Baden Powell – Images On Guitar – MPS 0210990MSW (1971/2016) stereo vinyl, 41:02 ****:
Brazil’s legendary guitarist shines on this vinyl re-mastering!
(Baden Powell – guitar, vocals; Janine de Walleye – vocal; Ernesto Gonsalves – bass; Alfredo Bessa – atabaque, percussion; Joaquim Paes Henriques – drums)
Baden Powell was an influential guitarist. The Brazilian native (and yes, he was named after Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell) was renowned for his embrace of the emerging bossa nova movement. His influence on music was attributed to the connection of Latin jazz to classical music. He eschewed the electric guitar that permeated music in the ‘50s and ‘60s to concentrate on acoustic. His career took hold when his composition, “Samba Triste” was covered by Stan Getz. Powell was a force in popularizing the 2/4 samba meter, and he started recording as a solo artist in 1961. But it was his early seventies catalog with MPS that globalized his popularity.
Images On Guitar was initially released by MPS in 1971. The album featured a quartet with guest vocalist Janine de Walleye. Now there is a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl available. The improved technology translates the artistic vision of Powell. Throughout the recording, he expresses a broad spectrum of musical fluency. Side 1 opens with “Ate-Etu” showcasing a gently percussive rhythm as Janine de Walleye lends her crystalline voice to create a near-spiritual folk ambiance. Powell’s guitar solo combines timed chords and freewheeling notation. Raising the bar, “Petite Waltz” (the first instrumental) demonstrates an accelerated time signature early on in a classical-style arrangement. Again, the guitar technique is stellar. Small details like an understated percussion in the lower part of the mix is subtle but provides cohesion. A flashy segue leads to a melodic, buoyant second part. All of his music posses natural harmonious structure.
Powell and de Walleye really connect on “Violao Vagabundo”. Her upper-register voice works like a flute in this jazzy, swaying composition. His keen ear for melody is captured in the songwriting. The side concludes with the effervescent “Conversacao Congo Mismo”. This opus has an innate flamenco resonance with deft touches of syncopation and pulsating tempo breaks. Powell-tracked dual guitar leads augment the ferocity of his playing. Each cut is different. “Blues A Volonte” is exactly as advertised. Within the fabric of this musical journey, it is the “power jam” of Images On Guitar. His brisk, muscular guitar lines propel the number. Janine offers her most extemporizing vocalese and joins Powell in a call and response. Powell’s blues chops are potent.
In a sudden change of pace, “Sentimentos – Se Voce Pergunta” (listed as a guitar solo, but there is a faint drum cymbal too) exudes tender ballad imagery. The hushed elegance of his performance is glowing. This is brilliant acoustic guitar and is uplifting. Switching gears again, “E De Lei” is accessible, and sprightly. The complex guitar lines elevate the tighter arrangement. In a compelling finale, “Canto”, Powell invokes Spanish classical nuances. His sense of intimacy and mysticism is punctuated by the shimmering voice of his guest vocalist. And there is an unexpected funky guitar hook that grabs the listener. This piece speaks to the diverse musical passion of Powell.
MPS did a superb job in the vinyl re-mastering. Powell’s guitar has crispness and the modern studio technology brings out the organic string reverberation. de Walleye’s voice is pristine. The higher-register soars without any shrillness. Minor touches (like bringing the drum up on the mix and lowering the percussion and bass) work to layer the aesthetics. The liner notes by Joachim E. Berendt are incisive and provide context to this momentous recording.
Side 1: Ate-EU; Petit Waltz; Violao Vagabundo; Conversacao Comigo Mesmo
Side 2: Blues A Volonte; Sentimentos – se Voce Pergunta Nunca Vai Saber; E De Lei; Canto