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Los Shakers; Various Artists 

Los Shakers: ¡Por Favor! (Ace/Big Beat); Various Artists: Jovem Guarda -- 21 Grandes Sucessos (Columbia-Brasil)

Wednesday, Jan 3 2001
Let's face it: Half the fun of listen-ing to foreign-language rock 'n' roll oldies is hearing how goofy and clumsy the performances were, or finding out what "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" sounds like in Lower Galooshistan.

The Beatles were, of course, the band that sparked this worldwide teeny-popper craze, and South Americans were stung as hard as kids up north. At the front of the Fab Four fan club was Uruguay's Los Shakers, a tight, peppy combo that was one of Latin America's biggest rock acts in the mid-'60s. Los Shakers never made it up to the States, but they were a regional smash, touring the southern continent and recording several albums of first-rate originals and Beatles covers. Their bouncy beat tunes have been impossible to find outside of Montevideo flea markets for decades, but now ¡Por Favor! makes it easy to sample the best of their 1965-68 catalog. Longtime fans may be mildly disappointed that this disc concentrates on Los Shakers' English-language originals while omitting such gems as their Spanish version of "Ticket to Ride." Regardless, the music is catchy and charming, performed with a vigor and passion that takes it beyond goofy homage into the realm of real rock genius.

Beatlemania hit Brazil differently than the rest of Latin America, spurring Brazilians into a psychedelic frenzy rather than mop-top pop like the Shakers. That was partly because Brazil already had a rock tradition dating back to the late '50s, and had home-grown heroes long before the Brits made their mark.

The Brazilian roqueiros clustered around the Jovem Guarda television show, and were inspired as much by Eddie Cochran and Cliff Richards as they were by John, Paul, and George Martin. The Jovem Guarda bands were both hopelessly cutesy and compellingly heartfelt -- girl singers like Wanderlea did their best to sound as hard-core as Lesley Gore, while Jerry Adriani and Roberto Carlos took turns playing Roy Orbison and Pat Boone. Until recently, the original Jovem Guarda recordings had been hard to come by, except for deceptive "best of" discs that were actually rerecordings made in the '80s and '90s. While EMI's new Bis reissue series offers the largest quantity of music from the show, the new collection on Columbia is probably the best place for beginners to start. Anyone looking for something with more bite should check out the vinyl-only bootleg Coracao de Pedras/Hearts of Stone, which features some of the gnarliest garage bands that Brazil had to offer. Any of these albums may make you smile or occasionally groan in horror -- but, hey, that's half the fun!

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Lawrence Kay


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