Ed Motta ‘Criterion Of The Senses’ LP/CD/DIG (MustHave/Membran) 4/5

Those of us who have a vivid memory of the 80s, with its onslaught of TV-friendly faces and bands like Leo Sayer, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago and the Eagles, driving most of us away from the so-called ‘soft rock’ outpourings, were in fact embracing others like Boz Scaggs and Hall & Oates while the whole punk, electro, jazz-funk and house sounds were making more of an impact on the streets. Terms like Blue Eyed Soul, Yacht Disco and West Coast were to come much later, even if the aficionados of the time were using them. For the average listener, record shop visitor, TV watcher, the likes of Ned Doheny was probably as ‘out there’ as most of us got. We were noticing this ‘Adult’ rock sound was becoming more popular, finding its way to the department stores’ record section playing the latest beside the likes of Lionel Richie and The Doobie Brothers, but the mere mention of rock would send most of us soul/jazz crowd into a state of trauma by bands like AC/DC and Def Leppard. So this sound, with its varied genre bending terms from ‘Adult-oriented rock’, to ‘Album-oriented rock’, to simply ‘AOR’, has a determined following with countless re-edits, mixes, radio shows and compilations for the listener to search out – there’s even a dedicated website! As with much of the ‘scene’, there are those collectors searching out the prime releases of the past, the ever-so delightful tunes we would never have had the opportunity back in the 80s to hear. Even memories of record fairs of the day devoid this writer of any recollection of these recently surfaced delights; the likes of Rupert Holmes, R&J Stone and Pratt & McClain, which would have quickly caught my attentions, so it comes as no surprise, with the increase in popularity, that bands like David Foster’s Attitudes are being plucked for reissue, and that can’t be a bad thing.

So here we are in 2018 with what can only be described as the natural progression for this ‘sound’. Enthusiast, collector, musician, big Steely Dan fan, Ed Motta, has clearly become one of the lights in this field, already releasing his ‘AOR’ album in 2013 (with separate English and Portuguese versions may I add), and more recently compiling a compilation of Brazilian soft rock rarities under the “Too Slow To Disco” banner with the inclusion of the rather sought after Junior Mendes ‘Copacabana Sadia’, providing further evidence of his passion for the sound. You only have to look at the featured artists on his 2016 ‘Perpetual Gateways’ album to understand the clarity of his vision and knowledge of music heritage. He really does know his onions.

Criterion of the Senses delivers to the listener eight original songs, with the vinyl market clearly under consideration, given the overall length of the album sitting inside the preferred 40min framework, and all supplied with English lyrics by Mr Motta (nothing new as he was mixing both as far back as 1990). It’s a happy-go-lucky affair, summer breeze open-top car feel-good album. Off the menu supplied, ‘Sweetest Berry’ is more reminiscent of his ‘Poptical’ album. ‘Lost Connection to Prague’ flows atop the guitar with water splashing your face. ‘X1 in Test’ brings a little funky undercurrent, while ‘Novice Never Notice’ is very much typical of the adventurous Motta his fans have fallen in love with. Let’s not compare the energy of his ‘Aystelum’ album from 2005, which touched on the deep jazz, the jazz-funk and the fusion sounds. An album that won hearts in the UK. Let us simply look for similarities in the huge catalogue he now sits upon, with no modern day comparisons other than his own releases, which all, to some degree, have elements of this ’sound’. That’s some mighty achievement to have your own thing going on. Yes there are cheesy references to VCR recorders, Walkman cassettes and Shoulder Pads, but I get it. It’s not trying to be anything other than typical of a sound associated the with late 70s and 80s. So in that, he has mastered the formula without compromising by covering classics. It’s a bold statement to make but Ed Motta has done his own thing now for many years and the world has been watching, listened and adores him. He is an incredible voice for the ‘scene’ we hold dear, a true gentlemen in interview and a wonderful showman on stage. He touches so many people around the world and credit for his continued and varied music can only be endorsed. It’s not so much ‘Soft Rock’, ‘MPB’, or even pop music – it is Ed Motta.

Be sure to investigate the Japanese release prior to purchasing on CD, as there are six additional alternative takes.

Tour dates take him from Brazil to Sweden, to France and on to Germany in the coming months.

Steve Williams