Sunday, July 4, 2010

Clara Nunes: Clara Clarice Clara (1972)

I've been having so much fun listening to this album over the last several days that I decided to make it my next feature here at Wanwood. It was a near-impossible choice between this one and Nunes's later record, Alvorecer (1974), which is most often considered her career high-mark and which is, indisputably, a magical LP. It may be, though, that Clara Clarice Clara (1972) is even more varied and deep, its obsessive grip even harder to resist; and, given that it was the album on which Nunes first really found her artistic voice, it is likely the best place to begin.

Clara Nunes is a difficult artist to introduce, in part beca
use I'm still in the process of discovering her myself. This much is true: her discography represents one of the deepest, most ore-laden mineshafts in all Brazilian music. If you're willing to follow her where she wants to lead you, she'll take you, in the course of her dozen-and-a-half studio albums, through far-flung pastures of sheer musical bliss. For the most part, they're pastures untrodden by listeners outside Brazil, since Nunes's records inexplicably languished out of print for many years following her early death in 1983 at age 39. (She underwent a failed operation to treat varicose veins.) As a masterful interpreter of the samba form, she's often grouped together with Alcione and Beth Carvalho, whom she inspired. But, with all due respect to both these women, neither holds a candle to Nunes, who easily transcended the status of a mere sambista in part through a seamless mingling of samba with other ingredients, including African dance rhythms derived from Umbanda and Candomble religious rituals. Of course, samba had been an essentially African phenomenon from the beginning, when former slaves, newly migrated to Rio in the late 19th century, brought their dance customs with them, melding them with traditionally European grooves like polka. So in a sense Nunes was just returning samba to its origins.

Clara Clarice Clara has a bit of everything: the insidiously catchy "Sempre Mangueira," the vigorously uptempo "Ilu Aye," the overwhelmingly lovely ballad "Morena do Mar," even a cover of "Clarice," the crown jewel of Caetano Veloso's self-titled album from 1968. What unifies it all is Nunes's glorious voice, by turns soaring atop West African rhythms, by turns chirping coquettishly with the acoustic guitar that punctuates many of these tunes. In all likelihood you'll go through the following stages in listening to Nunes's albums: a.) You'll marvel at the artistry of the songs, at the contagiousness of their melodies; b.) You'll get addicted to them and play the shit out of them; c.) Regardless of your orientation, you'll begin to fall in love with Nunes. You'll want to take her out to dinner and a show--hell, you'll want to have her in bed, then talk to her about everything under the sun until the wee hours of the madrugada. d.) You'll have the melancholy recollection that she's been dead some thirty years, cruelly ripped out this world on the mere threshold of middle age, and hence you'll never be able to meet her, much less woo her. e.) You'll remember that you've got that panoply of fabulous Nunes records at your fingertips, and you'll content yourself with basking, again and again--and yet again!--in the irrepressible joy they lovingly convey.

Clara Clarice Clara

1. Sempre Mangueira (2:24)
2. Seca Do Nordeste (3:00)
3. Alvorada (2:24)
4. Tempo A Bessa (2:31)
5. Morena Do Mar (3:19)
6. Ilu Aye (3:28)
7. Opcao (2:34)
8. Anjo Moreno (3:10)
9. Tributo Aos Orixas (2:47)
10. Ultimo Pau-de-Arara (2:52)
11. Clarice (6:07)


  1. Hey another great post. I have been planning a mini-orgie of Clara Nunes for a while now, as I have a backlog of her stuff I have been wanting to share. And all on vinyl -- I have yet to be terribly impressed with the sound of any of the CD pressings I have come across. I am not sure what your 'source' for this rip is, but if you don't mind I think I will cross-link to your post and its fine writing and just provide my vinyl rip in FLAC and 320kbs, if that's okay.

  2. Thanks, F. Of course, I'm okay with the cross-post. I can't remember what the source was for this rip, honestly--it was something I found on a different blog, I think, tested out, and found to have quality sound. Looking forward to the mini Nunes orgy!