Hailed as the father of Brazilian soul music, Tim Maia, who died in 1998, was a man of outsize appetites, vision and talent. Although little known in the United States during his lifetime, his legacy is not lightly compared to those of social and rhythmic innovators such as James Brown and Sly Stone.
The latest installment in Luaka Bop’s “World Psychedelic Classics,” which previously unearthed neglected classics by Shuggie Otis and Os Mutantes, “Nobody Can Live Forever” collects tracks from Maia’s ’70s heyday, before he renounced pop music to join a hermetic cult. Fusing elements of funk, rock, soul and samba — and anticipating disco and hip-hop — the Brazilian iconoclast created untrammeled, incantatory music that, for all its loose-limbed spontaneity, relied on the tight metrical give-and-take among his collaborators.
“Que Beleza” opens the proceedings with Afro Caribbean horns and mind-expanding, fuzz-toned guitar reminiscent of the sinewy, deep-bottomed funk of the mid-’70s Meters. Sung and recited in English, “Let’s Have a Ball Tonight” finds Maia extolling the virtues of peace and love, as opposed to war and strife, over a sunny California-style soul groove. “O Caminho Do Bem” is driven by a vamping clavinet figure, while “Do Leme Ao Pontal,” a hand-clapping slab of singalong funk, conjures the freewheeling abandon of a conga line.
Delivered in a rich, sonorous baritone, Maia’s lyrics tend toward the bromidic. Yet informed by liberation-minded Afro Brazilian culture and the movement for civil rights in this country, they carry plenty of heft, especially when buoyed by irrepressible grooves and chanted call-and-response vocals. Prophetic stuff, to say the least.
“Que Beleza,” “Brother, Father, Mother, Sister,” “Do Leme Ao Pontal”