Charles Gavin digs for Sony's gems

Titãs drummer remasters essential albums by Dom Salvador, Hyldon, Baden Powell, Leny Andrade and other samba-soul and bossa-jazz stars on the Columbia Raridades series

Silvio Essinger
Charles Gavin works like a gold miner. After remastering and enabling the release of 14 CDs by the likes of Secos & Molhados, Tom Zé, Carlos Dafé, Branca Di Neve and Walter Franco, the Titãs drummer dives into the Sony catalogue and emerges with the Columbia Raridades (rarities) collection, featuring 11 essential LPs from the old CBS catalogue. The albums have been divided into two series. The samba-soul group brings albums that had never come out on CD, such as Som, Sangue e Raça 30 (Dom salvador & Abolição), Nossa História de Amor 30 (Hyldon), Som Nosso 30 (Som Nosso de Cada Dia), Nesse Inverno 30 (Tony Bizarro), Trio Ternura 30 (Trio Ternura) - the exception is Moleque de Rua 30, by the band Moleque de Rua, which came out on CD in 1992, but was out of print for a long time.

The bossa-jazz group features CD prints (with the original cover info from the LPs) of Edison Machado é Samba Novo 30 (Edison Machado), Registro 30 (Leny Andrade), Solitude On Guitar 30 (Baden Powell), Barquinho 30 (Maysa) and João do Vale 30 (João do Vale plus MPB guest stars).

Gavin says that the collection was conceived a year ago, by the time when the WEA package was coming out. "I just went for it. I called up a meeting with the Sony and Universal people, to show them what I had done with the WEA catalogue and explained how it could be done with other labels. I showed them some CD-Rs, things that (British label) Mr.Bongo had released (from Brazilian LPs) and bootleg albums by Elis Regina, Joyce and Dom Salvador that were being sold at Candem Town."

Having convinced Sony, Charles spent long days visiting the archives of the recording company in the outskirts of Rio to check out which master tapes still existed - some had vanished, like that of Dom Salvador's solo disc. The second step was to remaster the tapes, which had to be done at the factory. There was missing information on covers and cover arts, so the drummer counted on a big help from Rodrigo Pizza, owner of a specialized MPB music shop in São Paulo, who had some of the original LPs.

Underrated album
Gavin's gratest joy is to have rescued the album by Dom Salvador & Abolição, which he had only enjoyed through a bootleg British vinyl copy. "I couldn't believe my ears. They were crafting that sound prior to Banda Black Rio!" he says. Charles managed to infiltrate an album that he had produced early in the 90s for the group Moleque de Rua - a bunch of kids from the suburbs of São Paulo who mixed percussion on tins with rock instruments. Gavin regards that album as underrated. "It was about to being released in Japan, but the label switched the board of directors and it just didn't happen. The Moleque guys come from the samba, and I thought that their album fit the rest of the collection", he clears up.

The commercial success achieved by the first 11 CDs will determine the release of other 14 discs on the Columbia Raridades series; gems like the first Diagonais album (Cassiano's former group), Waltel Blanco, Os Ipanemas, O Som Psicodélico de Luiz Carlos Vinhas, Os Cariocas, Germano Mathias and others. Universal Music has promised Gavin that they will release the first two Gerson King Combo LPs, the first three Jorge Ben LPs plus Africa Brasil; Cassiano's Cuban Soul; Sergio Sampaio's Eu Quero Botar Meu Bloco na Rua; the two albums by Lady Zu (a Brazilian disco queen) and one by União Black. Charles says that "The covers and master tapes are ready to go".

Slowly, Gavin's idea is motivating other labels: BMG and Eldorado have put out similar collections, gathering two LPs in one CD (read article). "Nobody even wanted to talk about it, two years ago. Today, it is a worldwide phenomenon", says Gavin. "An album that is mentioned by a hyped artist becomes interesting, as it happened with Burt Bacharach, when Oasis printed a picture of him on the cover of their album. And music spins like the Earth. The music is forgotten and recovered, from time to time."

Gavin swears that he's not in it for the money. "I only work with albums that I love. I make a living out of my band", he attests, even though the Dois Momentos series with the first two Secos & Molhados albums sold 50 thousand copies. "Recording companies are oblivious to the public's curiosity. If we sell 3 thousand copies of each of the 10 CDs, we'll have 30 thousand copies sold. And the production costs are close to zero - all we have to do is remaster the tapes and recover the images", tells Gavin.

Charles Gavin shares his feelings: what turned him into a gold miner was his concern with the kids' musical education. "I was shopping for discs and two kids came up and thanked me for having re-issued the Tom Zé albums, which they had heard a lot about but had never listened to. That alone was worth the effort."

The drummer already has a list of requests for future CDs: Dona Ivone Lara, Os Mulheres Negras, Almôndegas, Gueto, Raul Seixas, Candeia and Moto Perpétuo are some of them. He has recently coordinated the edition of the compilation Geração anos 80 30 on WEA (featuring singles by Brazilian rock bands from the 80s) and the re-print of the two first Ira! albums (Mudança da Comportamento, from 1985, and Vivendo e Não Aprendendo, from 1986), as well as Ira! guitarist Edgard Scandurra's first solo disc, Amigos Invisíveis.

Charles' current project is to bring to Abril Music (Titãs' label) the catalogue from the label Som da Gente, which used to specialize in instrumental music, having released albums by Hermeto Pascoal, Banda Metalurgia, Cama de Gato and Medusa. It would be heavenly to dig through the Som Livre archives, since they own the RGE, Som Maior and Fermata catalogues. "It's just like Noah's ark, in there!"