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Milton Nascimento: Milagre Dos Peixes/Minas

Milton Nascimento: Milagre Dos Peixes/Minas


By Michael Crumsho | Posted 9/6/2006

With a career that extends across four decades and dozens of albums, Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento has few equals. Although active since the mid-1960s, it was only with 1972’s epochal Clube da Esquina that he exploded onto the world stage, bringing with him a number of hit singles that are still recorded and performed today. A collaborative, communal, and joyous effort that gathered a host of musicians and songwriters--including Lô Borges, whose name co-signs the album--Clube was canonized a classic almost immediately. It was only the first of a string of masterpieces that the singer would write and record throughout the 1970s.

The tight-knit bonds that inspired Clube did not last. Instead of trying to duplicate the album, Nascimento chose to explore grim moods and far more experimental textures with 1973’s recently reissued Milagre Dos Peixes. Gone are the breezy instrumentals, replaced with baroque arrangements that matched backing band Som Imaginario’s spartan accompaniment with Nascimento’s harrowing, mostly wordless vocals, as much a political necessity as an aesthetic choice in the face of the Brazilian dictatorship’s artistic clampdown at the time.

While his earliest records united various strands of buoyant Brazilian popular music, here those same threads are stretched into ballads that threaten imminent collapse. He chants mournfully against Wagner Tiso and Paulo Moura’s spare piano and sax lines on “Carlos, Lucia, Chico E Tiago” and waves a lithe refrain through the skeletal guitar strums and chorus of stabbing shrieks and howls of “A Chamada.” While Clube celebrated the life and times of a group of friends, Milagre was a sobering eulogy--the sound of those ties disintegrating under the weight of fame abroad and the punishing hand of a military regime at home.

Released in 1975 and also recently reissued, Minas is more immediately accessible than its predecessor. Allowing Nascimento’s voice once again to stretch out in place of actual words, his band forges ahead through a set of songs that skirt Brazilian folk with subtle jazz rhythms and acid-soaked guitar. A deeply personal ode to the state in which Nascimento was raised, Minas has a stark sadness that lingers, ruminations on people and places long since passed into his personal history.

He nods to bossa nova with an achingly beautiful cover of “Beijo Partido,” while an exultant backing chorus and lazy rhythm carries him through “Saudade Dos Aviões Da Panair (Conversando No Bar).” The grand string sweeps that course past “Trastevere” and bring Beto Guedes and Toninho Horta’s guitar to blissful climax linger throughout “Leila (Venha Ser Feliz),” working a similar magic on Tiso’s soaring electric piano. And throughout, Nascimento’s now-iconic croon soars skyward--dominant but never once overbearing. Though not nearly as grief-stricken as Milagre Dos Peixes’ canticles to Brazil’s political and social turmoil, Minas is every bit as cathartic in its focus on a far more personal remembrance of Nascimento’s past.

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