Ye-Me-Le – Critique and Discussion

Which selection best characterizes the group's music at this point (late '69)

  • Wichita Lineman

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Norwegian Wood

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Some Tome Ago

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Moanin'

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Look Who's Mine

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Ye-Me-Le

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Easy To Be Hard

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Where Are You Coming From?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Masquerade

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • What The Worlds Need Now

    Votes: 1 16.7%

  • Total voters
    6
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JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Ye-Me-Le – Critique and Discussion

Sergio pushed forth from Crystal Illusions with an even more varied program of Brazilian-influenced US pop music. Released in DEC69 (a mere four months after Crystal Illusions), Ye-Me-Le transitions the Brasil ’66 moniker into its “obscure”, non-top-40 period. Reviews from 1970 are seemingly rare – and unless one can locate an electronic copy at their local university library of High Fidelity, Stereo Review, or American Record Guide, it’s largely unknown where music writers of the day stood. Luckily, modern times gives us this new venue to appraise LPs – although now, as then, writers are vulnerable to harassment far and wide at the hands of the usual assortment of i-policing forces – retired or otherwise – that appear ever ready with their i-billy-clubs...

  • Holy Crapola, Batman! Looks like the work of the I.B.P.!

    Yes, Robin. Our old nemeses…the Internet Brain Police.
Caped crusader digressions aside, the LP is similar enough to Crystal Illusions that fans of the latter will probably enjoy this excursion; of course, the reverse is similarly expected.

Taken together with Crystal Illusions, for some listeners these LPs may be considered to Sergio Mendes what Herb Alpert’s Ninth and The Beat of the Brass were to Herb Alpert: a sort of water-treading period transitioning to the next more successful activity. (For Herb, the next significant step would be his celebrated 1969 recording, Warm – a record of supreme heartfelt importance to many TjB aficionados.)

During high school back in the 1980s, I had a difficult time finding Ye-Me-Le…so much so that I enlisted the help of an “Out-Of-Print Record Locator” to find a copy. The proprietor was an “ochre” A&M connoisseur and to this day I am grateful our paths crossed as I learned much about the “pre-SP-4200” era via a series of posts and coast-to-coast telephone calls. I’ll always remember his hesitance with supplying me a used copy (10 dollars + S&H – a considerable sum at the time) – his feeling that the LP was “by far” the least enjoyable of the lot. Of course, that just made me want it all the more.

The LP appears dominated by contemporary US material, with two instantly recognizable pieces front-loading the proceedings. The Bergmans’ provide one MOR selection. Grusin, of course, is back swirling his baton – albeit only orchestrating 5 of 10 selections. Unique to this LP is the absence of any Edu Lobo material (there was certainly no shortage from the writer as he was no doubt preparing his A&M debute, released later in 1970; perhaps, all concerned parties were still in recovery mode following the Crystal Illusions tour de force). The LP is notable for closing with a non-“Brazilian” song – a first for the group. Although this is her 3rd LP as a group member, the contributions of Karen Philipp remain unknown to this pair of ears as every female voice on the LP sounds similar…which is to say either Lani sings all the parts, or Karen’s timbre and phrasing are consistent with Lani’s. Lastly, more than any previous LP, Ye-Me-Le is the most US sounding – most likely a result of the presence of a more “rock-focused” electric guitar, the incorporation of only three Brazilian pieces, and overall stylistic choices – the latter particularly noticeable when comparing virtually every song to the “ethnic” Ye-Me-Le.

One thing for sure, the group’s style has evolved so much in three years that one really cannot critique the merits of the LP – or anything since Fool On The Hill for that matter – against the Mas, Que Nada! archetype: it’s simply too much a case of apples and oranges. One should truly assess Ye-Me-Le on its own merits – or at least within the context of the previous three LPs. There are no exceptional (A+) selections on the LP; but, with half the selections devoid of Grusin intervention, for many listeners the overall feel may be more intrinsically agreeable – suggestive of a return to a more combo-oriented approach.

Wichita Lineman. The success of Fool On The Hill is the root cause for what seemed to be a series of attempts to duplicate that success. This is another odd single choice – for the same reasons as Dock Of The Bay: it’s a “male” song (although Lani sings it in the third person – well, some of it – immensely improving content believability), and was yet another recent monster hit, although going from Otis Redding to Glen Campbell is nearly akin to switching from a vodka tonic to a glass of chocolate milk. As before, am not a fan of this new “quasi-soulful-hip” singing style. Grusin is much tamer here than on the Crystal Illusion LP singles. The high “orchestral” trumpet (probably pitched in F) was a polite touch – as was the low-key scat fade out.

Norwegian Wood. Sergio has always enjoyed good fortune with Lennon/McCartney material – and the results here are no different. The song is propelled along in 6/8, initiating with a memorable and rhythmic electric piano + electric guitar riff, climaxing with a fine electric piano solo. The false ending releases back into the intro (a melodic fragment). Good job.

Some Tome Ago. I assume this was a contemporary song of the day, though the writer, Sergio Mihanovich, remains unknown to me. Seemingly perma-pressed for a Grusin orchestration, the absence of such reveals just how light and breezy the ensemble can sound. This is whole-heartedly preferred. Here, too, Lani sounds in far better technical form than on the bulk of Crystal Illusions – particularly as she doesn’t have to do battle against a myriad of symphony instruments. Nice song, too.

Moanin’. Following three rather pleasant offerings, the raucous and brash Moanin’ might easily qualify as the worst Brasil ’66 effort to date (er, well...at least until we get over to side 2). The imaginative rhythmic interplay aside, all that hooping/hollering in the middle (you know, the "moaning" section) is so annoying it renders the song unlistenable. …and of course it’s always these kind of songs that totally go in for the 45-second fade. This mess should have never made it beyond the rehearsal stage.

Look Who’s Mine. Incorporating an intro seemingly lifted right off a Bacharach lead sheet, this Bergman piece is a comfy slice of MOR – somewhat recalling Like A Lover in places. The unison flugelhorns, flutes and marimba provide a nice counterpoint texture for Lani’s warm vocal. While I understand the fanfare-laden section (given the lyrics), like with much of Grusin’s work, it strongly catapults the group into an undesired MOR direction. Such fair is better suited for the mainstream motion picture industry.

Ye-Me-Le. This recalls The Frog, Canto Triste and other group vocal/chant excursions notably absent on Crystal Illusions. Not too bad, but the “song” doesn’t really go anywhere – as conveniently observed in the unexpected fade. Ironically, Ye-Me-Le the LP is so US sounding that Ye-Me-Le the song feels somewhat incongruous.

Easy To Be Hard. I always laugh at this title, given it's Frank Zappa-esque '70s feel. From the lyrics, vocal delivery, guitar part, and cool bass upper register embellishments, this is surely a slice of then-contemporary “hip” music. I think this song might have been from the musical, Hair.

Where Are You Coming From? The intro comes off like underscore from the likes of As The World Turns (you know, when the 30-something housewife is waiting in the dining room…watching the clock – in silence…smoking a cigarette…while waiting for her hubby who is working late “at the office”…with Miss Andrea Connolly ~). Never have been much on these Sergio ballads.

Masquerade. Probably another current US song, this time by obscure writers Haynes/Rose. This one’s pretty good – perhaps the best thing on Ye-Me-Le. The style recalls Fool On The Hill, and luckily again, one that appears asking for the Grusin magic wand but is afforded just the combo. The female/male unison singing recalls the original group vocals, and the quasi-unresolved fade is a gem. Fine job all the way around.

What The Worlds Need Now. Presented in all it’s lime-light, show-stopping glory, this may qualify as the low point of Mendes/Grusin efforts…begging the question: What were they thinking? This is pretty much lame La$ Vega$ floor-show stuff – and although Brasil ’66 has always had a tinge of “piano bar” in them, this is the first time it was exploited to such repugnant proportions. To be fair, the ultra-hip, “let me entertain you” arrangement probably comes across better in concert than in my living room. The best part is the end, when the group starts to run out of gas, and Grusin picks up the slack with an amazing Book of Revelations/LET THE RAPTURE BEGIN ending…all that’s missing is the concluding 20th Century Fox Logo…and the kitchen sink, of course.

By DEC69, much had changed in both the pop music biz and at A&M records since the innocent Whipped Creamed days of 1965. For one thing, the new inner sleeves are no longer dominated by the likes of The Sandpipers, Claudine Longet, and the Baja Marimba Band – suddenly all these hair groups are crawling all over the joint. (Absent, also, is A&M Records’ phone number which adorned one of the earliest versions of their commercial sleeves…I guess Jerry’s and Herb’s thinking back in '65, was that John Q. Recordbuyer would actually call a record company to get more albums. If you call that number today you’ll probably get some illegal alien.) One thing’s for sure: as the 1960s ended, two of A&M’s “Big Three” MOR acts – the TjB, and the BMB – were out of business. To guarantee the label that he was not deserved of the same fate, Sergio would need to re-tool in a significant way…and he did just that.

Thinking of Crystal Illusions as the entry into a “bottom plateau” of sorts, Ye-Me-Le can be viewed as the journey’s exit – with Sergio’s embrace of contemporary US material as a signpost of things to come. Ye-Me-Le is actually not a bad LP. Taken together with Crystal Illusions, and selecting choice cuts for a comp CD entitled "Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 in ’69" actually yields a very listenable 25-minutes or so – and that will hold us for now as we cross over into 1970.
 

Dave

Well-Known Member
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"What The World Needs Now" is all the throwback to the days of "The Look Of Love" as this gets... A Bacharach/David number, although rushed seems to smack of at least almost the same success Brasil '66 had with a B/D song, earlier, though not really quite the same...

If we thought Crystal Illusions was such a turnaround for this group, then here on Ye-Me-Le, there really IS No Looking Back...!!! :shock:

Their version of "Easy To Be Hard" is far different from the way Three Dog Night would do it, while "Wichita Lineman" is even more out of this league...

I bravely after buying a Ten-Cent copy of Stillness, which really WAS what a dime would buy condition wise decided to try this, and I don't know what this cost me, let alone where I bought it at (Stillness was purchased at a Salvation Army store while records there were a dime) but I bought a fairly good copy of this and somehow like my initial impression of Stillness was not all the way what I was ready for, despite being more-than-a-minute-curious about the material...

Of course "Norwegian Wood" is a good enough track, that I really wish it had gotten my vote... It has a very "Mas Que Nada"-like unpredictable quality (and "Ye-Me-Le", the title track seems to, too) after hearing it here and on the Foursider compilation so many times...

"Moanin'" rings a lot like "Easy To Be Hard" and "...Lineman" as does "Look Who's Mine", and "Some Time Ago" and rank as the kind of album filler that helps this LP glide along, though at an uneven pace compared to the earlier installments...

"Masquerade", however, is a "sign of life" in the sense that it is an uplifting "breath of fresh air" (Yeah why didn't I vote for this one?) and seems to be an attempt at finally creating something "upfront" as abrupt as this is, "comes out as more outgoing", as compared to this the rest of the tracks sound a bit restrained...

The slick, Brasilian craft of Sergio and Crew makes its way into a "Not In This For Chart Action/Underground Status" after years of the radio-ready Top-10 proceedings of the likes of "Daytripper" and "Like A Lover" long gone... This effort really is "Not just for anyone..."



Dave
 

seashorepiano

Active Member
I believe I got Ye-Me-Le and Crystal Illusions on the same day a few years ago. For various reasons, I wasn't interested in getting them before that because I had the impression that, after Look Around, the group wasn't the same. After getting both albums, I realized I'd missed a lot of good music for some time.

Ye-Me-Le is a disappointment to me. I like the title track, "Wichita Lineman," "Norwegian Wood," but "Some Time Ago" entranced me from the beginning. There are no orchestrations, but only a combo of electric piano, guitar and percussion, all which reinforce the melancholy and longing of the lyrics. This is a fine Lani Hall performance (if it is she singing). Sergio uses the organ a bit in "Ye-Me-Le," which I like.

The rest of the album is mostly unlistenable. I tried to like "Moanin'" and enjoyed the brass arrangement, but that song and the others just grated on me.

I don't care for Bacharach's music much except for a song here or there, so "What the World Needs Now" is a frustrating close to this album.

JO, if I'm reading him correctly, said that the group hit a low point with this album. I agree.
 

JMK

Well-Known Member
Contributor
Ye-Me-Le was one of the first albums I ever bought. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I agree it's Sergio treading water, but he treads better than most, IMHO. Just a couple of notes--as we've discussed earlier, this album is interesting from an engineering standpoint at least as it was the first time Sergio gave each girl a separate channel. The fact that none of you has mentioned the radical reimagining of "Moanin'" from the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross gospel-tinged original makes me think that maybe you don't appreciate what a knockout version this is. "Look Who's Mine" is a beautiful Marcos Valle composition, so qualifies as another Brasilian tune, albeit with a magnificent Bergman lyric. "Ye Me Le" also is unique for featuring Hermeto Pascoal in what I think was probably his first US appearance--kudos to Sergio for that. Yes, "Easy to be Hard" is indeed from "Hair". I love this version, especially Sergio's wonderful vocal arrangement at the end with his move to the ninth--gives me goosebumps. As I've mentioned many times when "What the World" comes up, first of all I love Sergio's McCoy Tyner-esque riff based on fourths, but the orchestral "wrapping" at the end always spelled the holidays for me, probably because I got the album the second week of December or so.
 

JMK

Well-Known Member
Contributor
Also of note is the different single version of "Norwegian Wood," which has been covered in great detail here over the years.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
[quote="Ten-Cent" Dave]...Stillness was purchased at a Salvation Army store while records there were a dime...[/quote]
Man, had I your smarts I coulda saved mucho deniro -- I didn't learn about the Goodwill-LP Connection until well into college!

seashorepiano said:
Sergio uses the organ a bit in "Ye-Me-Le," which I like.
I agree, the organ really adds a great deal to the performance -- I wish Sergio would have featured it more on these LPs. What little he's done (e.g., With A Little Help from My Friends) is very good.

JMK said:
this album is interesting from an engineering standpoint at least as it was the first time Sergio gave each girl a separate channel.
Are you saying that Karen sings along with Lani on all the selections? Sounds like the same vocalist to me...
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Well it is true that Karen's voice is very similar to Lani's - listen to her on "For What It's Worth" or "Gone Forever" from the next two albums --- although we're not discussing those yet, but the voices are very alike. As for if Karen sings co-lead on the YE-ME-LE album...I can't tell either. To me it sounds, for a majority of the proceedinngs, like Lani doubletracked.

One song here that James and I disagree on is "Masquerade." While I like the song in general, when it gets to that bridge part in the middle (Can you hide this kind of feeling...), it seems like the song is going too fast for the words. When Lani sings the line, "a broken heart will always lose" (I think that's what it is), I cringe every time. That line just sounds off to me.

The song, "Ye-Me-Le" is one of my absolute favorite Brasil '66 tracks. I love the way the bass guitar jumps all over the map, only to land on the proper note on each downbeat. The flute (Tom Scott?) adds a ton to this song as well. This could have been a minute longer and I wouldn't have minded a bit.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned so far in this discussion is the album cover. Today I like the cover, but at the time I remember it just looked strange. That cover, the album title and the general music scene at the time are probably all the explanation you need as to why this album was not a big seller.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Mike Blakesley said:
...One song here that James and I disagree on is "Masquerade." While I like the song in general...When Lani sings the line, "a broken heart will always lose" (I think that's what it is), I cringe every time. That line just sounds off to me.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned so far in this discussion is the album cover. Today I like the cover, but at the time I remember it just looked strange...

You're right Mike -- Lani is definitely flat and straining to hit the highest notes in this song (clearly, she is at the top of her range). While this may be technically bothersome, I feel it heightens the tension of both music and lyric -- so, to me I look at it as an artistic success. The usual group photos aside, cover art is always fascinating...perhaps, someday someone could corner Sergio and ask him to explain the significance of the Ivan De Moraes painting.
 
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