Now this is a personal favorite of mine. Joyce isn’t the perfect Brazilian artist to herald. Her career swung so back and forth from great to bland taste. When her taste is on point such as in her work with Nelson Angelo or Nana Vasconcelos its truly astounding to behold, but when she is too reverential or a bit confused she’ll release albums that belong playing in the background at some steakhouse-like hell. 1976’s “Passarinho Urbano” which starts of with a truncated version of Caetano’s brotherly-in-spirit “Joia” signals what kind of album it will be. Playing like a tweaked “Des Anoz Depois”, this album chooses to focus a lot on the second wave of lyricists/artists after Tropicalismo. Joyce performs on guitar, with minimal backing, reinterpretations of various tracks written by Joao Bosco, Paulinho da Viola, Edu Lobo, and Chico Buarque to name a few. A lot of the artists fit a certain theme she was spurred to highlight, and that was the work of artists who were being heavily censored in Brazil. The album itself was willed into creation by a simpatico Italian record label that wanted Brazilian folk music that was listened to not in the swanky tourist locales, but in the favelas and quotidian areas.

Witness her bittersweet beautific take of Paulo Cesar Pinheiro’s anti-censorship song “Pesadelo”, or the classic samba song “Chora Doutor” listing subversive grievances against nationalism, and the heavily censored “Acorda Amor” by Julinho De Adelaide which detailed the military police’s practice of arresting and disappearing enemies of the state. Even the cover was an affront to the state, it depicted her drinking a Coca-Cola, at a time when Brazilian nationalism was trying to remove all vestiges of foreign companies. Anyway, the album isn’t solely about protest and the like, its about how Joyce finds a way to tap into the essence of each song she chose to cover. At the end of the day, her only self-penned song (which is also my favorite and linked via Youtube here) “Passarinho Urbano” that encapsulates the meditative feel this album tries to project. All of the songs she chose to cover were rebellious songs that could take on different meanings to keep on living in the hearts of the people who needed them the most. Joyce’s title track itself is a play on words on many levels, passarinho is the name for small bird in the Portuguese language, however with Spanish inflection it means passing by. It is this play with inflection, which starts with a beatific hum, that Joyce uses to intone, in an abstract way, how those who block her way, will eventually pass on by…or how a little birdie simply passed in front of her only to fly away. Its her voice, musically though, that decides how the meaning changes throughout the song. Simply a masterpiece of a song, and in its own quiet way a marvel of language, meaning, and sound.
Further Listening:
– with Nelson Angelo: Nelson Angelo & Joyce (1972)
– with Nana Vasconcelos and Mauricio Maestro: Visions of Dawn (1976)