Monday, January 31, 2011

Sétima Legião

Sétima Legião were formed during 1982 in Lisbon. Choosing a path different to the one followed by most of their contemporaries, they opt for more intimate and introspective sounds, adding, at the same time, some traditional folk elements. Taking their name from the Legio VII Gemina Felix roman legion, stationed in 69 A.D. (and until the IV century) in the province of Tarraconensis (which included Callaecia - Lusitania was a separate and autonomous province). These unorthodox choices, combined with the post-revolutionary period that Portugal was experiencing, generated some controversy around the band, not making them press and public darlings.

The project was formed by Rodrigo Leão (bass and keyboards), Pedro Oliveira (vocals and guitar), Nuno Cruz (drums and percussion) and Francisco Menezes (lyrics and occasional keyboards). Influenced by the legendary Manchester-Liverpool axis (Joy Division, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes...), wearing trench coats and singing in English, they, nevertheless, succeeded in debuting live only a few months after their formation.

Soon after this event, they decide to opt for Portuguese as their form of lyrical expression, while welcoming two new members, Susana Lopes (cello), and later on, Paulo Marinho (bagpipes and flutes).

Before the end of 1982, the newly founded Fundação Atlântica (owned by Miguel Esteves Cardoso, Pedro Ayres Magalhães and Ricardo Camacho) contacts the band and offers them a contract. This will will give birth to a 7'', published the following year, and including "Glória" and "Partida." Serious and profound, stark and dramatic, it reveals them as standard bearers of something that had yet to be done in the Portuguese music scene. Containing, the title theme, lyrics written by Miguel Esteves Cardoso (though dedicated to Francisco Meneses), and an instrumental b-side (which explores more deeply the traditional folk roots), it created a certain strangeness in the market, which, not surprisingly, welcomed it in silence and indifference, despite the good reviews it received.

By early 1984, Susana decided to leave the band, just as it was preparing to enter the studio to record their full-length debut. Recorded, produced and mixed in just four days, by Ricardo Camacho (who had already produced the single), also playing keyboards and guitars, thus establishing a link with the group that would lead him to join, later on, the group.

The album, titled "A Um Deus Desconhecido" (like the homonymous book by John Steinbeck), is released during that year and is one of the most important (and definitely the best!) records ever released in Portugal.

Unlike Gloria, this disc will have a better acceptance by both radio and public alike, selling out its first edition of 2000 copies, giving the band a cult status.
The closing of Fundação Atlântica, led to the band being signed by EMI-VC in 1985. However, one would have to wait until 1987 to see the release of a new album, mainly due to the musicians’ involvement in other projects (Rodrigo Leão starts Madredeus in '85,) and their own professional lives (as well as personal, of course). At the same time, two more musicians join the band: Gabriel Gomes (accordion) and Paulo Abelho (percussion and samplers).

So, "Mar d'Outubro" (the title of a song included in the previous album), came out in September, proving to be a total surprise! If, on the one hand, it presents more poppy and catchy songs, with ever-present gray tones, on the other, the embracing of traditional roots is a more expressive and refined, achieving a perfect balance and harmony between modernity and tradition.

By the spring of '89, they start recording their third effort, “De Um Tempo Ausente”, which will be released during that year, but one would have to wait until 1992 to hear its follower “O Fogo”.

"Auto de Fé", published in 1994, shows the band live, while serving as a sort of compilation of their career, including the new remaking of some of the older songs. Also, during that year, they contribute with a song to José Afonso’s tribute compilation, "Filhos da Madrugada", covering "Cantigas do Maio."

However, the fact that Rodrigo Leão became more involved with Madredeus and his solo outfit, Rodrigo Leão & Vox Ensemble, Paulo Marinho with Gaiteiros de Lisboa, Ricardo Camacho forming a new project, Condor (with Amândio Bastos), and Paulo Abelho with Golpe de Estado, led to speculations about the dissolution of the Legion.
Limiting their activities to live performances, they resume studio work during ‘96, starting to record a new album, which would have to wait until 1998 to see the daylight.

The record, "Sexto Sentido," sees them deepening the use of technology and electronic samplers, at the same time that synthesizers became more present.
1999 sees them taking part in another tribute, this time to Xutos & Pontapés. In "XX Years XX Bands", they presented their version of "Longa Se Torna A Espera", while 2000 sees the release of the first official compilation "A História Da Sétima Legião: Canções 1983-2000", which includes two originals, "A Luz" and "A Promessa".
Another collection is released during 2003, " A História Da Sétima Legião II: Canções 1983-2003", containing three new compositions ("Sétima Volta", "Ilha Perdida" and "Silêncio da Terra", as well as a remixed version of "Ascenção".
Also during that year, another song by them, "O Último Deserto", is included in yet another compilation, "Frágil 21".

Some more collections of their songs (“Sete Mares”, in 2004, and "Grandes Êxitos", in 2006), were released, but without adding anything new.

As for the future, it remains to be seen, with yet another chapter to be written…

both Sétima Legião - Demo 1987 & Sétima Legião - Ao Vivo Nas Noites do Parque, Coimbra, 07-05-89 here!!

Track listings:

Sétima Legião - Demo 1987

01 - O Baile das Sete Partidas
02 - Onde Tem Estado o Outono
03 - Noutro Lugar

Sétima Legião - Ao Vivo Nas Noites do Parque, Coimbra, 07-05-89

PART I: 01 - Intodução/O Baile Das Sete Partidas
02 - Noutro Lugar
03 - Tango do Exílio
04 - Aguarela
05 - Santa Maria do Mar
06 - O Canto e o Gelo
07 - Além-Tejo
08 - Sete Mares
09 - Mar d'Outubro
10 - Agora e Sempre
11 - El-Rei D. Afonso IV
PART II:12 - Saudades
13 - Glória
14 - Reconquista
15 - Balada da Despedida/Noutro Lugar

(Paulo Martins)

1 comment:

  1. My favourite portuguese band, can't find "Frágil 21" compilation with the "O Último Deserto" song. Do you have this track?