Singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento was at the beginning of his career better known for his songwriting talents for others and this included composing for the late and truly great Elis Regina. However, by 1967 he started to attract attention in his own right when he composed and performed the song ‘Travessia’ and this in fact won first prize at the Rio International song festival that same year. After a sojourn in the United States, Nascimento returned to Brazil to form a band based around his friends and fellow musicians in his native state of Minas Gerais and this is where this re-issue from 1969 comes into the equation, the third album of Milton’s career thus far. Indeed the very evocative graphic cover showcases the traditional colonial architecture of the state’s capital city, Belo Horizonte to stunning effect. What really appeals about this recording is the inventive combination of acoustic rhythm section comprising Toninho Horta on guitar, Novelli on bass and Robertinho Silva on drums and the subtle use of orchestrations including strings and quasi-religious sounding choral background singers. This writer is especially fond of the final song, ‘Aqui oh!’, that is Afro-Brazilian in approach and is a gorgeous mid-tempo acoustic guitar led number, but one could equally point to the pared down instrumentation of the Caymmi (the Brazilian folk equivalent of say the Watersons in England) family medley ‘Pescaria/O mar é meu chão’. There is great subtlety to Nascimento’s early work and the gentle opener, ‘Sentinela’ slowly builds up with percussion and choral vocals to a stunning crescendo and here the purity of Milton’s voice is heard to full effect, a voice that has possibly only ever been matched in purity of tone by that of Gal Costa. In general, nothing is rushed about this music and it has an enduring organic quality with supremely well crafted vocal harmonies over the light yet tight melodies.
The acoustic folk side to Milton Nascimento’s craft was lurking just underneath the surface on this album, but would only come fully to fruition on his masterpiece, ‘Clube de Esquina’.