Back in 1969, Bossa Rio released their now legendary album Bossa Rio on Herb Albert’s A&M Records. The album was produced by Sergio Mendes, who’d brought Bossa Rio to A&M. After signing with A&M, their first appearance was on Cannonball Adderley’s album Cannonball’s Bossa Nova, released in 1962. This wouldn’t be Bossa Rio’s last collaboration with Cannonball Adderley, with the group appearing on Cannonball Adderley Con Sergio Mendes Y El Sexteto Bossa Rio. By 1969, Bossa Rio were ready to record their eponymous debut album, Bossa Rio. No doubt, A&M were hoping that Bossa Rio’s debut album would prove as commercially successful as Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’66. So, hiring the man behind the success story that is Brasil ’66, made sense. Sergio Mendes was chosen to produce Bossa Rio, which although it contained popular US hits like Bacharach and David’s Do You Know the Way To San Jose, Jimmy Webb’s Up, Up and Away has many more secrets and hidden gems awaiting discovery. These included Day By Day, previously a hit for Astrud Gilberto, Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobin, Saiupa, the beautiful Gentle Rain and the beauty of both Boa Palavra and Cancao Do Sal. In total, Bossa Rio laid down twelve tracks for their debut album Bossa Rio. They’re variously compelling, beautiful, haunting and enchanting as you’ll discover, when I tell you about the music on Bossa Rio, which was rereleased by Rev-Ola in 2009.

Opening Bossa Rio’s debut album is Por Causa De Voce Menina written Jorge Ben. Although just over two minutes long, they’re filled with beauty and drama. A combination of piano, percussion, stabs of Hammond organ and drums, give way to the a beautiful sound of Grachinha Leporace’s vocal. She’s accompanied by a male vocal, their voices a perfect fit for each other. Then it’s all change. The track becoming stirring and dramatic. Punchy vocals, percussion and flourishes of piano punctuate the arrangement, before returning to its previous sound. However, then when your least expecting it, the track almost explodes, as it heads to it dramatic and stirring crescendo.

Many artists may have recorded Bacharach and David’s easy listening classic, Do You Know The Way To San Jose but here Bossa Rio inject some bossa rhythms and Latin soul into the track. With a much quicker tempo and a proliferation of percussion, piano and drums that accompanying Grachinha’s vocal, the track reveals its charms. Although, Grachinha’s sunny, but winsome vocal is augmented by a male vocal, her vocal transforms the track, turning it into a slice of sunshine pop, with a Brazilian heartbeat and real feel-good sound.

Wave allows Grachinha’s vocal to take centre-stage, allowing you to focus on the beauty, emotion and sometimes almost fragility of her vocal. It’s just an acoustic guitar, percussion and drums that provide an accompaniment to her vocal. Here, the rest of Bossa Rio are merely the support act for Grachinha, whose vocal is not only heartfelt and emotive, but hauntingly beautiful.

Day By Day is mostly, a laid-back sounding track, which later, reveals its samba charms, growing in power and vitality. Here, Grachinha is accompanied by a backdrop of piano, percussion and drums as the tracks sashays along. Later the track grows in power and energy, with the Hammond organ, piano, percussion and drums that accompany Grachinha’s lilting vocal on this irresistible track.

An acoustic guitar opens Boa Palavra as a heartfelt vocal from Grachinha enters. It’s one of the most moving, beautiful vocals on the album. However, just when you’re enjoying it, the track changes, bursting briefly into life. Before long, the beautiful, emotive sound of Grachinha reappears, before it’s all change again, with the track heading towards a frenzied, dramatic conclusion. However, what makes this such a compelling track is the poignant and wistful vocal from Grachinha.

Anyone my age, will remember hearing 5th Dimension’s version of this Jimmy Webb  penned track Up, Up And Away growing up. Here, Bossa Rio brighten your day with their version of the track. With just drums, percussion and standup bass combining, the track opens, before Grachinha’s vocal enters. She’s accompanied by stabs of Hammond organ, while flourishes of piano and a male vocal augment her vocal. Together, Bossa Rio mix emotion, drama and power, while injecting some sunshine into Jimmy Webb’s classic track, that remind you of growing up and long hot summer days on sandy beaches.

Nana has a much more authentic sound than the previous easy listening classic. Pounding drums, punchy piano, percussion and Grachinha’s combine on this stirring, sometimes dramatic track. Later, the entrance of a Hammond organ, sees the track a “groovy” diversion, before the piano takes over, accompanying Grachinha and the male vocal. Their vocals reflect the punchiness of the rhythms, before floating effortlessly along, towards the punchy, dramatic ending. Although quite different to the previous track, given its more authentic Brazilian sound, it’s impossible not to succumb to its charms and delights.

Old Devil Moon is one of the real highlights of Bossa Rio. After drums, percussion and piano give way to Grachinha’s vocal, it’s obvious that’s this is glorious slice of samba that’s revealing its subtleties and secrets. A punchy piano is like a signal for the track to reveal its joyous sound. As it does, you become swept away by the sound, a surprise awaits you. A solo from the Hammond organ sees the track head in a jazzy direction. From there, stabs of Hammond, handclaps, percussion and drums deliver a delicious, delightful and joyful sounding track, made all the better by Grachinha’s vocal.

Following the delights of the previous track, Veleiro is a much more subdued, but quite beautiful and emotive track. Grachinha’s winsome, thoughtful vocal is accompanied by a male vocal, while the piano, percussion, drums and acoustic guitar combine to accompany them. Together, they provide a backdrop that meanders and flows along, with occasional peaks and troughs punctuating the arrangement. Meanwhile, Grachinha adds melancholy, poignant vocals that are intensely, compelling.

Gentle Rain is one of the most beautiful, poignant tracks on Bossa Rio. Here, Grachinha doesn’t sing lead, replaced by a hauntingly beautiful male vocal, accompanied by an understated arrangement, where percussion, piano and standup bass combine. Later, a flute is added, adding to the sense of poignancy that the track evokes. For nearly four minutes, you’re taken on an emotional journey where your heartstrings are tugged by this heartachingly beautiful track.

Closing Bossa Rio’s debut album Bossa Rio is Cancao Do Sal which sees the return of Grachinha. Her gentle vocal is accompanied by a shuffling bossa beat, while stabs of Hammond, percussion and drums accompany her. Augmenting her vocal is male vocal, while drums add drama, driving the track along. They’re key to arrangement, as the track veers between a gentle to a louder, more powerful sound and style. Regardless of whether the track is gentle or louder and more powerful, one thing is constant, the quality of music that Bossa Rio produce. 

When Bossa Rio released Bossa Rio in 1969, many Brazilian artists had made the breakthrough to mainstream music. None more so that Sergio Mendes, who produced Bossa Rio. Along with artists like Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, the sound of the bossa nova became  hugely popular. Even American jazz musicians like Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd helped popularize the bossa nova sound. On Bossa Rio, with Sergio Mendes’ help, Bossa Rio recorded eleven tracks of authentic Brazilian music, music which forty-three years later, still has the same timeless sound and power. It evokes and awakens a variety of emotions, from sadness to joy, and everything in between. Key to Bossa Rio’s sound was Grachinha Leporace’s vocal helps stir and awaken emotions and feelings within you. To me, she played a huge part in the success of Bossa Rio, with her delivery ranging from heartfelt, poignant, sad and joyous. Together with the rest of Bossa Rio, she helped create an album which even today, still sounds just as good as it did back in 1969. For that reason, I can throughly recommend that anyone who loves either Latin or jazz music, investigate the bossa nova classic that is Bossa Rio’s debut album Bossa Rio released by Rev-Ola in 2009. Standout Tracks: Wave, Day By Day, Old Devil Moon and Gentle Rain.


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