Baden-Baden Baden


Sorry about the light posting of late. I had a nasty flu bug which kept me down and out for quite a while. I hope to get back to semi-regular posting soon. And now, a completely untimely post!

How I love my local library, which has a very large and very strange collection of CDs. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, it's located in Europe, where all sorts of odd cultures nestle cheek by jowl. Second, the library's collections policy is tilted toward the foreign, obscure and avant-garde — presumably on the theory that you can get all the mainstream you want at the record store. The result is lots of well-thumbed but lovingly maintained CDs you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else in the world.

Case in point: Baden Powell's Melancolie. Powell, a Brazilian guitarist, was one of the progenitors of bossa nova, and released pretty electrifying records in Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s. Alas, he fell out of favor in the 1980s. So he did what so many musicians from the New World do when their agent grows distant, or the tax authorities grow not distant enough: he moved to Europe. There, he fell into the warm, patchouli-scented embrace of European lovers of "black music," as they call it over here. As far as I can tell, these Europeans are moved combination of tiersmondisme, nostalgia for the looser times of the 1970s, genuine respect for musical talent, and a longing to vicariously enjoy the relaxed, friendly manners of places like Brazil.

Powell recorded Melancolie in France, with a combination of European and Brazilian musicians. Powell's pleasantly scratchy voice and refined playing make for an fine, mellow album. There are questionable string arrangements. But, as the Allmusic reviewer puts it: "most Brazilian musicians, even the most avant-garde, seem happy with string arrangements that would give you diabetes." Janine de Waleyne contributes an oddly effective vocalise accompaniment that floats in and out of several tracks. Here's one standout track, one of Powell's own compositions called Acalanto das nonas (huge mp3).

But I've saved the best for last. Naturally, Baden Powell — who was indeed named after the founder of the Boy Scouts, and whose name is pronounced 'Bahh-dehn Poh-wehll' — settled in Germany for a time as well. 

In Baden-Baden.

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