CULT CALSSIC: TIM MAIA-RACIONAL VOLUME 2.
Cult Classic: Tim Maia-Racional Volume 2.
By 1975, Tim Maia was a changed man and had turned his back on the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that he had embraced and enjoyed since releasing his eponymous debut album in 1970. Back then, the charismatic Brazilian singer realised that he was only here for a visit and decided to live life to the fullest. He drank, took drugs and partied as he enjoyed the newfound wealth his musical career had brought him.
Despite that wealth and a lifestyle that many of his fans must have envied, Tim Maia wasn’t happy. The problem was the royalty rate that he had been paid by Polydor for his first four album. That was why he decided to found his own publishing company Seroma. This just happened to coincide with him signing to RCA Victor.
This was a new start for Tim Maia, and he began work on his next album which was going to be a double album. He wrote and recorded the instrumental parts and all that was left was for him to write the lyrics.
Seeking inspiration for the lyrics, Tim Maia decided to visit one of his former songwriting partners Tibério Gaspar. That was where he found the book that would change his life, but sadly, not for the better. The book was Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment) which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture. It transformed Tim Maia’s life and inspired what was to be his fifth album Racional Volumes 1 and 2, which was also the most controversial of his career. It was the latest extraordinary chapter in his life.
Tim Maia, was born in Rio De Janeiro on September the ‘28th’ 1942 and was the eighteenth of nineteen children. Aged just six, he earned a living delivering homemade food which his mother cooked. This he hoped would be the nearest he ever got to an ordinary job. After that, Tim Maia decided to devote himself to music which offered him an escape from the grinding poverty that was around him.
It turned out that Tim Maia was a prodigiously talented child who wrote his first song as an eight year old. By the time he was fourteen, he had learnt to play the drums and formed his first group Os Tijucanos do Ritmo. They were only together for a year, but during that period, Tim Maia took guitar lessons and was soon a proficient guitarist. This would stand him in good stead in the future.
In 1957, Tim Maia joined the vocal harmony group The Sputniks who made a television appearance on Carlos Eduardo Imperial’s Clube do Rock. However, the group was a short-lived, and Tim Maia embarked upon a solo career. This lasted until 1959 when the seventeen year old decided to emigrate.
Tim Maia decided to head to America, which he believed he was the land of opportunity and arrived in New York with just twelve dollars in his pocket. On his arrival, he who was unable to speak English, but somehow managed to bluff his way through customs telling the officials that he was a student called Jimmy. Incredibly, the customs officer believed him and he made his way to Tarrytown, New York, where he lived with extended family and started making plans for the future. By then, Tim Maia had decided he would never return to Brazil.
During his time in New York, Tim Maia held down a variety of casual jobs and it has been alleged that he even augmented his meagre earnings by committing petty crimes. However, Tim Maia also learnt to speak and sing in English which lead to him forming a vocal group, The Ideals.
During his time with The Ideals, they decided to record a demo which included New Love which featured lyrics by Tim Maia. When they entered the studio, percussionist Milton Banana made a guest appearance. Sadly, nothing came of the demo although Tim Maia later resurrected New Love for his album Tim Maia 1973. Before that, things went awry for Tim Maia and he was eventually deported.
Confusion surrounds why and when Tim Maia was deported from America, and there’s two possible explanations. The first, and more rock ’n’ roll version is that Tim Maia was arrested on possession of cannabis in 1963, and deported shortly thereafter. That seems unlikely given how punitive penalties for possession of even a small quantity of cannabis were in the sixties. Indeed, it’s highly unlikely that Tim Maia would’ve been deported without having to serve a jail sentence first. This lends credence to the allegation that Tim Maia was caught in a stolen car in Daytona, Florida, and after serving six months in prison he was deported back to Brazil in 1964.
Now back home in Brazil, Tim Maia’s life seemed to be going nowhere fast. He was fired from several jobs and was also arrested several times. It was no surprise when he decided to move to São Paulo, where he hoped that he could get his career back on track.
Having moved to São Paulo, Tim Maia, hoped he would be reunited with Roberto Carlos who had been a member of The Sputniks. Ironically, it was Roberto Carlos who Tim Maia had insulted before he left The Sputniks. Despite leaving several messages, Roberto Carlos never returned Tim Maia’s calls and he had no option but to try to make his own way in the São Paulo music scene.
Tim Maia’s persistence paid off, and soon, he had featured on Wilson Simonal’s radio show, and then appeared alongside Os Mutantes on local television. Despite making inroads into the São Paulo music scene, Tim Maia was still determined to contact Roberto Carlos and sent him a homemade demo. Eventually, Tim Maia’s persistence paid off.
When Roberto Carlos heard the demo, he recommended Tim Maia to CBS who offered him a recording deal for a single, and an appearance on the Jovem Guarda television program. However, when Tim Maia’s released his debut single Meu País in 1968, it failed to find an audience.
Tim Maia tried a new approach with his sophomore single and recorded These Are the Songs, in English. It was released later in 1968, but again, commercial success eluded Tim Maia. Things weren’t looking good for the twenty-six year old singer.
Fortunately, Tim Maia’s luck changed when he wrote These Are the Songs for Roberto Carlos which gave his old friend a hit single. At last, things were looking up for Tim Maia.
Things continued to improve when Elis Regina became captivated by Tim Maia’s composition These Are the Songs. This led to Elis Regina asking Tim Maia to duet with her on the song. Tim Maia agreed and they recorded the song in English and Portuguese and the song featured on Elis Regina’s 1970 album Em Pieno Veroa. Recording with such a famous Brazilian singer gave Tim Maia’s career a huge boost, and soon, he was offered a recording contract by Polydor.
Having signed to Polydor in 1970, and somewhat belatedly recorded his debut album Tim Maia 1970. Although it showcased a talented, versatile and charismatic singer, who married soul and funk with samba and Baião. This groundbreaking album spent twenty-four weeks in the upper reaches of the Brazilian charts and launched Tim Maia’s career.
The following year, Tim Maia returned with his sophomore album Tim Maia 1971, where elements of soul and funk were combined with samba and Baião There were even hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock during what was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music. It was released to critical acclaim and like his debut was a commercial success.
Tim Maia 1971 also featured two hits singles Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar) and Preciso Aprender a Ser Só. Having released just two albums Tim Maia’s star was in the ascendancy, and it looked as if he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars of Brazilian music.
After the success of his sophomore album, Tim Maia headed to London to celebrate after years of struggling to make a breakthrough. For the first time in his career he was making a good living out of music, and he was determined to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of his label. However, it was during this trip to London, that he first discovered his love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
Realising that he was only here for a visit, Tim Maia embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and almost defiantly, lived each day as if it was his last. He hungrily devoured copious amounts of drugs and alcohol which became part of Tim Maia’s daily diet. Fortunately, his new-found lifestyle didn’t seem to affect his ability to make music. That was until he discovered a new drug that would prove to be his undoing.
In London, Tim Maia discovered LSD and became an advocate of its supposed mind opening qualities. He took 200 tabs of LSD home to Brazil and gave it to his friends and people at his record label. Little did he know, but this was akin pressing the self destruct button.
Over the next two years, he released two further albums, Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. Both were released critical acclaim and were a commercial success in Brazil. It seemed that the charismatic singer who had been christened the father of Brazilian soul music could do no wrong.
The only problem was that after the success of Tim Maia 1973, Tim Maia became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. This led to him founding his own publishing company Seroma, which coincided with Tim Maia signing to RCA Victor.
Racional Volumes 1 and 2.
RCA Victor had offered Tim Maia the opportunity to record a double album for his fifth album and he was excited by this opportunity. He, agreed to sign to RCA Victor and soon, began work on his fifth album.
Somehow, Tim Maia was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs. He and his band headed to house in a quiet part of Rio de Janeiro and spent their days smoking marijuana and experimenting with hallucinogenics as they worked on new songs. By the end of July, they already had worked out several dozen songs and instrumental grooves followed . They stayed true to Tim Maia’s samba-soul formula.All that was left was for Tim to write the lyrics to the double album.
Seeking inspiration for the lyrics, Tim Maia decided to visit one of his former songwriting partners Tibério Gaspar. That was where Tim main found the book that would change his life, but sadly, not for the better. The book was Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment), which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture who didn’t believe in eating red meat or using drugs. Given Tim Maia’s voracious appetite for drink and drugs, he seemed an unlikely candidate to join the cult. However, sadly, he did. It’s also alleged that he coerced the rest of band to join the cult and live by its strict precepts.
Straight away, the cult’s beliefs affected Tim Maia and his music. Ever since he joined the cult of Rational Energy, he was clean-shaved, dressed in white and no longer drank, ate red meat, smoked or took drugs. He also became fixated on UFOs and wherever he went he held a mysterious book in his hand. Tim Maia was a changed man and even his music changed.
The lyrics for his fifth album, and RCA Victor debut, were supposedly about his newly acquired knowledge that came courtesy of Universo em Desencanto. With the ‘lyrics’ complete, Tim Maia’s vocals were overdubbed onto what became Racional Volumes 1 and 2. With the album completed, Tim took it to RCA Victor who promptly rejected the album.
RCA Victor’s reason for rejecting the album was that it wasn’t of a commercial standard. To make matters worse, the lyrics made absolutely no sense. There was only one small crumb of comfort and that was that Tim Maia’s voice was improving. That hardly mattered for RCA Victor who said that they weren’t going to release the album. For RCA Victor, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 was a huge disappointment.
That was until Tim Maia offered to buy the master tapes from RCA Victor so that he could release the album independently. RCA Victor accepted his offer which allowed them to recoup some of their money. Having bought the master tapes, Tim Maia set about releasing Racional Volume 1 in 1975.
When critics and record buyers heard the lyrics on Racional Volume 1 they struggled to understand them. They were very different to the lyrics on his four previous albums. It was hard to believe it was the same artist. Tim Maia was a changed man since joining the cult and was as if he had been brainwashed and was transformed into an excitable evangelist as he shouts: “Read the book, the only book!” throughout the album. That was apart from Rational Culture which was an epic genre-melting jam that closed the album on a high. It was a reminder of what Tim Maia was capable of.
Elsewhere it was a different story as Tim Maia combines his own inimitable brand of gospel music that’s full of sci-fi imagery with elements of blues, soul, pre-disco funk and psychedelic rock. The influence of Motown can be heard and the album heads in the direction of on Imunização Racional. The arrangements were tight and up to Tim Maia’s usual standards as he delivered impassioned and powerful vocals. However, the problem was that Tim Maia was using his fifth album Racional Volume 1 to spread the word about the cult’s so-called philosophy.
This extended to the album cover which detailed the cult’s core beliefs. It was very different from Tim Maia’s previous albums. However, he released Racional Volume 1 on his own label Seroma.
There was a problem though. Most record shops were sure about stocking such a controversial album. However, Tim Maia managed to convince a few shops to stock copies of Racional Volume 1. Despite that, the album wasn’t a commercial success when it was released in 1975. The only track to receive any radio play was Imunização Racional (Que Beleza). Even then, it was only a minimal amount and Racional Volume 1 was the least successful album of Tim Maia’s career. Still he as determined to release Racional Volume 2.
Racional Volume 2.
Following the release of Racional Volume 1 many of Tim Maia’s fans thought he was no longer the artist he once was. The album was very different to his first four albums and they thought he had lost his way musically. However, the problem was his membership of the cult was affecting his judgment and also his music.
It was as if he had been brainwashed and Tim Maia was willing to publicise the cult’s so-called philosophy via his music. He wasn’t the first to do this, but very few artists had decided to dedicate two consecutive albums to a cult’s philosophy. Tim Maia was the first do this.
In 1976, he was preparing to release the rest of the music that he had originally recorded for RCA Victor as Racional Volume 2. Just like his previous album, the lyrics were inspired by the cult’s philosophy which Tim Maia had embraced fully by 1976. He was almost unrecognisable and very different to the musical bon viveur he once was. Now he was preparing to self-release Racional Volume 2 via his own Seroma label.
He went through all the same problems as he had with Racional Volume 1 and struggled to get shops to stock his new album. Given the commercial failure of Racional Volume 1, most shops were reluctant to stock the followup. For Tim Maia this was another disappointment. Despite this, he went ahead with the release of Racional Volume 2.
When Racional Volume 2 was released in 1976 lightning struck twice when the album failed to impress the critics. Worse was to come when the album sunk without trace. Very few copies of Racional Volume 2 were sold and it was another commercial failure for Tim Maia.
Meanwhile, his fans thought that he had lost his way musically after the release of his sixth album Racional Volume 2. It was his second album that wasn’t a commercial success. There was a reason for this.
Tim Maia’s fans didn’t want to buy another album that featured lyrics about the cult’s philosophy. They preferred his usual albums lyrics which ranged from romantic to party oriented while other songs had a feelgood sound. That wasn’t the case on Racional Volume 2.
Just like his previous album, the problem with the songs were the lyrics where Tim Maia parroted the cult’s philosophy. Despite that, he delivers heartfelt vocals while others are a mixture of power, passion and emotion. He may have been singing about a cult’s philosophy but Tim Maia was still a talented vocalist and was improving with every album he released. His voice was clear and powerful and he seemed to be maturing as a vocalist.
Meanwhile, the arrangements marked a return to form from Tim Maia. He combined shuffling South American rhythms with soul and funk where horns play an important part in the arrangements. Sometimes, sweeping orchestrated arrangement take the songs in the direction of MPB. Other times, elements of blues, early-seventies funk and psychedelic rock can be heard on Racional Volume 2. It features some stunning arrangements that are tight and provide the perfect backdrop for Tim Maia’s vocal. Sadly, very few people heard Tim Maia’s sixth album. Maybe this was the wakeup call he needed?
In 1976, Tim Maia quit the cult after the release of Racional Volume 2. By then, he had fallen out with its leader and felt as if he had been duped. So much so, that he wanted the master tapes to Racional Volumes 1 and 2 destroyed. The two albums were part of his past, and now Tim Maia was ready and wanted to move forward.
Nowadays, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 are both regarded as cult classics, whereas in 1976 they tarnished Tim Maia’s reputation. Joining the cult was one of the worst decisions he made in what had already been an eventful life. For the two years he was part of the cult it was as if Tim Maia had been brainwashed and his music was regarded as a way to publicise the cult. He was being used and eventually saw through this ruse in 1976.
By then, Tim Maia had spent money buying back the tapes for Racional Volumes 1 and 2 from RCA Victor and had released the two albums on his own Seroma label. It had been an expensive episode for Tim Maia and wasn’t a happy time in his life.
Tim Maia’s music changed after the release of Racional Volumes 1 and 2 and he entered what was the most prolific period of his career. Sadly, he struggled to reach the heights of his first four albums and Tim Maia was never the same man or musician after his dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour.
Despite this, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 are still regarded as cult classics and must have albums for anyone interested in Tim Maia’s music. However, Racional Volumes 2 is strongest of the two albums and is a reminder of the father of Brazilian soul music during what was one the strangest periods in what was an eventful, roller coaster of a life.
Having said that , Tim Maia enjoyed every minute of a life lived in the fast lane. It was as if his mantra was to live life to the full. That was just as well because Tim Maia passed away on March the ‘15th’ 1998, aged just fifty-five.
Since his death, Tim Maia’s music has been a well-kept secret outside of his native Brazil and even many Brazilians still aren’t aware of his music. However, older record buyers still talk about the maverick singer-songwriter in hushed tones and remember the flawed genius that was Tim Maia and a singer who could’ve and should’ve been a huge star outside of his native Brazil. Sadly, something held him back and stopped Tim Maia from enjoying the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim that his music so richly deserved.
Was it Tim Maia’s love of the rock ’n’ life style which he embraced and enjoyed with a voracious appetite? Maybe Tim Maia’s dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour had lasting effects and somehow stopped this hugely talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer from scaling the heights that he should’ve? However, he left behind a rich musical legacy including several classic albums and his cult classic Racional Volume 2.
Cult Classic: Tim Maia-Racional Volume 2.