Wanda de Sah - Softly!

.Tall and tan and young and lovely....you know the rest of the song, and you certainly know the tune, and yet those of you expecting another collection of Girl From Ipenema rehashes from Wanda de Sah will be in for a surprise, as Softly!, her Capitol records debut, shimmers with an exotic sensuality that suggests Astrud Gilberto is unfairly crowned the queen of Brazilian soft-pop. This Rev-Ola reissue has rightfully thrown Wanda's soothing tones back into conversation again, and it's a wonder how anything so lush; so sultry, could have slipped through mass consumption.

Softly! was released in 1966 by Capitol, who saw potential in Wanda after her stint as part of Sergio Mendes' Brasil '65. Mendes soon found superstardom with Brasil '66 after changing the lineup (and the name slightly) which left Wanda ripe for a solo album. Whilst Mendes was soon to launch himself and his troupe headfirst into bossa nova and all the jazz trappings that were beginning to be associated with the movement, Wanda de Sah, under the guidance of arranger Jack Marshall aimed for a calmer, more elegantly cool market. There certainly is a Brazilian trademark all over Softly!, and yet Wanda casually avoids any kitsch comparisons to Astrud. As opposed to pulsating rhythms and beats, Softly! beautifully employs a soaring string orchestration that lovingly drowns the listener in its aura of chilled ambience and refuses to let go; not that the listener wants to go anywhere anyway.

The works of Jobim and Joao Gilberto feature amongst the songs chosen for the album. Indeed, many were drawn from Brasil '65's output whilst Wanda was still part of the organisation and mesmerising audiences in their live act. Pace ranges from the rapid So Danco Samba (which featured on Brasil '66's Equinox) to the thoughtful Sweet Happy Life. Aruanda is the most bossa nova in approach, with its delicious, chunky guitar chords, whilst Who Knows is arguably the flagship song on the album, since it incorporates all of the styles Wanda seems happiest to indulge in.

It doesn't matter that the record is only twenty-four minutes long, as there isn't a trace of padding throughout these eleven mouth-watering songs. Wanda de Sah might not be a household name purely because she didn't sing The Girl From Ipenema, but she certainly deserves as much respect as any of her fellow artists that exploded into popular focus with the bossa-nova invasion of the mid-sixties. Softly! is another lost classic that Rev-Ola takes pride on giving back to the public. We only hope there are many more trips to the well.

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