Célia ‘Célia’ LP/CD (Mr Bongo) 4/5

Part of a series of re-issues of extremely rare Latin American only releases, this Brazilian issue from 1972 showcases one of the least known, yet most talented singers of her generation. Known simply by her first name, Célia recorded some four albums for the Continental label (and also for Odeon) between 1971 and 1977, and this self-titled offering finds her mixing classic MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) with funk, folk and even easy listening grooves. Several more albums followed, including ‘Amor’ in 1982, but Célia sadly passed away in 2017. Arranged by bassist supreme, Arthur Verocai, the result with this self-titled album is an extremely well balanced and enjoyable listen and it features some of the cream of Brazilian musicians at the time, including no less than Tom Jobim, Marcos Valle, and both Erasmus and Roberto Carlos. The production has an earthy, rustic feel, with heavy bassline riffs and wah-wah guitars, this could only be the 1970’s. The vinyl release  reproduces the gatefold artwork and a firm favourite is, ‘Na boca do sol’, which is a arguably one of the strongest songs on the whole album and a reprise of a Verocai classic. However, unlike some Brazilian albums that have a couple of key tracks and the rest is largely filler, ‘Célia’, is most definitely the exception to the rule and has several quality numbers. These include the mid-tempo intimacy of ‘Vida de Artista’, with Célia reflecting on what it is like to be an artist, the funky groove of ‘Ay Adelita’, with bass and rhythm guitar to the fore, and the uptempo samba-rock complete with flute of, ‘Dez Bilhões De Neurônios‘. Yet, there is also the laid back psychedelic string influenced piece, ‘M.I.A.’, with jazzy saxophone in the background, or the varied tempo of ‘Amor, with male vocal chorus and psychedelic soundtrack drums. Mr Bongo are to be congratulated for unearthing this gem and there, hopefully, will be more to follow. This writer is especially fond of the 1971 Odeon LP by Célia, ‘Jesus Cristo’, which is richly deserving of a re-issue in the UK. More Mr Bongo re-issues to follow from experimental Mexican roots to West African dance music.

Tim Stenhouse