Since today would have been Tim Maia’s 70th birthday, I thought I’d say a few words about this collection, which will be released next week by Luaka Bop. Tim Maia (pronounced “Chim Mie-Uh”) is generally regarded as the Godfather of Brazilian Soul music, and with good reason. From the artists he directly worked with such as Roberto and Erasmo Carlos, Elis Regina and Eduardo Araujo to those he clearly influenced like Toni Tornado and Gerson Combo, as both a songwriter and performer his influence looms large over funky music out of Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s.
This collection brings together music from the nine albums he cut in the 1970s, as well as assorted singles during that time. Luaka Bop spent close to 10 years working on this comp., primarily working to secure rights for some of the more obscure tracks from his discography. As a cross-section of Maia’s career, this is a good start, but inexplicably tracks from his first two, and arguably strongest, albums is completely missing. As far as I can tell, the earliest track comes from his 1972 self-titled record (almost ALL of Maia’s records are self-titled, which can be frustrating, but as long as they’re before 1979 you’ll be in good shape). “Where Is My Other Half” is featured twice on that album, in Brazilian portuguese as “Lamento” and this English version. It’s a nice example of Maia’s bittersweet soul side, communicating a deep sadness about love lost. Much of Maia’s early focused on affairs of the heart, though much more often focused on the happier side of things. In some cases, perhaps best represented by 1973′s “Over Again,” my favorite English language song from Maia, we get both sides, a bit of the heartbreak as well as the hope that new love will be eternal. His first two records are full of songs that communicate this, in addition to absolute burners that would perfectly fit the “world psychedelic” label of the Luaka Bop series. Since there are other tracks from his Polydor years, you’d think that rights issues couldn’t have been the reason for leaving them off. My copy doesn’t include the liner notes, which I’m sure clear things up (I’ll update this review when I find out the deal), but the omission is glaring for those who already know Maia’s amazing catalog.
What IS here is a lot of music that is insanely difficult to find, now available with beautiful pristine sound, especially the multiple tracks from Maia’s own Seroma record label, including work from the legendary Racional albums. During the mid-1970s, Maia joined a cult and began making music in line with the ideology of the group. The music from his “Racional” period is some of his most funky and most bizarre, and also most rare, with copies of either volume of Racional fetching upwards of $500 on Ebay and elsewhere. No less than 6 of the 15 tracks come from the Racional period, including what seems like the single version of “Que Beleza.” The 12 minute long “Rational Culture” has been a favorite of mine for years (currently being used on one of the Melting Pot IDs at KPFK), with it’s easy mid tempo beat, and the anthemic chant “We are gonna rule the world, don’t you know, don’t you know…got to put it together.” It’s easy to fade it on out after 4 or 5 mins, but worth listening to all the way just to her Maia preach a little bit about “the most important thing that you ever heard in your life.” Just the snippet of the Racional ideas (both here or in the very short acapella song “You Don’t Know, What I Know”) sounds pretty batty, but Maia is so sincere in his insistence that you “read the book,” that I almost want to get a copy just to see what it’s all about.
Also included in this set are a number of Maia’s late 1970s output, also quite rare to find in Brazil and impossible to find here in the states. “Nobody Can Live Forever” has always struck me as being far too short, but for the 3 minutes it’s on, it’s mesmerizing. “Ela Partiu” released as a single and also featured on a collection of music featuring Maia and other artists on the Underground label has a serious Curtis Mayfield vibe, an artist that Maia is often compared to. For me, the artist that most resembles Maia, both artistically and physically would have been Buddy Miles. Both men were larger than life characters, absolute monsters on the drums and possessing big, gigantic voices with soaring falsettos. Even though it’s not as complete a collection as I would have desired, Luaka Bop deserves massive credit for bringing together all of the many facets of Maia’s artistry together in a single compilation. Their previous collections for Os Mutantes and Shuggie Otis really turned on a lot of people (including me) to work that should have been more recognized when it was recorded. Part of me almost wishes that Maia could stay a well kept secret for those in the know (especially when I think about how his already pricey rare records are likely to see a spike in prices with increased demand), but I sincerely hope that now that his music is more widely available, more people will be able to bear witness to what a fantastic singer, writer and performer Tim Maia truly was. Absolute recommended listening for everyone with ears to hear and a heart to love.
…Just as an added bonus, for both new and long-standing fans of Tim Maia, here are my top five choices for songs that aren’t on the collection but I really wish had been:
“Nao Vou Ficar”
Roberto Carlos recorded “Nao Vou Ficar” first, but Maia wrote it and while his version doesn’t have that massive breakbeat in the middle, it does have a little more oomph musically.
Great mix of swirling organ, heavy drums and stinging guitar topped off with Maia’s trademark vocals, so over the top that they seem to be over the top of over the top.
“Um Dia Eu Chego Lá”
Maybe my favorite upbeat dancer from Maia, from his 1971 album that also features one of his most beloved songs “Não Quero Dinheiro.” I just love the sound of this one, though I never seem to have much success getting anyone other than me to dance to it when I’ve played it out in LA, maybe it’s the strings…
From his 1971 album, this one starts all slow and sweet and then positively explodes at the chorus. So over the top, so soulful and so funky…simply quintessential Maia.
“Idade / Do Your Thing Behave Yourself / Tell The Truth”
Seeing Maia perform brings everything about his music into focus. Dude really was larger than life and he clearly knew it, just check that strut as he performs “Do Your Thing.” But what I was really hoping is that somehow someone had tracked down a recorded version of the song he begins playing at the end of this clip, which I’m just calling “Tell The Truth” since those are the only lyrics I can make out. Before seeing this it hadn’t occurred to me that all those Buddy Miles comparisons were even more apt since Maia is likely playing the drums on many of his tracks. Seeing this clip also makes me wish that in addition to all this fantastic music, there was a video component so we could see Maia in his prime performing as soulfully as anyone in the game.