Monday, June 28, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #12: Milton Nascimento – Clube De Esquina 1972

Ah, the sacred double album! Blonde on Blonde, Exile on Main Street, Electric Ladyland, The Beatles. All timeless treasures that showed the world that pop music was more than mere entertainment, but actually art. All indelible gems that allowed their authors a chance to stretch out and have since become recognized as a creative high watermark in their careers. And so it is with Clube De Esquina, Milton Nascimento's 1972 double album, an epic that in my mind stands alongside those other masterpieces in the pantheon of “greatest albums”.

Clube De Esquina is a classic of MPB (translated, literally "Brazilian Popular Music”). Musically, we talking about an unmistakable Brazilian feel with heavy use of percussion, and a dizzying array of production styles with touches of orchestral, experimental, folk and progressive sounds. There are shades of Van Morrison, Villa-Lobos, Weather Report, The Beach Boys, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Pink Floyd. Clube is chock full of haunting vocals and harmonies, transcendent melodies, sometimes sparse sometimes layered production, inventive ensemble playing and delicious strings and brass. All this in a warm, delightful batch of songs that are simply overflowing with creativity. It has been said a few times that Clube De Esquina is the Brazilian Sgt. Pepper and while not quite accurate, the comparison serves to illustrate just how great Clube is.

Although Milton is the mastermind and main voice here, it is actually a collective piece by the titular Clube, AKA the Corner club. By bringing in this gang of friends and like-minded musicians to write, sing and play on the album, Milton captured a spirit of community and joy that is as uplifting for the listener as it must have been for the participants. The auxiliary voices and writers help bring the album into another dimension, which is why this album stands just slightly above the other great Milton albums of the 1970s. The main collaborator in the Clube is Lo Borges who brings a strong Brian Wilson/Paul McCartney influence, which is a superb contrast for Milton's more spiritual folk leanings. Also present are Eumir Deodato and Wagner Tiso who pepper the songs with arrangements that bring to mind George Martin, Claus Ogerman and Claude Debussy.

The highlights on Clube are the handful of Milton's ballads. “Cais,” “San Vicente,” “Dos Cruces” and “Os Povos” are simply heavenly songs that show that Milton had the ability to transcend like only the best singers can. The sublime “Clube da Esquina nº 2” is another great one with gorgeous strings and exploratory vocalese, sounding like a proto-chill-out classic that wouldn't be out of place on Air's Moon Safari. “Pelo Amor de Deus” on the other hand is a psychedelic tour de force full of electronic effects and fuzz guitar. Brazilian music fans will probably be familiar with the standard “Nada Sera Como Antes”.

This album has been loved by everyone I have played it for. It sits like a sore thumb in the CD collection of all of my family and closest friends. It has a universal appeal and warmth to it that almost everyone seems to respond to. I honestly believe that anyone who responds to melody and harmony will love this. -- Ben Sumner

1 comment:

Russ said...

I couldn't agree more. There is a vibe on Clube da Esquina that I've never really found on any of the other Milton albums, even Clube da Esquina 2. I love the fact that the songs go off in so many different directions - it makes for an addictive experience!