MILTON NASCIMENTO Clube Da Esquina (4 Men With Beards)
A landmark in South American popular music, I’d hesitate to describe this 1972 double album as a Brazilian “Abbey Road” as that would almost certainly lead to confusion and disappointment. Nevertheless, there’s a similar glorious, kaleidoscopic clashing of styles in its breathless pursuit of pop perfection. Maybe The Zombies circa “Odessey And Oracle” taking an abrupt left turn into Tropicalia territory might be nearer the mark, with conventional rock instrumentation and rhapsodic orchestrations given more than a twist of local colour. If it never betters joyous opener “Tudo Que VocÍ Podia Ser”, whose chiming, gliding acoustic guitar riff might be the most delightful moment of music I bought last year, it’s hardly a crushing indictment of the 20 tracks that follow, although admittedly some of them do tend towards solo McCartney tinkering. Of course, all the lyrics are in Portuguese, and no English translation is provided (but why should it be, imperialist pig-dog?), so for all I know “Clube Da Esquina” could be a concept album claiming Minis are a waste of tin, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for being so darn entertaining.
To say this might be one of 4 Men With Beards’ better vinyl reissues is the ultimate in backhanded compliments, but if you can get past a certain steely chill to its sonics – no analogue warmth here, I fear – it’s quite good by that company’s generally woeful standards. If only they’d devoted as much attention to the sound as to the packaging, which with its stout cardboard gatefold and lyric insert suggests that more than a bare minimum of effort and concern has been exercised.