Tecnicolor: Os Mutantes Lost Album

“Hearing Os Mutantes for the first time was one of those revelatory moments you live for as a musician (…) For years it was pretty much the only thing I listened to.” Beck

In October 1966 something different was about to happen in music when Rita Lee and brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias walked on stage for the first time as Os Mutantes to perform in a Brazilian TV show. A few months later, they got involved with the Tropicália Movement, performing with Gilberto Gil at the 1967 Brazilian Popular Music Festival and recording “Panis et Circenses” for the Tropicália album manifesto. In 1968, with arrangements of Rogério Duprat, once called the “Brazilian George Martin”, Os Mutantes recorded their acclaimed so-called debut album, released later that year. The follow-up, named simply Mutantes, was released in 1969. That fresh and highly creative music was a blow of sense of humour and rebelliousness in the heavy atmosphere of a country under a military dictatorship.

In 1970, after releasing A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado, their third album, Os Mutantes - now a five piece band, with Dinho on drums and Liminha on bass - went to Europe to perform live and were invited by producer Carl Homes to record some songs in Des Dames studio, in Paris. Aiming to reach a broader audience, they translated a few of their early songs to English, besides recording new ones. The album shows the genius of the band and, in a way, sums up their essence.

The arrangements are somewhere in between the experimental and psychedelic sound of their first period and the heavier rock they were playing since A Divina Comédia, recorded earlier that year. The individual instrumental performances along with the harmonies are a highlight and the first signs of progressive rock, an increasing influence in their music, can also be heard. Although completed, Tecnicolor - named after one of the original songs recorded - wasn’t released, as the British subsidiary of their label, Polydor, decided it wasn’t commercial enough. The album would remain shelved for the next three decades.

Two years after their return from Europe, Rita Lee left the band and Os Mutantes went through a prog rock period that went on until the break-up in 1978, when Sérgio was the only remaining member from the original line-up. During the 1980s the band was virtually forgotten, but in the 1990s their popularity started to grow, particularly in the US and Europe, after Kurt Cobain declared to be a fan and the release of a compilation assembled by David Byrne (from Talking Heads) called Everything is Possible! in 1999. There was something missing, though.

The master tapes of the unreleased album recorded in Paris were lost for a long time, when in 1994, while working on a biography of the band, writer Carlos Calado uncovered them and, in 2000, 30 years after the recording sessions, Tecnicolor was finally released. In 2006, Arnaldo, Sérgio and Dinho reunited for an acclaimed concert in London and a short tour across the US and Brazil. Although having enjoyed moderate success even during their peak, Os Mutantes are cherished by their fans as a hidden rock and roll treasure and will be remembered as one of the most innovative and influential bands of their generation.