In 2010, tropicalia remains a fairly obscure genre outside of its home country of Brazil. Artists like Caetano Veloso, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil have become legends since the psychedelic movement was first launched, yet for every Veloso or Gil, chances are there are dozens and dozens of bands whose music didn’t cross continents to reach North American or European ears. With that idea in mind, Tropicalia In Furs Records, and compiler and researcher Joel Stones, assembled a 16-track primer on obscure and unknown artists on Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas: Tropicalia Psychedelic Masterpieces 1967-1976. And it’s incredible.
According to the liner notes, many of these songs were printed on promotional-only 7-inches, and in certain cases, Stones even said he was unable to track down the owners of some of the master recordings. In fact, it’s probably some kind of miracle that many of these songs even survived four decades, against the odds. Nonetheless, it’s a wonder they did, because much of the material on display here is as delightful and infectious as that of the more prominent artists in the genre.
The compilation starts off on a truly bizarre note, with Celio Balona’s “Tema de Batman,” which is essentially an extended, space age, acid fried version of the Batman theme, and it’s as fascinating as it is bizarre. From there, the material becomes more approachable, and for that matter, pretty awesome. Loyce e Os Gnomes’ “Era Uma Nota De” is an upbeat garage rocker with a wall of reverb and one of the catchiest hooks on the album. Meanwhile, The Youngsters take on The Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man,” with some sexy, funky strut. Fabio’s “Lindo Sonho Delirante” is part Tom Ze and part James Brown, grooving hard in some parts, and freaking out with odd guttural sound effects in others. Bizarre? Sure, but it’s also one of the coolest tracks on the album. The liner notes point out that “God Save the Queen” by 14 Bis, in fact, predates the formation of the Sex Pistols, though chances are, even with their heady fuzz, nobody would confuse the two.
Very little information seems to be available about Banda de 7 Leguas, yet, curiously enough, their contribution, “Dia de Chuva,” is truly fantastic, a song that should have been a hit in the States, in spite of its Portuguese lyrics. Its melody is one that lodges itself within the listener’s head almost instantly. And Ton & Sergio’s “Vou Sair Do Cativeiro” is the heaviest track on the album, a psych rock dirge that recalls Blue Cheer or Cream, albeit through a Brazilian filter.
Though many compilations exist to unearth obscure for obscure’s sake artifacts, or to commit to digital distribution every last piece of wax taking up space in someone’s attic, Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas is the rare oddities compilation made up exclusively of incredible tracks. In fact, it seems a shame that most of these artists never really made it past a handful of 7-inches. But thanks to Tropicalia in Furs, these amazing recordings live on.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.