Lula Côrtes & Zé Ramalho: Paêbirú

Lula Côrtes & Zé Ramalho
Shadoks Music

This record has a great backstory: a psychedelic double album recorded in Brazil in 1974, released the next year but virtually unheard because of a warehouse fire that destroyed virtually every copy in existence. Lost for years, until revived and reissued by the folks at Shadoks Music….

I don’t believe it for a minute.* Not because I don’t know about the wild psych-rock scene in Brazil, because I do, at least a little. And not because stuff like this didn’t happen in the pre-Internet years, because, sure, why not? And certainly not because “it’s too good to have been recorded back then,” although it is really good, incredible even. But there were so many amazing Brazilian albums in the late 1960s and 1970s that Paêbirú‘s quality isn’t, like, suspicious.

It just seems too convenient, is all. Don’t you think someone would have heard this album before now, if it was really so great? And isn’t the sound quality just a little bit too perfect? And the album art and the lyrics and photos are all lovingly reproduced in the CD booklet, but isn’t there just too much of this stuff to have actually been in a double-album of 1975?

Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about any of that stuff, not really. Because this is a wonderfully off-kilter record, full of wonderfully hooky and strange tunes that range all over the place, from full-on freakouts to quiet pastoral pieces (sometimes in the same song!), and all the conceivable areas in between. It is even a concept album!; Paêbirú is divided into four sections (ostensibly the four sides of the album) which correspond to the four elements. How adorbz is that?

The two main honchos lead their variably-sized band through some wild passages. “Culto A Terra” is tribal Woodstockism, but in a way that avoids cliché, and ends up segueing into the lovely flute-driven “Bailado das Muscarias.” The “Fogo” side — “fire” — leads off with “Raga Dos Raios”, which features some impressive shredding by guest Don Tronxo on “electric and nervous guitar”. This leads right into “Nas Paredes da Pedra Encantada”, which sounds like an Acid Mothers Temple workout except a lot funkier. The “Agua” side has at least three beautiful songs and a bad attitude, which I love. And “Ar”, the “air” side, is all lovely arpeggios and then less-lovely but more appreciated “Maggot Brain”-isms of “Nâo Existe Molhado Igual ao Prente.” They go nuts, they calm down, they go nuts, they tell someone to play a saxophone for a couple of minutes, they remember learning to dance samba and then they smoke some dope… the entire range of 1970s hippie Brazilian musician culture is RIGHT HERE, but it knows how to have fun and epatez the freakin’ bourgeois anyway. Other surprises await, but it would be churlish to reveal them, even in a review, and I am no churl.

Paêbirú is edgy, it’s experimental, but it’s relentlessly driven towards fun. If you like good music, you will like this. If you think you like good music, but you hate this, then you don’t actually like good music at all. No matter when it actually came out first, this is one of the best psychedelic albums you will find during 2005, or 2006, or 1960, or 1975, or whenever the hell it came out.

* This is said purely for dramatic effect. I do actually believe that this record came out, albeit briefly, in 1975. However, if it turns out that this is a massive hoax, this note is null and void, and I want credit for discovery.

RATING 9 / 10
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