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Classic AOTW Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 CRYSTAL ILLUSIONS (SP 4197)

Discussion in 'Look Around: Sergio Mendes/Brazilian Music Forum' started by Harry, Jan 31, 2012.

What is your favorite track?

  1. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay

    1 vote(s)
  2. Viola (Viola Enluarda)

    3 vote(s)
  3. Song Of No Regrets

    1 vote(s)
  4. Salt Sea

    1 vote(s)
  5. Empty Faces

    1 vote(s)
  6. Pretty World

    11 vote(s)
  7. Dois Dias

    0 vote(s)
  8. You Stepped Out Of A Dream

    1 vote(s)
  9. Crystal Illusions (Memorias de Marta Sare)

    6 vote(s)
  1. Harry

    Harry Charter Member Moderator Thread Starter

    Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66
    A&M SP 4197

    Available originally on LP/cassette/open-reel/8-track, and on CD from Japan as POCM-1995 and in the US on Verve B0007426-02.

    Track listing:

    Side One:
    1. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay (Steve Cropper-Otis Redding) 3:08
    2. Viola (Viola Enluarda) (Marcos Valle-Paulo Valle) 3:47
    3. Song Of No Regrets (Sergio Mendes-Lani Hall) 3:55
    4. Salt Sea (Sergio Mendes-Sebastião Neto-Lani Hall) 2:29
    5. Empty Faces (Milton Nascimento-Lani Hall) 2:48

    Side Two:
    1. Pretty World (Antonio Adolfo-Tiberio Gaspar-Alan Bergman-Marilyn Bergman) 3:20
    2. Dois Dias (Dory Caymmi-Nelson Motta) 2:29
    3. You Stepped Out Of A Dream (Gus Kahn-Nacio Herb Brown) 2:34
    4. Crystal Illusions (Memorias de Marta Sare) (Edu Lobo-Lani Hall-Johnny Guarnieri) 7:50

    Arranged by: Sergio Mendes / Orchestrations by: Dave Grusin / Produced by: Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert / Engineered by: Larry Levine / Recorded at A&M Recording Studios / Art Direction: Tom Wilkes / Photography: Jim McCrary / Write for a free full color A&M Record Catalogue / This album also available on stereo tapes / A&M Records, 1416 N. La Brea, Hollywood, California 90028.

    Personnel Credits from Verve Reissue:
    Sergio Mendes (keyboards, vocal, arranger) with collective personnel:
    Oscar Castro-Neves (guitar); Sebastião Neto (bass); Rubens Bassini (percussion);
    Dom Um Romão (drums); Lani Hall, Karen Philipp (vocal);
    Dave Grusin (orchestra arranger, conductor); others unknown.
    Recorded 1969
  2. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    Despite the sappy orchestrations, "Song Of No Regrets" is my favorite here; the breezy pop of "Pretty World" makes for a nice cut also. Most of the album is so buried in orchestrations that today I find it tedious to wade through, however. A shame since it often buries the whole band in it. #fail
  3. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    This album is very much a "mixed bag" as it features a lot of Brazilian material, but also shifts B'66 away from the "band" sound in favor of a much more orchestrated style. This was started on the Fool on the Hill album but it really takes over here.

    There's a change in the production here too...my favorite way to say it is that Fool seems like a "hot" album, where Crystal Illusions seems much more like a "cool" album. I can't really put my finger on the reasons for that, but I think the more-out-front orchestrations combined with a more laid-back vocal style from Lani Hall (she sings without vibrato quite a bit of the time) are responsible.

    My favorite song is the title track. I don't know what it is about this song, since it's so different from anything else in the Sergio Mendes canon, but I just think it's great. It's one song where the overblown orchestration fits right in and sets the mood. This is a song that if I'm driving home and it comes on, I just need to keep driving around until it finishes.

    Overall, this is far from my favorite B'66 album but it's definitely got its high points.
  4. Harry

    Harry Charter Member Moderator Thread Starter

    I don't know if it ever occurred to me before, but in typing in the track listing, I came to the realization that four songs on this album had lyrics contributions by Lani Hall. That's quite impressive, actually.

    I think I like this album better (overall, as an album) than the prior release, YE-ME-LE. At least this one somehow managed to escape the CSG fate, so in that sense it sounded better.

    We've had the discussions before about Dave Grusin's work, and I'm as much on record as really liking it as others are in dismissing it. That makes this album easier for me to praise.

    Side Two for me is the hook. It starts off with the sublime "Pretty World" which I liked the moment I first heard it on the radio - enough to actually buy the single prior to the album's release. And I wasn't generally one to buy 45s back then, figuring that the album version would be better in stereo.

    The second track on Side Two, "Dois Dias" is just wonderful. Uptempo and fun with a catchy melody and it builds to a nice crescendo. Even Sergio's vocals are welcome here, and the key change just seals it for me. The only thing about the song that upsets me is that to date, I still have zero idea how to pronounce the title!

    I remember the first time playing the album and "You Stepped Out Of A Dream" came on and my Dad's face lit up with recognition of a familiar tune done with a fab Brazilian beat.

    Then the title track just puts a cap on this fabulous side, with its epic 7:47 timing, mysterious lyrics and dream-like atmosphere.

    The first side is good too, but it's Side Two that always gets me on this album. Favorite track has to be "Pretty World."

    Bobberman likes this.
  5. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I was going to mention the cover too. This is one of my favorite B'66 covers. Everything from the typefaces chosen to the photography just works on this album. The cover sets the mood for the whole thing.

    In fact they never really had a bad cover -- my least fave is probably Ye-Me-Le just because it's so plain....after the full-color and gatefold Fool on the Hill, followed by the full-color Crystal Illusions, we're back to a plain B&W back cover group photo with Ye-Me-Le? At least they redeemed themselves with the next two covers (Stillness and Pais Tropical), which gave the group the status it deserved.

    Oh and Harry -- I don't know how to pronounce "Dois Dias" either but if I had to say it out loud, I would probably say "Doe EES Dee AHS." (Where are our Portuguese speakers?)
  6. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Lego Master Model Builder Moderator

    Didn't Ye Me Le follow this one?

    I'm with Harry -- "Pretty World" is my fave here and quite possible my fave of all the B66 songs....
  7. Harry

    Harry Charter Member Moderator Thread Starter

    Of course it did. Brain cramp...

  8. JMK

    JMK Well-Known Member Contributor

    I was introduced to Crystal Illusions by my neighbor buddy when I was a kid. His older brother had just gotten it that summer of '69, and he had me come over and listen. He was talking about the song "Crystal Illusions," saying it was like nothing B66 had done before, but he couldn't remember which song it was and put on "You Stepped Out of a Dream" instead. His brother let me borrow it and I made a cassette copy of it, by simply sticking my portable cassette (with microphone attached by a cord, LOL) in front of the stereo speakers. A few weeks later I went with my Dad on some kind of military exercise he had to do and was staying in a room with the sons of another officer and put on the cassette and the kid immediately recognized "Pretty World" and told me it was all over the radio. :)

    I personally love the album from start to finish, but I'm a huge fan of Grusin and have always been really surprised that some people don't like his contributions. The only issue with the album I've had, virtually from day one, is that it's mixed so poorly--it sounds positively muffled compared to the other A&M releases of that era.
  9. JMK

    JMK Well-Known Member Contributor

    I also remember reading the Seattle P-I review of the album, which praised its eclectic selection of tunes.
  10. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    This GE cassette portable I had actually came with a separate jack to plug in a cable that you could use to connect to an earphone output on a radio or TV; I used to tape TV episodes of "Emergency" that way. :D I also taped the TJB Coney Island special that way and it came out quite good, although the first minute was via the microphone since I was scrambling to find the patch cord!

    Actually to my ears, a lot of A&M albums don't sound all that good. They had a period where they released albums with almost no bass content (Baja's Watch Out, TJB's Sounds Like, Brasil '66's Look Around are all examples). Others like this are stuffy sounding. Then they had that horrid CSG system that came straight out of A&M studios and ruined several of their albums with it. The music has always been good, but sonically a lot of them could have used some help. Back then, though, nobody really cared: they played it on junky console systems and plastic all-in-ones. :shrug:
    Steven J. Gross likes this.
  11. Harry

    Harry Charter Member Moderator Thread Starter

    The two tracks from CRYSTAL ILLUSIONS that were anthologized on the BEST HITS THE LOOK OF LOVE SHM-CD from Japan ("Pretty World" and "Dock Of The Bay") sound much better there than on the most recent Verve version of the album. I don't know whether it should be attributed to the source material, the mastering choices, or the "SHM" material.

  12. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    The SHM material doesn't affect the sound, so we can rule that out. (It just reduces error correction work by the CD player...which on a new CD is pretty much non-existent anyway.) It could be that they used different EQ over in Japan. I doubt they would get access to original tapes over there (unless they had digitized copies).
  13. Captain Bacardi

    Captain Bacardi Well-Known Member Moderator

    This album took a while to grow on me, but I do enjoy it. My favorite track is "Crystal Illusions" - I just like the eerie, spacey way this was done. It pales to Edu Lobo's version, but it's still good nonetheless.
  14. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Really, you like Edu's version better? I need to listen to that again...haven't heard it in years.
  15. Crystal Illusions, by a long shot. The arrangement was (surprisingly for Mendes) quite au curant with the arrangements of Rogério Duprat for the Tropicália "movement" releases in Brasil in 1968 and 1969. The track holds up beautifully today. Most of the balance of the album was rather formulaic.

    Thank you for the inspiration to bring out this album once again. I learned my tastes have changed greatly since the last listen, probably at least 8 years ago. Sadly, Pretty World, which had been my tried-and-true pick-me-up, I find insipid. Salt Sea, which I would have placed in the bottom half of the album, I now rank second or third. Nascimento's Empty Faces is fine. Viola Enluarada had been a favorite, until I realized that the lyric and the music are at odds. Composer Marcos Valle held out longer than most of his colleagues in the bossa "sun, sea, love" theme. Viola Enluarada was his entry into topical, protest music. The arrangement here is so exquisitely romantic that it just doesn't work for me. The arrangement performed in Expo '70 is more tolerable.

    Very honestly, with the exception of Sérgio's new releases, the Brasil '66 live albums, and Primal Roots, I've listened to Mendes very rarely. The same is true for Lani's music. Times change. My passion remains Brasilian music, but I strongly prefer it from the source.

    Harry, "dois dias" is pronounced DOYSH DJEEahs. Do you no longer include your "now playing" comment at the end of each post? That was marvelous!
  16. Harry

    Harry Charter Member Moderator Thread Starter

    Paula, good to see you here. Your legacy here still surfaces once in awhile.

    Thank you for the pronunciation guide to "Dois Dias" - it seems to make sense based on what little I know of the language, but I don't know if I'll ever see those words and instinctively pronounce them correctly.

    In the past, I vacillated between ending posts with an attempted cleverness surrounded by ellipses and the word "online", and the more generic "NP" for Now Playing that I got from our Mr. Bill. I still do those from time to time when the mood strikes or something clever occurs to me. Perhaps I've not been too clever lately.:?:

    Tastes do indeed change, but I find that any real passions I ever had, if they do subside, many times will surface again. I've had on and off periods with Herb, Lani, Sergio, Burt, Carpenters - but something always seems to bring them back to the forefront.

    NP: many versions of Carpenters "Superstar"
  17. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Well I was way off on the first word but sort-of close on the second. I have to admit the title doesn't come up much in casual conversation! (Welcome back Paula, good to see your input here again.)
  18. JMK

    JMK Well-Known Member Contributor

    Hi, Paula! That baby we were having when you sent the videos out to me is now 13! :)

    Have you seen/heard about the new Valle boxed set? I went ahead and ordered it even though I have all the single releases, as it's supposed to have tons of supplementary material.

    I just got a nice LP (remember those?) with Marcos playing piano (along with Manfredo Fest, actually), and he does a nice solo version of Viola Enluarada. I actually like the romantic take on the protest lyric, kind of like the dichotomy on Lapinha.
  19. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    Paula! :wave:

    That is how I've leaned in recent years also. Ever since listening to Edu Lobo and others, I find I'm not as fond of some of the cover versions I used to like in the past.

    I could also apply that to Bacharach but in reverse: I prefer the original hit recordings he wrote, arranged and/or produced; his later re-recordings don't usually cut it (unless it is more unknown tunes like those on Futures).
  20. JMK

    JMK Well-Known Member Contributor

    One of the things I've always appreciated about Sergio (and which I thanked him for) was that as an inveterate credits reader I started exploring other Brasilian artists that he covered in my childhood, back when it was near impossible to find import LPs. I still remember how excited I was probably in my 20s or 30s when the internet really took off and I made a connection with a guy who imported CDs from Brasil. I probably spent thousands with him getting all sorts of stuff. This was ages before Dusty Groove came online.
  21. JMK

    JMK Well-Known Member Contributor

    I've also had a lot of fun with various Portuguese teachers going through old "classics" that were Americanized and finding out what the originals really say, a la Viola Enluarada. :)
  22. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    Good times back then. :agree: Did you frequent rec.music.marketplace at all? I found quite a few good things there. Grabbed some rare 12" singles from a former DJ liquidating the duplicates from his collection; he did not list everything he had, and for every title I asked about, he probably came up with about half of them. Sweet.

    Agreed about Sergio. He does lean toward the pop/MOR side on some of his albums, but for years I wondered who "that Edu Lobo guy is" and why I couldn't find any of his recordings (as one example). My mom was adventurous, but she had her own interests. It's a testament to someone like Sergio who can distill the best from a few different musical cultures to create his own thing, yet give more of us that appetite to seek out the originals and/or more recordings by the composers of many of the songs he performed.

    I still haven't identified that one Alpert track called "Lobo" that has Edu Lobo as a credit...I know that's not the original title. Still haven't heard it on the several albums of his that I own; I need to convert and post it as an MP3 clip to see if anyone here can identify. Tried writing to Edu Lobo's management via his website but never heard back.
  23. Gentlemen!

    How wonderful to see your names once again and to read your replies! Does Jon Skinner (BrasilNut) stop by these days, or Bernie Medina? Mike, do you still operate the theatre? Harry, does the radio station still issue your paycheck?

    Harry, I know what you mean about coming back to favorite artists. I guess that's why I've not pitched the Mendes, Alpert, and most certainly not Lani recordings. Was it here we once discussed how the music and artists you enjoyed as an adolescent is that to which you consistently return? Truth be told, none of these three artists were played from long before I moved to South Bend (4-1/2 years ago) until the past few months. I did pick up the new Mendes and Alpert/Hall releases (LOVE "Dreamer") and attended the Alpert/Hall show in East Lansing (my younger son is a Spartan alum, Neil). The older son (in Austin for the last 5 years - is Bill still around?) recently asked for an mp3 disc of Lani's latin material, with Brasil '66 filler. That was the first time the cds came off the shelves. This music was a large part of his adolescent musical memory.

    Jeff, I am aware of the Valle set, which is reasonably priced compared to other box sets. I will not pursue this, as I have a number of the cds in the set and am not a Valle completist. This year many of the top MPB artists turn 70 (Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Paulinho da Viola), and I expect new compilatons that could eat into my pocketbook. Your comment about "album" credits is spot-on. Young people today may never find that link between songs they enjoy. I certainly knew nothing about Edu Lobo or Dori Caymmi other thab thet wrote music I consistently enjoyed and when presented the opportunity, followed their work as well.

    Enough blab. Good to "hear" from you all. Jeff, is the email link on your website current? I'd love to send you a note.
  24. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin


    I don't think we've heard from Bernie in quite awhile! Brasil Nut shows up from time to time; in fact, I saw him quite a bit several months ago before I dumped facebook. Mike still has a theatre, Bill's still going postal in Austin, Mr Bill is sitting in Afghanistan right now, and Harry is now in Florida.

    Surprised you were in E. Lansing--we were there also! Had I known, we all could have met up. I did get to the meet and greet afterward, thankfully, but other than Rim and Matt (I think it was Matt...lawdy my memory is shot!), I don't know if anyone else here made it. I was in Indiana a few weeks ago; maybe I'll be a nearby neighbor in Indy before long. :wink:
  25. Harry

    Harry Charter Member Moderator Thread Starter

    Paula, I'm now happily retired from radio, though I guess with the pension kicking in, I could say, yes, I still receive something akin to a paycheck from them. We moved to central Florida two years ago and are enjoying the beautiful weather. The Lani Hall albums you helped me acquire are still present and accounted for.

    And yes, I think we did discuss here how whatever you were into musically at age fourteen-fifteen seems to stick with you for life. You never lose it (or at least most don't). I guess that's why my life seems grounded in the year 1966. So many things from that year are still near and dear to me.

    Captain Bacardi (Bill) is indeed still around. Our other Bill, Mr. Gowdy, is currently quartered somewhere in Afghanistan, watching a Herb Alpert BBC Documentary, the last we heard.

    Jon Skinner (Brasil Nut) checks in from time to time. Last I heard he was a flight attendant for Southwest.

    Bernie Medina posts under the user name "PartyRico", but it's been some time since I've seen anything from him.

    ...welcoming Paula back, online...

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