José Cid "José Cid" (Armoniz, 1971/2015)
What we have here before us is a rather beautifully presented, heavy vinyl reproduction of José Cid’s 1971 debut solo album. Cid had already been part of Portugal’s group scene back in the late 1950s where he’d been releasing records with the likes of the Os Babies group. He then re-emerged in the late 60s as the keyboard player with the highly-regarded Quarteto 1111 group; themselves soon to be part of Armoniz’s excellent reissue campaign.
However, once Cid had taken his leave from Quarteto 1111 around late 1969, he chose to assemble a far-reaching studio project where he would play all the instruments himself: piano, viola, bass, drums, Hammond organ, vocals, guitars, mellotron etc. All engineering and production duties as well as guiding the direction of the selected material would also be his responsibility. Well, as the old saying goes, the man did good. In fact, he did very good!
Contextualising much of what had already been going down in and around the annals of commercial-sounding pop – as opposed to loud, out and out beat and hard rock – José Cid produced what can truly be termed as an eclectic, not to mention entirely fascinating body of work here. It's a thrilling account that, in its own sweet way, is a perfect distillation of many of the disparate influences that had come about through all the folk, pop, and other musics that were being handed down through Portugal's recent past and also via some of the then current bridges that were being built between the experimentation displayed by the various psychedelic pop styles that the late 60s had thrown up, while also dovetailing neatly into some of the territory of the more adventurous singer-songwriters of the time. This is down to some of the softer hues and the overall engagingly melodic content which the LP favours, yet it still embraces one or two of the rockier sounding platforms that would also soundtrack much of the early 70s progressive boom.
To retain a sense of cohesiveness with all this going on is always going to be a tall order, I agree, and with such a plethora of contrasting ideas to work from, yet somehow Cid pieces it all together nicely so that it feels like it’s coming from within a rather natural sounding meeting place. Nothing here is ever too lightweight, although some selections do contain a certain level of fragility that, in the hands of another artist may have yielded a somewhat flimsier, and perhaps less engaging end product.
But it's the beatific thrum and gently beating heart that goes on around and through the album’s soft-edged core that becomes a large part of its appeal. The mood remains consistent, well-measured and calming throughout, mostly created by the gorgeous acoustic atmospherics. Now and then the vibrations dance and flit and, occasionally, are offset by some dramatic twists and turns, and some odd little forays into more wide-open spaces are glimpsed that, in themselves, create these cracklingly electric panoramas that all the while are anchored by robust bass patterns and deft bursts of spot-on percussion; traits that help by adding degrees of extra depth and colour. The warm, if largely plaintive melodies Cid utilises throughout recall something of later Beatles, and Bee Gees, and one or two other sympathetic artists who, similarly, were enthralled by the former's basic, yet extraordinary magical sounding appeal. Here and there too, an occasional passage will give off with reverberations of a late 60s gentle folk / hippie ethos while, as briefly touched upon earlier, also marking out the appearance of the singer-songwriter.
The whole thing hangs together really well, but a few tracks that stand out in particular are the likes of 'Nunca', the strange and freaky-sounding underwater atmospherics of 'Lisboa Anos 3000', the attractive post-psychsploitation splurge of 'Vampiro' and also the gently compelling 'Amigos'. This perhaps best shows off Cid's considerable wealth of musical knowhow and ability and comes over like a close cousin of the more celebrated English Canterbury scene. While Cid's fiercely do-it-alone experiment wasn't his most successful outing – and because of this it is now rated as one of the rarest Portuguese discs of that era – it’s certainly one to seek out and get immersed in; its lavishness is to be thoroughly enjoyed, especially for those passionate, or highly appreciative of any and all names mentioned above.
You may want to act swiftly if you desire a copy of this, however, as it’s a limited edition pressing resplendent in a deluxe gatefold design, beautifully-made with an info-and-photo-packed insert – in English and Portuguese – and features a rather stunning reproduction of a vintage EMI label.
Review made by Lenny Helsing/2015
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