I guess I can understand why one might. Though the song doesn't have any real "lyrics", it seems to have specific syllables proscribed for the vocalists to sing. Lani Hall revisited the song on her A BRAZILEIRA album more than a decade later and her scat "lyrics" exactly match what was done on the FOOL ON THE HILL version. So to someone who doesn't understand a word of Portuguese, it's not much different a song than say, "Mas Que Nada" - none of the lyrics make any sense, so it doesn't matter if its scat or real words.

My favorite here is "Festa". I love it's starts and stops, its different tempi as it moves along. And yes, I love Dave Grusin's arrangement of the song. The strings are the perfect compliment to the song, IMHO.

"Lapinha" is a glimpse into the future of the band, as Gracinha Leporace does a nice turn at the vocals. Not officially yet a member of the band, she was "on loan" from Sergio's other project, Bossa Rio. Later she would effectively be Lani's replacement and become Mrs. Mendes. Gracinha's vocals still shine today on the ENCANTO album.

I grabbed onto the two "hits" here - "Scarborough Fair" and "Fool On The Hill" before I ever enjoyed those tunes from The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" by S&G was one of those records that didn't escape me too long though. It was everywhere, and their lush harmonies caught my ear pretty quick, even though I wasn't that much into Top 40 radio of the day. But Sergio's version was first in my book, and by default becomes the definitive arrangement in my head. Ditto with the Beatles song.

Harry
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Mike Blakesley said:
It's much easier for me to pick a least-fave on this album...it's "When Summer Turns to Snow," which is not only my least favorite on this album but probably my least favorite in the whole Brasil '66 catalog....these songs are just TOO draggy, unlike the smooth propulsion of "Like a Lover" or "So Many Stars." Unfortunately Sergio would continue this trend until the end of his first A&M era.

Good points, Mike -- I'm sure Sergio fought the marketing folks for inclusions of such pieces. When I first started getting into this stuff back in the mid '80s (my uncle gave me the debute in 5th grade -- but it was wayy too advanced for me...somewhere around 11th grade I re-discovered it...), I, too, had a tough time with these languid, nearly sloth-like ballads. Only in recent years as I've become more interested in arranging music have I come to appreciate these. I'm also becoming an old fart so the MOR thing makes sense...hey, rather THIS kinda easy listening music than some of that Windham Hill/Music from the Hearts of Space death-knell yuppie Muzak of the '80s.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Rudy nails it for James said:
JO said:
Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of the Grusinization of Brasil ’66.
If it weren't for his overbearing orchestrations, I would have enjoyed these a lot more. Sergio put so much into these songs and his band and then some of the songs get covered up, often to the point of obscuring the band's sound.
For me, it's simply not much bang for a helluvalotta buck! All these years later, I still fail to understand how these orchestrations improve the music. No doubt, the clean version of this LP would be a gem and a half -- but unless one of us gets the key to the meat locker, we'll never hear 'em. (You know, George Harrison issued a few selections from All Things Must Pass in the stripped version -- with the tactful explanation that Phil Spectre's larger-than-life orchestrations were simply "the order of the day..."; and, of course, Paul McCartney was the instigator in getting Let It Be re-vamped and correctly issued devoid of the Spectre girlie choirs and dumbass 101 Strings. Way to go, Paul! The re-vamped record is far better and a much more accurate portrayal of the group in early '69.)
 

Dave

Well-Known Member
And the version of "Fool On The Hill" here very much resembles the one done later by Gabor Szabo and Lena Horne... Same breezy, flighty, carefree quality, that's an even portrayal of splendid '60's EZ Listening Pop...



Dave
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top Bottom