Music Reviews
Black Rio 2

Black Rio 2

Original Samba Soul 1971 – 1979


As improbable as it may seem, especially given the Tropicalia movement’s well-documented 1960s struggles with the Brazilian power elites, Black Rio soul and funk musicians were given just as hard a time of it by the authorities. Considered “too black” and not Brazilian enough by the public at large, and given Brazil’s dictatorial rule at the time, it was difficult for most any street-level art or music to flourish – which is a shame, because the music collected from long-lost artists for the upcoming compilation Black Rio 2, a follow-up to the 2002 album Black Rio, is vibrant, moving, and incendiary in equal measures. Kudos to compiler DJ Cliffy.

What jumps out to me most as a listener is the sense of bratty, spontaneous, out-of-control fun that pervades the best tracks. Whereas American soul and funk often oozes machismo, performers like Renata Lu and the truly excellent Os Diagonis (they’re like a compression of a million cool things at once) are just as influenced by the wide-eyed acid pranks of Os Mutantes or the Slits as they are the J.B.’s or Parliament. Guimaraes E O Grupo Som Sagrado hew more closely to the traditional samba sound with cool authority, but splice in bluesy solos and warm, jazzy piano fills. Emilio Santiago’s smooth vocals trip easily (almost pseudo-hip hop or scatting) over hard-nosed cinematic wah-wah funk that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Curtis Mayfield soundtrack. Watusi’s delightfully lo-fi “Oi Gere” goes full-on tropical exotica, with call-and-response vocal exuberance, squawking horns, handclaps and tripped-out xylophone. Super Som Lord takes us on a tour of the seedy underbelly of an island populated by superspies and disreputable bandleaders; horn vamps, organ drone and wah guitar busily dart in and out of darkened corners. Surely the RZA will sample the shit out of this soon? Edson Frederico E A Transa whips up a hyper-kinetic street shuffle, complete with requisite whistle blasts, but the group female vocals, Fender Rhodes, and tight horn section keep it well outside the Carnivale. Marlene’s “Sinal Vermelho” sees her lead a hot big band through a slinky cocktail lounge while she seems frequently out of breath delivering her brassy vocals.

Soundworlds collide harmoniously. Finally, a summer album I can get behind.

Strut Records:

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