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Banda Do Casaco - Coisas Do Arco Da Velha CD (album) cover


Banda Do Casaco


Prog Folk

3.67 | 17 ratings

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4 stars "Coisas do Arco da Velha" is a Portuguese idiom used to describe bizarre events, weird happenings or really far-fetched ideas. However, like a previous reviewer wrote, what you'll find here is mostly very old stuff. The band's debut album wasn't exactly well-received by the usual folk mob and fellow artists, and while the band fiercely defended their work on stage (there are several written reports of concerts of the time), in the studio they were preparing to take a step down by leaving their unconventional approach aside for a more typical Portuguese folk album. The result, while having its merits, turns out pale in comparison with the previous and especially the following works.

The first three tracks express this tendency clearly: they are arrangements (with the bands own lyrics) of traditional songs. Morgadinha dos Canibais features a very varied rhythm between faster and slower paced, with intertwining male and female vocals, with some great flute, harmonic and cello playing, among the usual paraphernalia of instruments at the band's disposition - an excellent opener, and one of the highlights of the album. Ai Mê André is an ethereal love ballad featuring great female vocals and a tasteful string arrangement. The middle section is driven by the piano as the vocals multiply. A bassline and acoustic guitar give it a bit more punch, before the phantasmagoria of the vocals and strings return for the ending. Romance de Branca Flor begins with some very traditional vocals and percussion. What we ear is a sung dialogue between man and woman, the story of a woman cheating her husband, who soon discovers the betrayal (Matty Groves, anyone?). Hints of the band's early album are then heard as the traditional sounds give way to organ, wind instruments and cellos - a lovely piece. Rigolindo is a short track mostly percussion and flute driven, with a full band choir - a typical traditional folk song. Olá Margarida is another calm love ballad, almost a male version of Ai Mê André. The acoustic guitar (complemented by the eerie female chant in the background) is the motor of the song, showcasing some excellent playing. Canto de Amor e Trabalho is one of the more upbeat songs on the album (but not in a jiggy kind of way - Portuguese folk is much more melancholic than Spanish, French or even English or Irish folk). The violin makes its first clear appearance in this song, which once more features some great mix of male and female vocals, as it tells the story of a farmer returning home after a hard day's work and his wife's wait - a celebration of rural life. É Triste Não Saber Ler brings the melancholia back, being as it is a long lament about not knowing how to read (which metamorphs into one's inability to imagine and have ambitions). The arrangements in this song are superb, with excellent strings and even what seems to be a didgeridoo, making any kind of percussion completely unnecessary. Virgolino Faz o Pino begins with a female choir backed by church organ, soon replaced by a single voice accompanied by strings. The whole first and second section repeat throughout the song. A Mulher do Regedor is another upbeat and this time funny song (about the less appropriate adventures of a lady in a village while her husband, a national assemblyman, is away in Lisbon), more jiggy than the others, dominated by the cello, violin and acoustic guitar. Era Uma Vez Uma Velha is another song starting as a ballad with sudden changes in rhythm and punch. The quieter parts are, as usual, female sung accompanied by strings, before the rest of the band jumps from behind a rock displaying all their instruments and different vocals for the chorus. Cantiga d'Embalar Avozinhas is another take on a traditional song, a really different take, as it is opened by a jazz piano and a full strings orchestra, and featuring a child singing a lullaby to his granny - an amusing display of the world upside-down that the band seem to love so much. This last songs brings the album to a closing.

Musically, it's a more conservative effort, but still featuring some glimpses of brilliance. As in the first album, the singing, playing, composition and songwriting are among the best one will ever hear coming out of the Iberian Peninsula - but it's the musical approach that fails, due to its lack of experimentalism. As all the albums of the band, it requires a lot of attention to fully grasp it and therefore appreciate it. Lyrically it's still a strong album, filled with rich wording and political or humorous themes - while the first album was a critical take on the corruption of city life, this second album is a praise of the rural lifestyle. But I am not a lyrics man, not even in my mother tongue, and so the writing, no matter how good it is, is not enough to rate this album highly, especially when doing so from a progressive rock or folk point of view, and to an audience that probably wouldn't understand them anyway. Like the first album, it is an easy personal five stars for the beauty and quality of the compositions and songwriting, but for the purposes of a prog-oriented review I can only give three stars (perhaps four if you're a real folk lover), due to its more traditional and less adventurous approach to folk. But don't take my word for it - judge for yourself.

Kotro | 4/5 |


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