If you’re in the habit of checking out sample credits on hip-hop albums you might have noticed two lesser-known names on Jay-Z’s ‘Marcy Me’ from his latest studio LP 4:44; one of the songs sampled, ‘Todo O Mundo E Ninguém’, is a single from the Portuguese psych/prog band Quarteto 1111, a short-lived yet incredibly influential project led by singer and multi-instrumentalist José Cid — a man whose fingers have always been in many musical pies simultaneously.
Even if those upper-mentioned pies include fado, pop, folk, or even more popular, arguably muzak-styled tunes (one of them even made it to the Eurovision in 1980), José Cid’s most praised work can be traced back not only to Quarteto 1111’s days (both the band’s self-titled debut LP and its successor Onde, Como, Quando, Porquê? Cantamos Pessoas Vivas are definitely worth a listen) but also to his 1978 solo prog-rock chef d’oeuvre 10,000 Anos Depois Entre Vénus E Marte, an album whose innovation in both composition and arrangements owes nothing to masters of the genre like Can or King Crimson. A rarity in its own right (10,000 Anos has only known one official vinyl release, by Portuguese label Orfeu back in 1978), original copies of the album are currently priced at no less than $250 on Discogs — this in spite of a recent re-release, a special commemorative edition of one of 2014’s live performances of the album featuring a CD and DVD; it is limited to a thousand copies though, so good luck finding one.
Agreed, the context in which 10,000 Anos was created was much more favourable than Quarteto 1111’s activity period: firstly, in 1978 Portugal was finally out of a four-decade-long dictatorship whose censorship division frowned upon — and obviously chased — any type of music that defied the norm and could in any way be considered (even if remotely) disruptive. They needn’t bother much, though; in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the country was so poor that getting the money to record anything (let alone buy adequate instruments) was almost impossible unless you had a major label backing you up — and major labels meant the regime’s approval. That allied to many bands breaking up prematurely due to members being either shipped out to fight in the ongoing Colonial War in Africa or escaping it altogether by running away to another country (usually France) made decent music-making in Portugal even more difficult, something duly explained on Eduardo Morais’ excellent documentary about underground music in Portugal, Meio Metro de Pedra, which you can watch here in full with English subtitles.
1978 was a seminal year for pushing Portuguese music forward. Now out of the darkness political-wise and with a new found freedom that made everything and anything seem possible, bands started popping out like mushrooms — even if lack of means was still a thing. Two main forces operated in this year in order to give birth to what would later be called the “boom of the Portuguese rock”: one was the arrival of punk, a genre whose DIY nature spoke directly to all of those lacking the financial means (or the music education) to start a band; the other was the ability to keep up with a more melodic side of rock inspired by late Floyd or the Moody Blues that saw the emergence of bands like the Genesis-inspired Tantra, whose sophomore album Holocausto would come out exactly in 1978. A growing thirst for everything that had been kept hidden or censored over the years thus resulted in an immense curiosity and eventual satisfaction in openly sharing all types of sounds that could signal new directions for the now liberated Portuguese pop.
10,000 Anos takes advantage of that spring-like context, but the singularity of its creation is fueled by many other elements that go from Cid’s remarkable compositions and arrangements to the super-group quality of the musicians featured on the album: Ramon Galarza, Zé Nabo, and Mike Sergeant are all accomplished musicians, conductors, and producers whose expertise cannot be ignored when it comes to their contribution to Cid’s prog masterpiece. His superb Mellotron and synthesiser sounds on tracks like ‘A Partir Do Zero’ is but enhanced by this solid 3-piece collective that not only seems to perfectly understand Cid’s message but also instinctively know exactly how to help deliver it.
However, the invisibility that such innovative sounds were doomed to (apart from the customary musical niches) never allowed for Cid’s album to be properly appreciated — at least at the time of its release. Now keeping up with the international markets influence-wise, Portuguese rock quickly shifted towards a more immediate, post-punk-meets-pop direction that made for a more democratic reception, something visible both on the radio and on record sales. 10,000 Anos nevertheless achieved the status of being one of those albums some people bow to whenever they hear its name mentioned, and if this piece about its 40th anniversary marks the first time you’ve ever heard about its existence, press play below and allow yourself to be swept away by this cosmical journey; it remains otherwise unavailable via Spotify and other streaming services.
originally published on The 405 on April 12th 2018