Top 10 Brazilian Albums For Beginners

10 Bossa Nova: Rise of Brazilian Music (2013)

Bossa Nova and the rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960s’ charts the rise of the events that led to the arrival of this new musical movement and what happened next. João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Elis Regina, Gilberto Gil and Baden Powell all feature alongside many other Brazilian artists who launched their careers during this amazing period.

9. Chico Buarque - Construção (1971)

This record is considered one of the best rated by Chico Buarque, known for his amazing lyricism. Every line finishes with a ‘proparoxitona’, when a word has 3/4 syllables and has to be extenuated. If you look at the lyrics, he sings the words once, then in the other verses he cleverly changes the meanings of those words by changing the sentences but still using the same proparoxitona technique. Confused? Me too! The record’s very clever and musically speaking the arrangement and instrumentation of the whole recording is amazing.

8. Elis Regina - Elis (1966)

An excellent early gem by one of Brazil’s greatest singers! The record captures Elis Regina at a prime early stage – when her voice was raw and filled with emotion, and when she was backed by some excellent arrangements that blended jazz, bossa, and more complicated vocal settings. The material is handled extremely well – and the set list includes many early versions of songs by some of Brazil’s best writers, like “Cancao Do Sal” by Milton Nascimento, “Sonho De Maria” by Marcos Valle, “Tem Mais Samba” by Chico Buarque, “Lunik 9” and “Roda” by Gilberto Gil, “Pra Dizer Adeus” by Edu Lobo, and “Boa Palavra” by Caetano Veloso. 

7. Lo Borges e Milton Nascimento Clube da Esquina (1972)

Clube da Esquina is a 1972 double album by the Brazilian music artists collective Clube da Esquina, credited to Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges. Considered an important record in the history of Brazilian music, it features arrangements by Eumir Deodato and Wagner Tiso, and conductions by Paulo Moura.

6. Caetano Veloso – Caetano Veloso (1968)

Caetano Veloso’s self-titled debut solo album is one of the most important and influential Brazilian (and, dare we say, South American) albums of all time. With the release of this seminal album, Veloso would become the leading voice of Tropicália.

The songs on this album immediately connected with people. Alegria, Algeria was his breakout hit that gained traction as a hymn for liberty advocates, juxtaposing images of Coca Cola, guerrilla groups, bombs and Brigitte Bardot as part of the everyday experience. The album’s first song Tropicália was an anthem for the whole movement; it’s a fragmented allegory, a structure borrowed from friends

in the concrete poetry scene, touching on divergent cultural symbols, events, allusions and idioms, nimbly representing and critiquing the many contradictions in the new Brazilian dictatorship.

5. Gilberto Gil - Refazenda (1975)

Gil’s last great album of the 1970s, this beautifully arranged masterpiece is a multicultural mix-and-match along which starts off with some twangy guitar, and swiftly moves on to intertwine graceful string arrangements, forro accordion, subtle pop rock guitar and Gil’s drifting falsetto. A mellow, reflective album, with a folkish tint — I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Gil had been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell at the time. Weird, magical, and highly recommended!

4. Baden Powell/Vinicius De Moraes - Os Afro-Sambas (1966)

Unquestionably one of the greatest and most magical Brazilian albums ever recorded, this classic has mysteriously remained largely out of print for decades. This collaboration between guitarist Baden Powell and bossa poet Vinicius De Moraes is haunting and timeless, a moody, unsettling blend of bossa nova melodies and somewhat abrupt African rhythms, wisely left a bit rough around the edges. The music leaps out at you, as eerie and vibrant now as it was all those years ago. Powell rerecorded this album twenty-five years later (albeit without Vinicius’ help… De Moraes had been dead for over a decade…), and although that remake has its moments, it is nowhere near as transcendent as the original. If you can track this album down, get it. It’s a classic.

3. Jorge Ben - Africa Brasil (1976)

Considered by many as one of the best Brazilian albums of all time, Africa Brasil marks Jorge Ben’s definitive change from acoustic to electric guitar. Mixing elements of Afro-Brazilian music with North American black music, this record managed to synthesize the sound that the artist has been pursuing since the start of his career. With new arrangements to songs like ‘Zumbi’, originally from the ‘A Tabua de Esmeralda’ album. Africa Brasil became one of the most emblematic records in the fight for racial equality in Brazil. It was all arranged by none other than Jose Roberto Bertrami.

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2. João Gilberto - Chega de Saudade (1959)

From the king of bossa nova, João Gilberto. It is such an all time classic. He has had some career, most famous for co-writing ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (‘Girl from Ipanema’) with Tom Jobim. His life story and history is well worth checking out. I met him once luckily as very few people have, living as reclusively as he does. I met him in the bar Garota de Ipanemas in Av Vinicius de Moraes by chance and he happened to be there with a girl friend having a beer and something to eat. The lady, who was half his age and whom I knew, told me this is the guy that wrote ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ there was a silence and I carried on talking to her. A very bizarre evening but what an amazing record.

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1. Antônio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina - Elis & Tom (1974)

This beautiful — and now legendary — recording date between iconic Brazilian vocalist Elis Regina and composer, conductor, and arranger Tom Jobim is widely regarded as one of the greatest Brazilian pop recordings. It is nearly ubiquitous among Brazilians as a household item. Regina‘s voice is among the most loved in the history of Brazilian music. Her range and acuity, her unique phrasing, and her rainbow of emotional colors are literally unmatched, and no matter the tune or arrangement, she employs most of them on these 14 cuts. Another compelling aspect of this recording is the young band Jobim employs here and allows pretty free rein throughout. He plays piano on eight of these tracks, and guitar on two others, but the fluid, heightened instincts of these players — guitarist Oscar Castro-NevesLuizão Maiaon bass, drummer Paulinho Braga, and pianist César Mariano — reveal them to be at the top of their game for this rather informal date that does include a few numbers with a full orchestra.