wax Poetics

Silvio Cesar

Som e Palavras

Released 1977
record label RCA Victor
Written by Greg Casseus

Silvio Cesar <i>Som e Palavras</i> (RCA Victor) 1977
Silvio Cesar Som e Palavras (RCA Victor) 1977

Most people around the world may not realize it, but for all its reputation as the land of samba, Brazil has always had an enormous weakness for romantic ballads, which historically outsell samba by a surprising margin. The biggest record-sellers, numbers-wise, are mostly crooners unknown to a wider world more accustomed to sophisticated, jazzy post-bossa styles. Silvio Cesar is a prime exponent of those sophisticated post-bossa styles, and samba as well, but he also has a knack for a great slow jam and writes ones so hip that even the ballad-averse can get with them. 

This 1977 album is an all-star-backed masterstroke, putting all these strains together and topping them off with a pair of smooth samba-funk bangers that have caused it to be much sought-after by DJs. RCA spared no expense in the production of this album, and the credits are pretty dazzling: Azymuth is the core rhythm section, and they are joined by assorted Banda Black Rio members plus Burnier & Cartier, Paulo Moura, Silvio’s old boss Ed Lincoln (in whose band he started off as a crooner in the early ’60s), Wilson Das Neves, Durval Ferreira, guitar legend Helio Delmiro, vocal group Aquarius, and still others whose own records go for real money. 

“A Festa” is the star attraction with its propulsive José Roberto Bertrami–devised groove with a killer drum part from Mamão Conti, and Alex Malheiros echoing Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” bass line. But don’t sleep on the rest of the album with its beautiful and very hip mid-tempos and ballads in which Bertrami gets supremely creative with synth sounds and Rhodes textures, giving modern producers “in the lab” with good ears a lot to work with. There’s still a lot more to be said about this album, like how it makes you feel like you’re having dinner with an extremely attractive person in some extra-chic and exclusive Rio de Janeiro restaurant, but suffice it to say, it’s something no discerning Brazilian collection should really be without.