Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.
Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $25/month) and they send you one meticulously selected album they feel is an Essential addition to any record collection. Easy, right? Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with killer special features like original artwork, informative booklets, and even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP shop too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including June’s shiny, 10th anniversary reissue of Phoenix’s breakthrough album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – not to mention a bevy of rare releases pressed exclusively for the folks at Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.
Word to the wise, while the store is open to the public, most of its more covet-worthy stock is only available to members, so you’ve gotta sign up to get your mitts on them. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection over to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM (or other VMP Exclusive pressings) that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.
So what’s on tap for July? Get ready to get your groove on, ’cause Vinyl Me, Please is bringing some serious heat to your summer with Jorge Ben’s landmark Afro-Brazilian funk classic África Brasil.
In case you hadn’t figured out from prior unboxings, the folks at Vinyl Me, Please love to throw a little extra swag into their monthly deliveries. This month featured a slick little smiley-faced vinyl sticker. ‘Cause who doesn’t smile like that when fresh wax arrives in the mail?
For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND
I’m going to let you in on a little secret before I get started here, and the secret is that, prior to Vinyl Me, Please’s July box showing up at my door, I’d never heard a single second of Jorge Ben’s music. Not that I’d never heard the name before. Ben is a legit superstar on the Brazilian music scene, and anyone who’s ever dipped even a pinkie toe into the samba-soaked waters of the Brazilian scene knows his name. I’m one of those pinkie toe soakers, but though I knew the name, somehow my modest explorations of the Brazilian music hadn’t yet led me to getting down with Ben’s sound. I’m happy to report after spinning July’s Essential pick, I have officially gotten down with Mr. Ben, and that his sounds on África Brasil are nothing short of transcendent.
Now, just to be clear on one particular point about my avoiding Ben’s music – i.e., the reason I hadn’t listened to Jorge Ben before was because I’d always heard his name in reference to the soulful samba folk rock vibe of his early recordings. Without getting too deep into the why’s, I’ll just say that soulful samba rock has never really been my cup of tea. Rambuctious, guitar-driven Afro-Brazilian funk rock on the other hand, well, that’s right in my wheel house. And the free-wheeling vibe that drives that soul-shaking style is on full display throughout Ben’s África Brasil.
Of course, as one might expect, the intrinsic change in Ben’s style – present even from the first thumping notes of África Brasil – came as a shock to the artist’s rabid fanbase when the album was released in 1976. Understand that when we say words like “change” and “shock” in regards to Ben’s shifting artistic approach, we’re backing up VMP’s claim that the “change” was of the seismic “Bob Dylan goes electric” sort, particularly amongst purveyors of Brazil’s traditional samba sound. Point of fact, prior to África Brasil‘s release, Ben was widely regarded as the voice of that “samba-soul” movement. While Dylan’s stylistic shift from fervid Greenwich folkie to blustery plugged-in bluesman stemmed from an intrinsic need to change with the times, Ben’s shift from samba guru to full on funk-master came from a very different place – chiefly his embrace of the rollicking rhythms and propulsive beats found fueling the music buried in his African roots.
Though África Brasil shook his fanbase to its very core, the album arrived as a near unimpeachable sonic synthesis of Ben’s African and Brazilian backgrounds. I’m not going to waste a bunch of time here breaking down África Brasil track by track. Rather, I’ll just urge you dig up a copy and experience this funky masterwork for yourself. ‘Cause in the end, that’s the only way you can fully appreciate the glorious intricacies of Ben and Co. weaving the slinky guitars and propulsive rhythms within África Brasil with his once in a generation voice (sung in the lavishly lyrical Portuguese tongue of his Brazilian homeland). And as much as I like to think I can cobble together just the right words to make you feel the power and energy at play throughout África Brasil, the only way to truly feel the music is to hear it for yourself.
It’s important to remember that cover art is basically your entry point to an album. As such, it can serve many purposes. None of those purposes are as important as establishing the who’s and the what’s about the music inside. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this cover for Ben’s África Brasil is pretty well on point. And just flip that sexy, tip-on sleeve over if you want to have a gander at the track list … not to mention the motley crew of musicians that were running with Jorge Ben circa 1976.
As always, Team VMP is happy to foil stamp their selections, forever noting them as an absolute Essential in any collection.
And just in case you’re not totally sold on that Essential tag, there’s some info on this little sticker that may just change your mind. If nothing else, you’ll want to take note of the fact that this exclusive, 180g pressing on yellow wax is the first time África Brasil has ever received an official pressing here in the US. So yeah, it’s actually pretty hard to argue against that Essential label.
Now, before you dig too deep into this month’s package, you’ll need to take a moment to run down the information on the album’s OBI strip, ’cause it contains vital nuggets like the album’s title, artist’s name, and, of course, the VMP catalogue number.
Flip it over, and you’ll find a few potent words about why Team VMP selected the album as this month’s Essential.
And if you’re the sort of listener who likes to enjoy a fancy adult beverage with your music, you’ll want to check that inner tab so you can sample África Brasil‘s companion cocktail, the Taj Mahal. It features rum, and gin, and a bevy of other fruity treats … which means it may have a little bit too much going on for my tastes. But it certainly sounds like a very Brazilian, boozy treat.
Now, one of the cooler things the folks at Vinyl Me, Please do with their Essentials picks is to include an original, album inspired art print with each release. This trippy, pseudo-photographic confection comes via Colombia-born, New York-based director-animator-designer Santiago Carrasquilla. While it’s certainly one of the wilder prints to accompany a VMP Essential, it’s definitely one of the coolest.
Now, I know you’re dying to get into that sleeve and have a look at the precious wax inside. But before you do, you’ll want to spend a little time with the glossy booklet inside, ’cause it’s packed full of fascinating info about Jorge Ben and the África Brasil album. Words courtesy of Coppin State Professor/ Music Historian Robert H. Cataliotti.
What about that vinyl, you ask? Team VMP is calling it yellow, but it’s more of a glorious pale golden.
And it’s destined to bring some serious golden warmth to any turntable it encounters.
How’s it sound? Like the golden warmth of a Brazilian sunset. Obviously.
Give It a Spin
Look, I’ve spent a fair amount of time bestowing heaps of praise on the Vinyl Me, Please team for their steadfast dedication to make every single month a celebratory musical adventure. If it feels like I’ve been stumping a bit more of late, it’s purely because VMP has been on fire with their Essentials picks for 2019, particularly with inspired selections like Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece, Experience Unlimited’s Free Yourself, and Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma – all of which are pure discovery sort of albums.
In case I haven’t been crystal clear about where I’m headed with this bit, you should know that Jorge Ben’s África Brasil is every bit a pure discovery record like those predecessors, one that’s also likely to serve as a gateway album to the wild world of Brazilian funk/psych/rock for anyone who opens their hearts and ears to it. I’d like to thank Team VMP for giving me a chance to do just that with this glorious new vinyl pressing. And for continuing to make every single month a genuine musical adventure.
A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the official Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! Can’t wait to see what funky treat is headed our way for August!