Lincoln Olivetti 2: Brazilian Disco Don & AOR Ace 1975–1997
by Allen Thayer
The world’s attention will soon be on Brazil for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The last time there was a global sporting event in Brazil, the 2014 World Cup, a little mix I had fortuitously just finished, called Lincoln Olivetti: Brazilian Boogie Boss 1978–1984, managed to get swept up in that summer’s Brazilianity. I couldn’t believe it at first as my mix was reposted, tweeted and recommended left and right. I knew the music was good, but 86k listens-and-counting-good? Clearly, the quality of Lincoln’s work overpowered my poor mixing skills and nerdy song selection criteria. The mix took on a life of its own thanks to tweets from a KCRW DJ, a glowing review on the Afropop website and repeated listens for the past two years. Last week averaged seventy listens a day.
Then something really sad happened. Last January 15, Lincoln Olivetti passed away. I was of course touched and humbled to hear from Kassin, who knew Lincoln well in his final years, that “the mixtape you did made him really, really happy. Like, we were crying here when we listened. He was so emotional about it to be recognized outside [Brazil]. It was really, really meaningful to him.” As a music lover, the fact that Lincoln listened, approved and was touched by the mix is far more important than the total number of listens, but I’m sure part of what touched Lincoln was seeing just how many people were listening to his work. Just because he’s gone, I haven’t stopped listening to and digging for his slow-jams, instrumental jams, AOR jams, or any kinda jams. The man was so deep and he covered so many genres with many of his productions reaching the top of the Brazilian charts during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.
I wanna relay an anecdote I heard recently from legendary Brazilian lyricist Tibério Gaspar, though I couldn’t find reference to it in an exhaustive five-minute Google search, and therefore cannot guarantee its factuality, but it has sufficient truthiness so I’ll proceed: Creed Taylor, the legendary jazz producer and studio owner, was in Brazil and was asked how he does what he does, how he’s so good? His response was something like, “I can only take credit for so much, I have a great team with talented people, like my engineer, who’s the best and my mastering guy, I have at least seven people. You know who’s impressive? Your guy Lincoln Olivetti, he does it all extremely well while also writing songs and playing in the band!” For those less familiar with Brazil’s funkier side, let it be made clear that there are countless mixes to be made or already in existence with phenomenal funk, disco and boogie sounds from Brazil that have absolutely nothing to do with Lincoln Olivetti and his steady partner Robson Jorge. However, Lincoln and Robson were so prolific, it’s like comparing their output to the collective works of Quincy Jones, Steve Arrington, Maurice White, and David Foster.
With the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics looming it’s the perfect time to head back down to Brazil, musically. I decided to make a new mix to share some more songs that Lincoln graced. The first mix was certainly not exhaustive of his catalog, far from it. Of course I had some superb leftovers that didn’t make the last mix set aside in a playlist: “Lincoln Leftovers.” I started to go through my records again, do some internet sleuthing, and asked some friends for input, namely Brazilian Boogie Professor Júnior Santos, the man responsible for the killer compilation Brazilian Disco Boogie Sounds 1978–1982. By the time I got ready to cull my collected tracks and formulate a mix, it was clear there were enough first rate tracks to make two mixes spanning pop, soul, funk, AOR, disco, boogie, and samba styles. Rather than flood the market with more mixes than it can appreciate, I whittled down my selections to those with the strongest disco and AOR tendencies, all songs that need to be heard by Lincoln lovers.
Song selection: The Ambassador & Júnior Santos
Sequencing: The Ambassador
Mixing: The Ambassador & Morgan Hynson
1. Quinteto Ternura – “Linda Manhã” (1978)
This is the last recording by the sibling group, previously known as Trio Ternura. The vocal group dates back to at least 1968 with many other great Brazilian soul tunes to their credit spread over numerous singles and just a few LPs. This, their last single, appeared on the “O Pulo Do Gato” telenovela soundtrack so it was a semi-hit as a result and received a seven-inch pressing. The production is credited to Raymondo Bittencourt, but the synths and arrangements are all Lincoln Olivetti. This is the first tune that Júnior Santos contributed to the mix.
2. Ed Carlos – “Eu Não Me Importo Como Coisas Do Mundo” (1977)
Lincoln was just getting his start producing, arranging and conducting major studio projects at this time and Ed Carlos along with Antonio Marcos were mainstream singers he did a lot of production for at CBS and RCA respectively. Jairo Pires, who recently moved from Polydor to CBS tapped Robson Jorge for production and Lincoln and he shared arrangements. The core musical team on future hits and many tunes on this mix are already in place here: Lincoln & Robson on keys and guitars, respectively, Paulo Cesar on bass, Picolé on drums and Renato Britto on percussion. Most of the album is fluffy, pop, romantic crap, but then this Bebeto tune sneaks its way deep into side B showing off Lincoln’s trademark dramatic horn intro and his fantastic keyboard work.
3. Os Famks – “Riso Amarelo” (1978)
This is the first of two songs by this group, the Brazilian equivalent of the Saturday Night Fever-era Bee Gees. Lincoln is all over the place on production of this album and you can hear multiple layers of his synths on most tracks. This one caught my ear after I’d gotten over my love affair with the other track from this album on the mix (#17).
4. Tony Bizarro – “Não Vejo A Hora” (1977)
Previously recording as Tony e O Som Colorido and half of the duo Tony & Frankye, Tony Bizarro (his real name) worked mostly as a record producer who would sometimes jump in the studio to contribute back-up vocals. One day, his boss at Polydor, Jairo Pires, commented on how fantastically he sang. When Jairo jumped ship for CBS a short time later, he suggested Tony for a solo album as CBS was looking for someone to compete with the Brazilian soul styles of Tim Maia, Cassiano, and Hyldon on their competitor’s labels. Not every song on the album has Lincoln’s touch, but of the ones that do, this one is in that sunny, flute-laden AOR sweet spot.
5. Claudia Telles – “Foi Como Um Sonho” (1978)
Robson and Lincoln had their big professional break as R&B-influenced producers with Claudia Telles’s 1976 slow burner “Fim Da Tarde,” but for me her best is this 1978 album also produced by Lincoln with help from Robson. The fist Lincoln mix has “Conselhos,” but for this second mix I went with this sweet and bouncing number.
6. Gilberto Gil – “Palco” (1981)
While the first Lincoln Olivetti mix was mostly comprised of albums tracks, obscure artists, and obscure songs by well-known artists, this one showcases some of the bigger commercial radio hits from back in the day that Lincoln had a hand in. This one, a huge hit for Gil and the title track from his 1981 album, is a perfect synthesis of Gil’s songwriting with Lincoln’s dramatic and effervescent production.
7. Rita Lee – “Lança Perfume” (1980)
Another massive Brazilian hit, this tune is the first of two songs on this mix to shamelessly use the memorable keyboard part from the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” getting some nice mileage out of that iconic AOR motif. Rita Lee, nearly a decade after leaving the seminal Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes, delivers a sophisticated disco dancer that owes an oyster on the half-shell or two to Chic’s bourgie sound and image. But speaking of doobies, this song’s lyrics contain thinly veiled references to wee smoking.
8. Ed Motta – “Daqui Pro Méier” (1997)
By far the most recent tune on this mix, this song received Lincoln Olivetti horn and string arrangements at a time when it was unheard of for younger artists like Ed. Lincoln’s trademark arrangements are a perfect complement to Ed’s killer pop-funk groove. “Watching Lincoln rule over the string section was a clinic, total military attitude even in the studio, without having to ask please in a fake bossa nova guy style,” Ed tells me. More than just his attitude or technique, Ed really appreciated Lincoln’s musical ambition and professionalism: “He went the distance. In his studio in Rio de Janeiro he put everyone in a truly international setting like you don’t see here anymore [in Brazil], not for lack of talent, but for laziness. It takes work to get it right in the studio… He deserves a giant tribute as a name that represents accuracy, competence and futurism.” That’s what we’re trying to do here, Ed, and I know you approve.
9. Don Beto – “Tudo Novamente” (1978)
Don is a second tier figure in the 1970s Brazilian soul scene and this was his first and only album, which is a shame, because it’s great. Lincoln is firmly in charge across the whole album delivering top-shelf disco, AOR, and the slinky slow jams. A great songwriter, Don’s songs show up on albums by other artists in the Brazilian soul music galaxy.
10. Marcos Valle – “Velhos Surfistas Querendo Voar” (1981)
Recently back from the States, Marcos signed up with Som Livre for his 1981 album, a modern soul masterpiece that deserves a widespread reissue. Not a bad song on the album. Lincoln plays on a few songs and arranged the horns on this song here, which features a co-writing credit for Leon Ware, the legendary Motown songwriter who was responsible for Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece from 1976 I Want You. Marcos and Leon were songwriting buddies for a short time while Marcos lived in L.A. for a few years in the late seventies. Leon and Marcos’ albums from the early eighties contain a handful of songs written together, but their own versions are mostly radically different. This tune is Marcos’s “version” of Leon Ware’s modern soul masterpiece “Rocking You Eternally,” though the songs are far from identical with the similarities only appearing in the chorus’ chord progressions.
11. Painel De Controle – Não Deixe A Rosa Morrer” (1981)
Júnior Santos in the mix once again with the mix’s second Brazilian spin on “What A Fool Believes”( more than two exist, believe me, I have at least one more song biting the Doobies’ but it wasn’t touched by Lincoln) by Painel De Controle (“Control Panel”) a popular banda de baile (popular suburban dance band) from Cascadura, a northern suburb of Rio that Lincoln had produced for a number of years. This is their final release, a single-only jam, with a killer moog solo by Lincoln and that Doobies groove mixed in for maximum earworm effect!
12. Rita Lee – “Chega Mais” (1979)
Rita’s reputation is as rebellious rocker, not unlike Debbie Harry or Joan Jett, if either of them were in their country’s most iconic psych band, so when disco hit, she made like Debbie and delivered some side-eye disco hits to the Brazilian disco masses. Like “Lança Perfume” this one was also a major hit for Rita and a well-loved tune among as Brasileiras. Evidently, the song’s lyrics are also approving of herbal intoxication.
13. Robson Jorge – “Tudo Bem” (1977)
Easily one of the best bass lines in the Brazilian funk cannon, compared to the earlier single version, the album version of this tune turns up the heat. Lincoln and Robson are working with their core crew here (the same dudes mentioned in #2) delivering Brazil’s best funk alongside friendly rivals in Banda Black Rio, the boys from Azymuth, and as velhas camaradas (the old friends): Tim, Hyldon & Cassiano.
14. Ronaldo Reseda – “E Novamente Mas Que Nada” (1980)
Lincoln rescued what could have easily been at best a forgettable attempt and at worst an embarrassing disco remake of Jorge Ben’s ubiquitous “Mas Que Nada” with his smoking arrangements and rhythmic mastery on this tune by Ronaldo Reseda. For my money, this song contains the ultimate samba-funk breakdown, screaming out for dance music producers, sample junkies or DJs to tweak, flip, or rock doubles. Curiously, the album this was pulled from also includes covers of the previous song, “Tudo Bem” as well as another great Rita Lee track, “Marron Glacé,” not featured on this mix.
15. Marcos Valle – “Estrelar” (1983)
Most Brazilians forty or younger have no idea who Marcos Valle is, but if they do, it’s memories of this, his biggest hit. Lyrically, the song is pure Jane Fonda jazzercise corniness, with Marcos encouraging listeners to “run, sweat, work-out,” but the groove is one of Marcos’ and Lincoln’s best with gorgeous melodies and arrangements undergirded by a formidable groove. This one nearly made it on the first mix, but instead I opted for a lesser-known tune in Marcos’s exercise-themed follow-up tune to this one, “Bicicleta.” Not only was “Estrelar” a big hit back in the day, but it’s been getting some love more recently from DJs, record collectors and music lovers and was even featured in a Southern Comfort commercial a few years back.
16. Tony Blue – “Bicho Ruim” (1980)
Gotta give it up to Júnior Santos for this one, a Lincoln Olivetti deep cut available only on a four-song picture sleeve EP from 1980. According to Júnior’s research, Tony’s real name is Agusto Morettoni and this song was a “tribute” to a particularly annoying friend who was always causing drama, “Bad bug, give me a break, you’re not worth anything, but it’s okay . . .” The groove is appropriately nasty with a killer guitar line for extra sleaze. As far as I know this is Tony’s only release and features one other nice track co-written and produced by Lincoln.
17. Os Famks – “Labirinto” (1978)
I’ll give credit to Júnior for this one too, because he included it on his excellent Brazilian Boogie Sounds compilation and upon hearing it the first time (after the first Lincoln mix) I had momentary pangs of shame and regret for not knowing it and including it on my mix. Problem solved with this mix. And the Os Famks album is so great, I decided to include two songs. What does “Os Famks” mean? I have no idea, nor do any Brazilians I asked. On top of that, the band’s name is nearly impossible to pronounce without sounding like you have a speech impediment. I’m guessing that’s why they changed their name to “Roupa Nova” for their subsequent releases, unfortunately without Lincoln’s involvement.
18. Robson Jorge E Lincoln Olivetti – “Ginga” (1983)
I nearly wrapped up this mix without including any Lincoln Olivetti “solo” material and since I used two songs from his self-titled album with Robson Jorge from 1983 on the first mix, I couldn’t remember if there were more jams to be culled from the recently reissued Quiet Storm/boogie classic. Upon jogging my memory, “Ginga” (meaning “shake”) with its classic Lincoln horn arrangements, popping percussion and George Benson-esque vocalese, fit the bull just fine.
19. Rosana – Você Pode (1981)
Júnior Santos gets partial credit for this one because by sending it to me for consideration along with the other tracks, he inadvertently reminded me that I already had this tune from a Rosana LP that I had yet to revisit. Rosana started her career singing lead vocals as a teenager in her father’s funk and soul banda de baile, the Cry Babies, who released one super-rare LP in 1969. She released five singles between 1978 and 1981 before finally getting her own solo LP in 1983 (also featuring Lincoln Olivetti, Robson Jorge and gang) with her most famous tune being the Lincoln Olivetti-produced single with Tim Maia guesting on vocals, “Chegou A Hora.” This slow-burning boogie joint originally comes from a Lincoln-produced single from 1981, though the above image is from the compilation I have from 1988.
20. Lucia Turnbull – “Aroma” (1980)
Lucia is best known as a friend and frequent collaborator of Rita Lee’s, famously recording an unreleased-at-the-time album credited to both ladies called Cilibrinas Do Eden. She continued with Rita in her post Mutantes band Tutti Frutti playing guitar and joining on vocals. As such, she’s noted as one of the first female rock guitar players in Brazil. Through her participation with Rita Lee on her duet album with Gilberto Gil from 1977 she got to know the dreadlocked Bahian, who contributed this reggae-flavored song to her first and only solo album from 1980. You can hear Gil joining in on vocals during the song’s outro.
21. Tim Maia – “Tudo Vai Mudar” (1980)
This tune comes from yet another self-titled Tim Maia album, this one a one-off LP for Polydor from 1980 with Lincoln firmly in control. I used “Não Va” on the first mix, but this LP is no one-tracker with some dance-floor burners like “Você E Eu, Eu E Você (Juntinhos)” and this mid-tempo jam. In a recent conversation with legendary Brazilian lyricist Tibério Gaspar he shared that Tim Maia deferred to no one in the recording studio except for Lincoln Olivetti, who he trusted completely beginning with 1977’s Tim Maia Disco Club up through this album and would use him whenever the recording budget would allow.
22. Vanusa – “Congênito” (1975)
This the earliest arranging credit I’ve seen for Lincoln Olivetti, dating back to 1975 and recorded in São Paulo as opposed to most of his famous work, which was done in Rio de Janeiro. His mentor, legendary Brazilian arranger and producer Chiquinho De Moraes is producing here, letting his protégé take over on arrangements on a few tunes like this groovy number. The next Vanusa album from 1977 finds Lincoln handling arranging duties solo. The song was written by up and coming songwriter Luiz Melodia. Thanks to Júnior Santos one last time for this one.
23. Junior Mendes – “Rio Sinal Verde” (1982)
The final tune was recently featured on Favorite Recordings’ first volume of AOR Global Sounds (1977–1982). Pulled from Junior Mendes’s only solo album Copacabana Sadia, the album is one of Lincoln’s masterpieces featuring the cream of the crop of Rio musicians and chock-full of funk, soul and AOR grooves.
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