Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Okay, He's Sensitive

Listen of
(Sonar Kollectiv)
At first listen, this reissue of soft pop from 1973 breezes past, light and sweet. Bryan's jazzy singer-songwriter exercises don't even merit the attention of re-release effort from a European label known mostly for electronic music, it would seem. But his story adds an intriguing layer to the proceedings, making the reissue a far more engaging idea.

Bryan, a Brazilian native whose real name is Sérgio Sá, might have cashed in on his nationality and pumped out some bossa nova or latched onto tropicalia and that would have been that. But instead he wrote and recorded a dozen AM-radio ready songs with the same smiling vibe of say, Johnny Nash and standing, unashamed, on the shoulders of beard-era Beatles, The Association and numerous California sunshine-pop acts.

His accented English and almost feminine voice makes these already delicate songs even more fragile. When he's happy ("Listen" "Feel Like I Feel") it's so in the moment, that cynicism and irony won't hold against him. And when Bryan's sad ("Why She Goes Away") he's just a daisy bending in the rain.

The obvious singer-songwriter tools of the period are all in place: soft drums, unhurried bass, acoustic guitars and a Fender Rhodes. Bryan adds string sections and frequently employs an oboe and French horn, all to good, wistful effect. His particular appeal grows with repeated plays, which leads this all to the main concern: Why didn't he hit big outside Brazil?

Listen of was clearly aiming for North American ears. "Feel Like I Feel" sounds an awful lot like Stevie Wonder's "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" [released the same year -- ed.] and he's no fruitier than the other tender-hearted men who filled the airwaves during his time.

Maybe this time, Paul Bryan.

Reference material: Listeners unafraid to admit they enjoy The Association's "Never My Love" and know that owning an album with a cat on the cover does not compromise their authenticity can pursue Paul Bryan's Listen of with confidence.