Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 4 - International

In addition to all the amazing music being crafted in the UK and the States, 1969 was also a wonderful music year abroad.

Three regions in particular were sporting vibrant scenes at the time.

Jamaica, where rocksteady had just evolved into reggae and two of the genres all-time top artists, Toots & The Maytals and Jimmy Cliff, began to hit their stride.

France, where all manner of crooners and traditionalists were dipping their feet into more rock-inflected waters.

And Brazil, where the political side of the Tropicalia movement hadcome to and end, but where many of its most prominent artists - Os Mutantes, Gal Costa, and Caetano Veloso - continued to release works inspired by that fantastic, unique blend of Brazilian rhythms and psychedelic textures.

Because there are so many singles artists represented on this mix (as well as upcoming Vol 8 - Grade A Schmaltz), we're going to circle back and finish the writes for these mixes last, but for now, suffice it to say that if you want dive deeper, the 1969 self-titled full-lengths releases of Jimmy Cliff (released in the US as Wonderful World, Beautiful People) and Caetano Veloso are definitely the two strongest albums profiled on this mix.

But for now, let's just kick up our feet and enjoy this chill musical travelogue.

Here's the Spotify link!

Set 1 (Caribbean Days)
1. Time Will Tell - Jimmy Cliff (3:21)
2. Where Do you Go To My Lovely - Peter Sarstedt (4:39)
3. Nao Va Se Perder Por Ai - Os Mutantes (3:16)
4. Long Shot Kick De Bucket - The Pioneers (2:49)
5. Le Meteque - Georges Moustaki (2:30)
6. Pais Tropical - Gal Costa (3:47)
7. Sweet & Dandy - Toots & The Maytals (2:59)
8. Tranche De Vie - Francois Beranger (4:10)
9. Irene - Caetano Veloso (3:49)
10. Liquidator - Harry J Allstars (2:53)
11. L'anamour - Serge Gainsbourg (2:16)
12. Justicia - Eddie Palmieri (6:00)

Set 2 (Tropical Nights)
13. Vietnam - Jimmy Cliff (4:52)
14. Yekermo Sew - Mulatu Astatke (4:13)
15. El Oso - Moris (3:02)
16. Monkey Man - Toots & The Maytals (3:45)
17. Dans La Maison Vide - Michael Polnareff (2:44)
18. Alfomega - Caetano Veloso (5:58)
19. Return Of Django - The Upsetters (2:29)
29. Je T'aime Moi Non Plus - Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin (4:29)
21. Tengo - Sandro (2:03)
22. It Mek - Desmond Dekker (2:33)
23. C'est Extra - Leo Ferre (3:47)
24. Tuareg - Gal Costa (3:23)

25. 54-46 Was My Number - Toots & The Maytals (3:24)
26. Que Je T'aime - Johnny Hallyday (3:20)
27. Lost In The Paradise - Caetano Veloso (3:28)
28. Wonderful World, Beautiful People - Jimmy Cliff (3:16)
29. Les Champs-Elysees - Joe Dassin (2:38)

About the 1969 World Wide Players (in order of appearance):

Jimmy Cliff: After years of struggling to break out, Jimmy Cliff finally hit it big in 1969 with the release of his phenomenal eponymous debut (Highest Recommend).  Nancy's already tapped the album's most moving song and future The Harder They Come soundtrack standout Too Many Rivers To Cross for her '69 Favorites mix, here we enjoy three more of the record's best known songs: Vietnam, Time Will Tell, and Wonderful World, Beautiful People.

Peter Sarstedt: A middling Donovan wannabe, Sarstedt was not a one-hit wonder, but he would never again record a song as successful as the "poor Naples girl goes on to become European jet set royalty" folk-ballad Where Did You Go My Lovely, a song that overshadowed all else on his at first eponymous debut to the point the album was re-released under the song's name. Many at the time speculated the track was about Sophia Loren, but Sarstedt finally admitted decades later itwas actually about his girlfriend at the time (and future ex-wife) Anita, who went on to pursue the slightly less glamourous profession of dentistry. 


Os Mutantes: Wild, experimental, and loaded with pastiche assemblages, Os Mutantes sophomore effort, 1969's Mutantes (Mild Recommend), is among the more challenging of the Tropicalia rocker's early works, if for no other reason than often times the experimentation seems to be the point in itself, leaving the listener feeling closed out from the experience.  But at certain moments, the madcap, unrestrained approach does deliver a specific "out there" kind of charm, as on the popular folksy rocker 2001, the crazed pastiche opener Don Quixote, and the playful, demented garage rocker Nao Va Se Perder Por Ai included here. 

The Pioneers: Our first reggae track on this mix comes, somewhat insensitively, from The Pioneers with Long Shot (Kick De Bucket), the follow up to their '67 hit Long Shot, which revisited the story of Long Shot's long-lived but rarely victorious Jamaican race horse after he finally died during his 203rd race. It would go on to surpass the original in sales, and become the band's definitive song. 

Georges Moustaki: One of France's elite, 
Carol King-caliber, behind-the-scenes songwriters in the sixties and seventies, Moustaki was unable to find a taker amongst his dozen of performing collaborators for his anti-racist song Le Meteque (french slang for dirt poor immigrant of Mediterranean descent), so the Egypt-born Greek Jew decided to take the number on himself, and it soon became an anthem in France, spending six weeks at number one on that's nation's pop charts.

Gal Costa: Arguably the wildest and record represented on this list, Brazilian superstar Gal Costa's swaggering 1969 self-titled debut (enthusiastic Solid Recommend, also called Cinema Olympia in some releases) is considered an absolute classic in the Tropicalia genre.  A few of its songs are almost too out of control (even for my frenetic tastes) on this highly varied album, but it's strongest moments - like Cinema Olympia and the twin peaks Tuareg and Pais Tropical presented here - are pure pleasures that remain popular to this day. 

Toots & The Maytals:  Toots & The Maytals released three of their all-time biggest singles in 1969 and we're featuring all of them here - sing-a-long Monkey Man, Sweet & Dandy, later featured on Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come soundtrack, and Toot's account of his eighteen months spent in prison over the course of 1967-68 for a marijuana charge, 54-46 Was My Number

Francois Beranger:  A successful actor and revivalist of French folk music throughout 1970s, we're highlighting the 1969 lead single and title track to Beranger's 1970 full-length debut with the goofily appealing bluegrass number Tranche De Vie (Slices Of Life).

Caetano Veloso: Coming in with one of the most exciting albums on this mix is Caetano Velosa with his lively and inventive '69 self titled solo effort (enthusiastic Solid Recommend). Featuring a number of tracks that would become Tropicalia standard bearers like Irene, Alfomega, and Lost In The Paradise, as well as excellent deep cuts like The Empty Boat and Nao Identificado, the album spans three languages and seemingly five times as many musical genres in its adventurous forty-one minute run time. Not quite a stone-cold classic, but absolutely essential international listening nonetheless.

Harry J Allstars:  The biggest solo hit ever for infamous Jamaican reggae producer Harry Zephaniah Johnson and his Harry J Studio house band The Allstars, instrumental The Liquidator became an enduring smash in the UK, embraced as an anthem of purpose by early English skinheads and ska-fanatics alike, and remains a popular soccer arena song in the UK to this day. 

Serge Gainsbourg:  We're including two fantastic songs from Serge Gainsbourg's 1969 collaboration with his lover at the time, English actress Jane Birkin, the aptly titled Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg. In Set 1 we've got the flowing, breezy L'anamour, and in Set 2, the most infamous song of Gainsbourg's career, his remake of a song previously recorded with Brigitte Bardot but which up to that point in time had never released, Je T'aime, Moi Non Plus (English translation - I Love You... Not Really).  The new version proved so salacious and convincing (Gainsbourg and Birkin were accused of having had sex while recording it - not true), it was banned from radio in close to a dozen countries, including the UK, where it still managed to go number 1 on the pop charts.

Eddie Palmieri: A nifty change of pace from all the excellent  reggae and French pop that dominates this mix, The title track to Puerto Rican-born, Bronx-raised salsa-pioneer Eddie Palmieri's 1969 album  Justica was the most politically oriented effort up to that point of time in his career, but still swings like nothing else.

Mulatu Astatke: Much credit must be given to filmmaker Jim Jarmusch for raising the worldwide profile of Ethiopian Jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke in his Bill Murray-starring indie film Broken Flowers, which utilized copious amounts of Astatke's music in the soundtrack, and made easy-flowing single Yekermo Sew a cult hit in 2005, a full thirty-six years after its original 1969 release.

Moris: 1969 saw the emergence of Argentinian Spanish-Rock pioneer Mauricio Birabent (aka Moris) with his charming 1969 debut single El Oso (which details the life story of a performing circus bear) for his 1970 debut album Thirty Minutes Of Life.

Michael Polnareff: Dans La Maison Vide is a lively, appealing 1969 orchestral pop hit from the early days of enduring French provocateur Polnareff's career, a career that would soon after take number of tumultuous personal turns. Want stranger than fiction, check out Polnareff's bio.
The Upsetters: Inspired by the 1966 spaghetti western Django, Return Of Django was the second 1969 full-length of mostly instrumental tracks (like the title track featured here) that reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry wrote and produced for his so-talented studio house band The Upsetters.

Sandro: An even bigger force in the establishment of Argentinian Rock than Moris was Roberto Sanchez-Ocampo (aka Sandro), so popular in his native land it would be safe to call him the Argentinian Elvis. Not only did Sandro idolize Elvis, but they had similar careers, with Sandro starring in eleven movies over the course of his career to go along with his bounty of Latin American hits.  We're including his 1969 mega-hit Tengo here.

Desmond Dekker: Our last reggae artist included on this mix is influential pioneer, one of the first rocksteady artists to break-out internationally, with his 1969 hit transposing a common Jamaican school yard taunt, It Mek, (also It Meik, loose translation "that's what you get") into a schadenfraude-ish cry of retribution against an unfaithful lover.

Léo Ferré: A trio of legendary French crooners complete our World Wide Players lineup, all men who all had career defining hits in 1969.  French Chason legend Ferré was already in his mid-fifties and had already been huge in France for decades, but his career-shifting erotic 1969 ballad C'est Extra endeared him to a whole new generation of French listeners, and propelled him into an exciting new chapter of hit-making over the next decade of his career.

Johnny Hallyday: Oft referred to as the "world's biggest rock star you've never heard of" in the UK and States, French-language pioneer Hallyday (or just Johnny if you lived in France) is one of the most successful recording artists in history, having sold well over 100 million albums worldwide and recording a staggering 1694 songs over his 50+ year career. Renown for his powerful voice, Elvis Presley like moves, and spectacular live shows, he recorded one of the biggest hits of his career with the bombastic, melodramatic Que Je T'aime (english translation - How I Love You), recorded with the backing of a full orchestra so Hallyday would have something new and huge to premiere at his upcoming live show at the Palais Des Sports, and huge it was, spending nearly three months atop the French Music charts.

Joe Dassin: To close our entire mix, we tap the charming first hit Les Champs-Elysses from French hitmaker Joe Dassin, the American-born/Julliard-train son of director Jules Dassin, who relocated to France after his father fell victim to the Hollywood blacklist in the early 1950s. Originally written in English under the title Waterloo Road, Dassin popularized the French reworking of the song, and it has gone on to be featured in a number of film soundtracks over the years, most notably Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited in 2007. 

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