I’m going to have a hard time describing this next Brazilian album. Its Erasmo Carlos’s “Sonhos e Memorias 1941-1972”. Remember all those great quasi-psychedelic tracks from the Beach Boys like “All I Wanna Do” or “Feel Flows”, or J.J. Cale’s grooving “Call Me the Breeze”, early Laurel Canyon Rock, or even the more current sound of Spacemen 3/Spiritualized. Man, I’m struggling to find a way to encapsulate the sound Erasmo created here, its one of the most unique albums I have in my collection because of how dreamlike it sounds and how singular its vision is for its time. In a way, this is partly hinted in its album title.
Erasmo Carlos was surprisingly enough the brother to Roberto Carlos, one of the most pop-oriented artists in Brazil, Erasmo himself being a co-writer for much of Roberto’s hits and a part of the Jovem Guarda crowd (the movement that was anti- Tropicalia, and Bossanova). In 1971, Erasmo had already started to distance himself from this crowd by releasing his “Carlos, Erasmo” album a work of post-Tropicalia full of catchy, dreamy Brazilian pop. You could clearly hear some of his influences then. However, for this release, he went even further. Its not a perfect album track by track, but it reaches perfection in moments that Erasmo finds veins to tap that no one else could or had.
Take a track like the opener “Largo da 2ª feira” a beautiful country/western-tilting Brazilian song with just enough uniqueness, check out the S&H (sample and hold) rhythm guitar, to make you question its made in 1972. The album has whole stretches of genuine dream pop music, the sort that Lo Borges & Milton Nascimento would mine in the near future and the likes artists like John Lennon would have killed for (#9 Dream wouldn’t come out until 1974…). A track like “Minha Gente” sounds like Erasmo joining up with Atom Heart Mother-era Floyd for a bittersweet take on Brazilian-ness. This is then followed by a surprising tropical progressive soul track like “Mundo cão” that really had almost no peers in his time.
The B-side of this album is where I think the true forward-thinking tracks lay, though. I have yet to hear any other artist pull off songs like “Sorriso Dela”, “Sabado Morto”, “Vida Antiga”, and “Meu Mar.” “Sorriso Dela” has Erasmo taking a page from João Gilberto or Nick Drake with a minimalist whisper vocal take while a haunting capoeira-rhythm drum and bass background snakes around an ethereal-sounding distant organ. “Sabado Morto”, itself starts off as a standard bossa-nova track that gradually transforms into a stirring psych-soul ballad similar to what Marcos Valle, who I’ll cover later, would do in Vento Sul. “Vida Antiga”, is one of my personal faves. What a great, uplifting song! It employs a majestic lead guitar strutting just jumping around the melody like a wild horse, while a soul-influenced backing coos a background for Erasmo’s increasingly endearing soft voice (this is the stuff that would endear a lot of these types of Brazilian artists to Stevie Wonder and other soul giants like Quincy Jones). “Meu Mar”, is capoeira in space — Erasmo aims for a dreamy background reminiscent of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and goes one step further by adding gorgeous capoeira vocals full of multi-tracked Erasmos; tracks like these match the same trance inducing sounds that Transa and Cantiga de Longe were exploring by using vocal repetition. Its all of these tweaks here and there that make it a uniquely Brazilian sound experience.
Just the gall of Erasmo to work his brother Roberto Carlos to create mainstream music on the side, then come back to his own music and not cast off all his experimental and genuine soul chops (in spite of knowing full well he might not have a huge audience) was daring. However, to pull it off in such a way as listened in this album demands some mad respect on my end. I always come back to the title of this album “Dreams and Memories” when you dream and remember there’s always some embellishment and editing that you have to do to recount what has occurred in your life…sometimes the greatest stories (and music) ever made is done with what you bring to the table from your own creativity, Erasmo captured this essence brilliantly on “Sonhos e Memórias 1941-1972”.