Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Greatest Hits (Craft Recordings)
Best-selling album is back in print after many years
One of the key elements of throwing a good party is the music. Are you going to subject your guests to ads every three songs on a lousy streaming service, or are you going to grab a turntable and show just how cool you really are? While Moondance and Pet Sounds are obvious choices for spins, you really should choose something more exotic, yet familiar. That’s where Greatest Hits from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 comes in. This great album, criminally out of print for decades, is finally made available again by the fine folks at Craft Recordings.
Mendes’ true genius was his ability to filter the bossa nova and samba sounds of his native Brazil into a sexy concoction that appealed even to pop music fans. Most of your partygoers are going to be familiar with the lion’s share of the song titles here, like “Scarborough Fair,” “Going Out of My Head,” and “The Look of Love.” But, it’s the sensual, rhythmic arrangements that elevate these above typical “elevator” or “lounge” music.
Take the unlikely cover of the aforementioned Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.” Propelled by a gentle, Brazilian percussion, and accented by swirling strings, the song seems to float around the room, especially when Mendes’ Rhodes piano take a solo.
There are a total of three Beatles’ covers: “A Fool on the Hill” was the big hit, carried by a samba beat and Lani Hill’s cool, but sexy vocal. “With a Little Help From My Friends” features male and female singers trading off, but hearing the heavily accented take on the lyrics “how do you feel at de end of de day” is quite humorous. The third Lennon-McCartney cover is “Day Tripper,” where Mendes plays the familiar guitar riff on the piano.
If you really want to get a glimpse of Mendes’ talent – do a side by side comparison of Brasil ‘66’s debut single, “Mais Que Nada” with the original version, recorded a few years earlier by Jorge Ben Jor. The latter’s version is dense, and far more of a jazz track, while Mendes’ take pushes his piano to the forefront, tightens the rhythms, strips back the instrumental accompaniment and adds a female vocal, giving the track an irresistible quality.
Greatest Hits from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 makes a fine addition to any vinyl fan’s collection. The other ingredients of the party are up to you. —Tony Peters