The Brazilian artist who has been spreading the music of his country around the world for more than 55 years was channelling The Beatles on December 28, 1968. Pianist Sergio Mendes, a fixture in the American album charts with his group Brasil ’66 from that year onwards, was on the bestsellers again with Fool On The Hill. The record featured their version of the song from the Magical Mystery Tour EP of the year before, and on the last chart of the year, Mendes’ album climbed to the top of Billboard’s Bestselling Jazz LPs chart.
The album had entered the mainstream pop album chart at No. 102 in early December, soaring to No.58 and then No.18. As it hit the top of the jazz survey, it was at No. 11 on the pop side and would go as high as No. 3 in the new year, the group’s highest-ranking LP in the American market. Fool On The Hill was their third top ten album in two years, and their fourth gold disc.
Produced by Mendes himself, the album showcased the group’s now-customary blend of pop vocals and Brazilian rhythms. Apart from the Beatles cover, it included a version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” and the ballad written by Dave Grusin with Alan & Marilyn Bergman, “When Summer Turns To Snow.” There was another English lyric ballad, “Canto Triste,” and prominent vocals by Karen Philipp and Lani Hall, the singer who would later marry Herb Alpert, the co-founder of A&M, to whom the group were signed.
Alpert, for his part, helped engineer the LP while Grusin did the gorgeous orchestral arrangements (listen in particular to the strings on “Scarborough Fair,” not to mention Mendes’ fine solo on the track). It’s a lovely album well worth a fresh visit, especially if you could use some Brazilian sunshine in your system.
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