Too Slow to Disco reliably delivers catchy melodies and soulful horn charts that don’t necessarily evoke yacht rock.
How Do You Are’s Too Slow to Disco series is a consistently entertaining source of yacht rock that digs much deeper than dollar bin specials. Across three primary volumes (and an additional set concentrating on women artists), Berlin crate digger Marcus Liesenfeld, aka DJ Supermarkt, has gathered Top 40 hits such as Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love” and private press gems such as Dave Raynor’s Michael McDonaldesque “Leave Me Alone Tonight.” These comps make the persuasive case that this much-maligned subgenre is not the bane of the era as was often thought at a time when the cool kids were listening to punk and new wave, but is in fact one of the bright spots of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. With the help of musician-collector Ed Motta, the series’ latest entry finds a parallel to this LA-centric music in Brazil’s ebullient pop scene. Fans of yacht rock or MPB may not find the distinction necessary; this is another winner from the label, no matter how far you read the title.
While Motta’s 2013 album AOR consciously extracts the Steely Dan gene in its tribute to such music, the artists on Too Slow to Disco Brasil don’t exactly conjure up an Aja-level slickness. The first sound you hear on the album sets the geographical scene with a raw field recording of a street band and children counting off a beat. But if this is music from the street, it’s really well produced: the intro leads to Filó Machado’s “Quero Pouco, Quero Muito,” (very loosely, “I Want It Soon and I Want a Lot”) from 1983, whose smooth vocals, relaxed, infectious melodies and light funk somewhat evokes Al Jarreau, down to a vocalese solo.
As the label notes, these artists strike a chord that resonates with the AOR sound but came upon it independently. Still, some tracks borrow a recognizable motif or two. One of the funkier tracks, Brylho’s “Jóia Rara” (“Rare Jewel”), from 1983, bursts out like a more intense version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Getaway.”
Many of the names here will be unfamiliar even to those with some knowledge of Brazilian pop. There’s no Marcos Valle or Tim Maia (who happens to be Motta’s uncle), both of whom are tapped on the essential comp The Brazilian Boogie Collection, which covers the same era at a tempo that is more or less fast enough for disco. Motta taps some private press deep cuts with Carlos Bivar’s ballad “Maré” (one of a few tracks so rare its source isn’t even on Discogs) and Gelson Oliveira and Luiz Ewerling’s soul-jazz “Acordes e Sementes” (“Chords and Seeds”). On the other hand, Rita Lee, whose mid-tempo boogie “Atlantida” closes the set, was a member of the legendary Tropicalia band Os Mutantes.
Too Slow to Disco reliably delivers catchy melodies and soulful horn charts that don’t necessarily evoke yacht rock; the set comes off as less a genre tribute than a well-compiled slice of Brazilian pop from a crate digger with encyclopedic knowledge and a collection that reportedly tops 30,000. With a bright acoustic rhythm guitar and soaring harmonies, “Clearer” is one of the set’s highlights, from a million-selling band, Roupa Nova, that is called—as a compliment–“the Brazilian Toto.” But really, the compliment is to Toto.