Monday, January 12, 2009

Clube da Esquina v. Quarteto em Cy

One of my favorite past times–besides drinking champagne and watching Scrubs (not a joke?)–is listening to different versions of the same song, preferable with one of the versions being by the composer. I really, truly, enjoy this when the non-composer's version ends up being better. Why is that? Because it means that the song is actually better than the composer himself knew, which in my opinion, is the sign of a good piece o' art. Today I will be taking a look at two versions of the song "Tudo que você podia ser," (Everything that you could have been) originally written by the Borges brothers, Lô and Márcio. The original version of the song was released on Lô Borges* and Milton Nascimento's "Clube da Esquina" (The corner club) an album which cemented both of them as permanent fixtures in MPB. Without getting too into it, I will say that both of these dudes are super heavy duty hosses (Nascimento made an album with Wayne Shorter after this and gets mad respect from jazz heads and screaming, fainting Brazilian cougars, Borges became a little too saccharine but is still an unstoppable freight train of harmonically complex pop). Another thing that I will refrain from doing is translating all of the lyrics, but I will tell you that they deal with someone who has lost their childhood hopes of being a great hero. They really fit with the melancholy tone of the rest of the album, most of whose topics deal–in a dreamy, abstract way–with the two musician's home state of Minas Gerais, which is like the Texas of Brazil (I will explain someday why I say that). The melancholy of the lyrics works well with the somewhat ragged timing of the vocals contributes to their earnestness. The articulation doesn't entirely fit–almost like he is trying to stuff too many thoughts into the line. Check it out.

Next up we have a rendition of the same song by a group called Quarteto em Cy. Quarteto em Cy was a female vocal group composed of 4(5?) sisters who were famous for doing a lot of work with Vinicius Moraes–well known poet, composer, diplomat, bon vivant, lyricist of "The Girl from Ipanema" and general professional badass. One of their trademarks was the fact that most of the time they sang in unison. This sounds simple, but given that we are so used to hearing groups of females sing in harmony, the effect is kind of rad. Unfortunately, this often means that their rhythm is more formulaic, no doubt because it is hard getting everyone to sing in the same rhythm to begin with. You can't simply have everyone warbling off into the melismasphere. That means that this version comes across as snappier, drum set and all. Snappy syncopation is the enemy of Brazilian music. That said, this song is still beautiful so don't sleep on it.

So have I been denied my supreme pleasure of a second version being better than the first? Sort of. It turns out that some years later, Lô Borges–the composer–released a version of this song sans Milton. The result? Horseshit. So I still kind of get my cake and eat it too, a phrase that I never quite understood. holler.

*What a great fucking name

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