A stunner of a record from the mighty Jorge Ben – and a record that catapulted the Brazilian singer to international fame at the time! Ben had already been making magic for almost a decade down in Brazil – and his compositions and grooves left an undeniable impact on the scene in the post-bossa years – but this album has Jorge really emerging as the global soul star he was destined to be – from his powerful stare on the cover, right down to the grit in the grooves!
Ben's first full-length record, this 1963 release contains the hit singles "Mas Que Nada" and "Chove Chuva" and typifies the light yet propulsive rhythms that afforded Ben a decades-long career in Brazilian pop. Not yet pared down to the more rock- and Afro percussive-driven sound he eventually developed, Samba Esquema Novo (which translates to "New Style Samba") is replete with swirling bossa nova rhythms and soaring choruses. Its big-band-style accompaniment, nicely off-set by Ben's signature minor-tone guitar workings, propels the set into an upbeat and enjoyable listen.
First released in 1967, O Bidú is Jorge Ben's fifth full-length album. It is in many ways a typical album for Ben in the '60s, full of sweet, sincere, and mainly upbeat songs, with the music mixing samba with elements of bossa nova, swing, pop, and soul. Compared to many other works by Ben, the string and horn sections are used very sparsely. The tone of the album is set right from the start with the catchy opening track "Amor de Carnaval," one of the best songs Ben has ever written. "Frases," with its soft groove and neat lyrics, and "Toda Colorida" are two other highlights on this highly enjoyable album, whose only real flaw is its brief playing time (only just over 31 minutes).
Recorded the same year as Gil e Jorge, his brilliant collaboration with Jorge Ben, Refazenda keeps up the pace, but in a completely different way. Instead of the acoustic Brazilian folk of Gil e Jorge, Gil focuses on breezy pop. "Jeca Total," "Ê, Povo, Ê," "Tenho Sede," and the title track are dominated by flute, accordion, horns, and gentle strings. Gil is in excellent voice, whether he's delivering a driving song like "Essa é Pra Tocar No Rádio" or more intimate ballads like the last two tracks, "Lamento Sertanejo" and "Meditação." Though "Pai e Mãe" and a few other tracks are slightly reminiscent of the Gil e Jorge LP, Gil reasserts himself here as the pop star whom all of Brazil had expected him to be.