AZZAM IS UNIVERSAL

azzam.jpg
Bob Azzam & The Great Expectations: Rain Rain Go Away
Berimbau
Tricky Soul
From S/T (Audio Fidelity, 1969)

Where in the world is Bob Azzam from? If you knew nothing about him and needle-dropped through the album, you could easily believe he’s from (take your pick): the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, or the Middle East. Azzam was actually born in MonacoCairo to a Lebanese family but his career really got started in France even though much of his best known work (to contemporary ears) was originally recorded in Sweden. You got all that? As the liner notes to this album say, “Azzam is Universal” and who are we to disagree?

This is from one of the few Azzam albums to be released in the U.S., almost identical to his album New Sounds which came out in Sweden but this LP is two tracks shorter (from what I can tell, it’s not poorer for the loss of those two songs). “Rain Rain Go Away” is the most “American” sounding of the three tracks here, an unlikely cover of an Allen Toussaint original; it’s almost like when other bands were choosing “Get Out Of My Life Woman,” Azzam and friends decided, “screw it, let’s pick a similar song out of the catalog but avoid the obvious choice.” You can put this next to “Pease Porridge Hot” for funky kids tunes.

“Berimbau” though? Pure Brazilian classic, originally written by Vinicius de Moraes for Baden Powell. Azzam’s version is quite lovely, very smooth but with that snappy rhythm beneath. Not quite my favorite version (see below) but this is hardly slacking. (Azzam is also responsible for one of the all time incredible Brazilian club cuts: “Batucada Por Favor“).

And lastly, with “Tricky Soul,” you got a funky mod track that could have easily come out of Keith Mansfield‘s song book or elsewhere in the KPM-verse.


So which version of “Berimbau” do I think is better? This one:

Wilson Das Neves: Berimbau
From O Som Quente É O Das Neves (Underground, 1976)

Awesome opening on percussion and the horns set the whole thing off.

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5 thoughts on “AZZAM IS UNIVERSAL”

  1. Thanks for this tribute to Bob Azzam. Bob was born in Cairo, not Monaco, which is where he died. He got his musical start in the Arab world, and had a huge hit there with a very cosmopolitan song called “Mustapha.” Check out this 1960 article from Time Magazine about it: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,939688,00.html. (The article locates Attarine, where Bob grew up, in Cairo, but it’s in fact in Alexandria, and is more middle-class than a slum.) “Ya Mustapha” is still a much-beloved song, and you can hear it performed by all kinds of Middle Eastern ensembles. The photo displayed here is from the cover of the “Mustapha” EP. You can download “Mustapha,” and another Azzam Middle Eastern style song, “Fais-moi du cous-cous,” here: http://kanzaltuhaf.blogspot.com/2007/07/bob-azzam-et-son-orchestre-mustapha.html. His “Ali Baba Twist” is also quite delightful: http://youtu.be/XXEs0wNfs9Y

  2. Thanks for the excellent blog!

    I’d go with Das Neves, though I still like the Golden Boys version a bit better.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kind regards,

    Rich

  3. I actually like Bob Azzam’s version better – although the original Baden Powell Vinicius version on their amazing Os Afro Sambas is the definitive version in my opinion.

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