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Quarteto 1111

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3 stars Review Nº 103

"Quarteto 1111" is the eponymous debut studio album of Quarteto 1111 and was released in 1970. From the sound of groups inspired by The Shadows, Quarteto 1111 was born. They became a very different case in the Portuguese music, not only due to the use of Portuguese language, which was unusual at the time, but also because musically it was a very different band from the others. They closed themselves in a garage one year and half to make this album.

First of all, before to talk about the album, it's very important to know the conditions of the life in my country in those troubled times to can understand better the appearance of this progressive rock band named Quarteto 1111. Portugal lived a very difficult dictatorial political regime with censorship. One of the main slogans of Salazar's regime was, "orgulhosamente sós" (proud to be alone). This meant that we could live alone and isolated from the rest of the world and that we could be proud of that. We also lived in difficult times because we were in war in our African colonies, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, with their liberation movements who claimed for freedom and independence.

So, it was in those troubled times that appeared Quarteto 1111, which was the first progressive rock band in Portugal. It was founded in 1967 in Estoril, a place near Lisbon. It's also one of the most influential progressive rock bands in Portugal. The Beatles and The Shadows were the main inspiration for the most bands and Quarteto 1111 wasn't an exception. The group had many problems with censorship, because of songs that were politically charged and contested. They released their debut work with the same name in 1970. The album was sent off the market by the Committee of Censorship. In 1974 the band released "Onde, Quando, Como, Porquê, Cantamos Pessoas Vivas", an album strongly influenced by progressive rock groups like King Crimson, Renaissance, Yes and Genesis.

So, in the early of 1970, Quarteto 1111 released their self-titled debut conceptual album, which deals with racism issues, immigration and the colonial war. Troubled by the interventionism of the issues to the dictatorial regime, the censorship removed the album from the market in the same week of its release, preventing the contact with what would be one of the best albums of the Portuguese music, in those times, able to compete in boldness, quality and innovation, with what was created abroad at the time, all over the world. Those were really troubled times, indeed. But unfortunately, even today and in some places, we live yet in a world like this. It seems that we aren't able to learn with history.

Lyrically, the album deals especially with three main characteristics. First, all its lyrics are in Portuguese, which is a usual trademark of the group. Later they began to sing in English trying the internationalization with songs such as "Back To The Country" and "Ode To The Beatles", which were released as singles. Second, the usual use of lyrics of some of the greatest Portuguese poets, which is the case of "As Trovas Do Vento Que Passa" with a poem of Manuel Alegre, a great Portuguese contemporaneous poet, which became a very important symbolic song, a kind of a symbol of the resistance of the Portuguese University students against the dictatorship regime in Portugal. Third, the focus of the lyrics in the issues mentioned by me, such as, the immigration with "João Nada", "Domingo Em Bidonville" and "Estrada Para A Minha Aldeia" or the racism issues with "Pigmentação", "Maria Negra" and "Escravatura".

Musically, the album is heavily influenced by the psychedelic and folk styles. However and while retaining the band's initial psych-folk heritage, this album of Quarteto 1111 goes deeper into a psychedelic through magnetic tape experimentation effects, and also a more clear influence from the mid-60's jazz and R&B. The songs range from the folk of "João Nada" or the version of "Trovas Do Vento Que Passa" of Adriano Correia de Oliveira (another great Portuguese poet), through the soul of "Pigmentação", the funk madness of "A Fuga Dos Grilos", the pop of "Estrada Para A Minha Aldeia" or the psychedelia of "Maria Negra". The album represented an escape from the narrowness of a country which was not interested in change, remaining at the same time inextricably linked to it or what it could do.

Conclusion: This eponymous debut album of Quarteto 1111 is a very good album to get where José Cid get started in the world of the progressive rock music. We mustn't forget that Portugal was never a hotbed of progressive rock. So, this album of Quarteto 1111, despite be more a psychedelic and pop album, represents the beginning of the progressive rock in Portugal. We can say that it was a kind of a breath of fresh air in Portugal, at the time. It represents the beginning of the good things that would appear in the next years, after the fall of the dictatorship regime, in 1974, by the revolution that came to be known as the Carnation Revolution. So, this album opens the door to some of the best progressive albums ever made in Portugal in the 70's, like "Onde, Quando, Como, Porquê, Cantamos Pessoas Vivas" of Quarteto 1111, "10.000 Anos Anos Depois Entre Vénus E Marte" of José Cid, "Mestre" of Petrus Castrus, "Dos Benefícios Dum Vendido No Reino Dos Bonifácios" of Banda Do Casaco and "Mistérios E Maravilhas" of Tantra.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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Posted Monday, January 23, 2017 | Review Permalink

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