Criollo ‘Espiral De Ilusão’ (Sterns) CD/LP 4/5

The roots of Brazilian samba lie in the favelas, or shanty towns on the hillsides of Rio de Janeiro and in fact belongs to a decades old tradition. To begin with, samba was initially shunned by the middle and upper classes in Brazilian society who viewed it as rustic and backwards, lacking in refinement, but over time, samba has come to symbolize the very essence of what it means to be Brazilian and has had a tendency to be over-commercialised to the detriment of the music as a whole. In the 1970’s there was something of a renaissance of the old-school samba tradition, and lead singer Criollo very much fits into that respecting of the rootsier version of the genre. As such, he is accompanied by a seven string guitar, the indispensable sound of the cavaquinho, and an assortment of percussive instrumentation with the cuica drum at the epicentre. It is indeed the gradual build up of percussion on the opener, ‘Lá Vem Você’, that immediately impresses the listener with a gentle cavaquinho solo. A real favourite is the uptempo samba of, ‘Boca Fofa’, on which brass, cuica and other percussion all operate in tandem, with exuberant vocals from the leader, in parts articulating by means of wordless scats. Stylistically, Criollo’s own voice owes a debt of gratitude to that of Caetano Veloso whom he most closely resembles and that is heard to thrilling effect on the uptempo, ‘Dilúvio De Solidão’, with gorgeous female background harmonies. However, not all is no holds barred music and samba can indeed be more laid back and extremely refined. This is illustrated on the choro-influenced, ‘Menino Mimado’, where a gentle guitar intro is met by a more subdued vocal approach, and on this lovely ballad, the musicians create a feeling of intimacy. By contrast, the full-on, no holds barred percussion discussion of ‘Calçada’, indicates how effectively the rhythm section can work as a cohesive whole, with the female background harmonies serving as the tasty cherry on the cake. A fine example of a musical tradition that continues to reflect the Brazilian psyche in all its myriad facets.

Tim Stenhouse