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on June 17, 2003
The Brasil '66 repertoire is riddled with contradictions.
Each of the legendry group's albums has its triumphs, its hidden treasures and its disappointments.
Crystal Illusions is no exception.
Track one is an uninspired cover of the Otis Redding classic "Dock of the Bay".
I rate it the only disappointment on this disc and believe that it should have been left to the man whose ownership of it is so complete that alternative versions have been rendered irrelevant.
From track two onwards Mendes and company return to what they do best - smooth, classy and stylish treatments of Latin American ballads and dance music.
Such songs as "Viola" and "Salt Sea" are among the hidden treasures of this album - compositions of subtle nuance that take shape and meaning over the course of repeated listening.
The album's triumphs include the Bergman classic "Pretty World" (OK maybe it's not a classic but it should be!).
The star cut on this generally impressive set is the title track - the Edu Lobo composed "Crystal Illusions"
It's sustained rhythmic re-interpretations of the main theme reaches a hypnotic crescendo that is delivered with power and grace.
This album does not suffer the uninitiated or the ignorant gladly.
It is only for those already in touch with the Swinger from Rio and au fait with the trademark way that Mendes and the group deliver their Bossa Nova message.
Like all previous and later offerings from Brasil'66 Crystal Illusions is riddled with its contradictions.
But it's also sprinkled with tonnes of magic. Of course, FIVE STARS.
44 comments24 of 25 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 5, 2007
I have always enjoyed this recording. The orchestrations by Dave Grusin are fantastic and shows why he was in demand for movie and television scores. The song selection is very eclectic from easy tempo to fast tempo, from soft to dramatic. The selections "Dock Of The Bay" and "Pretty World" got the most airplay as singles but one could sometimes hear "Crystal Illusions" in it's entirety on AM radio. "Viola" is a beautiful tune with a romantic flair. It contains a lot of basic percussion and guitar and Grusin's arrangement fits it beautifully. "Dois Dias" harkens back to "Roda" from "Look Around" with it's fast tempo. "You Stepped Out Of A Dream" might have been a good choice for a single with it's uptempo beat but it languished as an album cut. "Song Of No Regrets" and the title cut both have a very dramatic flair to them and, along with "Salt Sea" and "Empty Faces," have lyrics by Lani Hall. Lani was writing lyrics starting with the album "Look Around." Lani continued writing lyrics for some of the Brazillian writers but more appeared on this album that any of the other Brasil'66 recordings.Even though "Dock Of The Bay" and "Pretty World" got a tremendous amount of airplay in 1969, both failed to chart into the Top 40. The latter is my favorite selection from the album. It combines the key elements of all the member's instrumentation and Grusin's backing arrangements. I still have the LP record of this and now that it is on CD, my Brasil '66 collection,with the exception of "Stillness" is complete. This is a good solid purchase.
22 comments14 of 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 17, 2003
This is a wonderful cd, and I am thrilled that it has been reissued in Japan with glorious sound. Lani Hall really comes through on this cd with a lovely solo on Song Of No Regrets. Mendes has never really given her the credit she deserved. Other standout tracks include a new take on You Stepped Out Of A Dream, and a lovely version of Nascimento's Empty Faces. The title track is a wonderful showcase for all the members. As usual, Dave Grusin's orchestrations shine. In conclusion this cd makes a wonderful addition to anyone's collection.
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on December 30, 2005
Sergio's follow-up album to his monster "Fool on the Hill" album finds the band in equally fine form, continuing to spin its magic touch on unexpected material like "Dock of the Bay" and "You Stepped Out of a Dream." The album's flower power is in full bloom in the delicious "Pretty World," a huge adult contemporary hit which almost (but not quite) made the Top 40 in the summer of '69. Lani Hall really steps into the limelight more forcefully than ever on this album, not only in her stellar vocal turns on "Dock of the Bay" and "Song of No Regrets," but also as co-writer of several of the songs. The album's closer, "Crystal Illusions," finds Sergio working in a quasi-psychedelic environment that features a Stravinsky-inspired orchestration by Dave Grusin. This is classic Sergio from the height of his creative powers.
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on January 16, 2007
With Crystal Illusions, Sergio Mendes and his supergroup Brasil '66 continued their string of excellent albums, blending the best of Brazilian jazz with contemporary American pop. Unlike "Look Around" and "Fool On The Hill", this album did not produce any top 10 pop singles, although "Dock of The Bay" and "Pretty World" did very well on the Adult Contemporary charts. The overall feel of this album is a bit more relaxed than "Look Around", but every bit as enjoyable. The voices of Lani Hall and Karen Philipp blend beautifully, especially on "Viola", "Dois Dias", and "You Stepped Out of a Dream", which is my favorite cut. Lani's voice soars on "Song of No Regret" and Karen gets the opportunity to shine on "Salt Sea". "Empty Faces" and the title song really highlight the musical abilities of each of the group members.

I first heard this album when I was in college in 1969. While it didn't sell as well as its immediate predecessor, time has shown it to have a lasting relevance. This is just a great recording that should not be missed by anyone who enjoys light pop or smooth jazz.
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on September 3, 2011
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 were the best of their genre of music. No other group of talented musicians have come close since. Sergio had a gift himself as well as a gift for putting together great talents. Crystal Illusions doesn't disappoint! The muscians were fantastic and innovative. The pure tones and talent of the singers can stir the very soul. My Dad had this album in the days of vinyl. I'm sure I drove him crazy always "borrowing" his copy. I finally broke down and get a copy of this on disc for myself. I wore Dad's out years ago! I better hide this when he comes to visit!
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on March 18, 2013
All the love in the world is not too much for Sergio Mendes (piano), LANI HALL (vocal), KAREN PHILLIP (vocal), Dom Um Romao (drums), Sebastiao Neto(bass) and Rubens Bassini (congas), Dave Grusin's orchestral arrangements and all the people at A&M Records who birthed this album as a great piece of art. This group of magnificent singers and players created the perfect lilt that lifts our hearts and minds through all the songs.
Of note are the Marilyn and Alan Bergman lyrics of "Pretty World" which is the most bravely romantically loving song ever written. Those lyrics are a clarion call to humanity for what we could have for a world by saying - "WHY DON'T WE TAKE A LITTLE PIECE OF SUMMER SKY AND HANG IT ON A TREE, FOR THAT'S THE WAY TO START TO MAKE A PRETTY WORLD FOR YOU AND FOR ME." Can't we all just express that fond wish to each other rather than doing anything else to each other ? Or is life but a trampled dream ? HOW DARE WE ? Let's NEVER FORGET what Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 have given us, and play it all the time.
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on April 3, 2012
For those of you who grew up in the 60's, you'll remember this music. This album has some of the best Sergio Mendez ever did. It's a bit less commercialized than his later stuff - more unapologetically Brazilian in flavor. Later albums had him doing more covers of already popular American Music.
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on April 25, 2015
Recorded and released in 1969, "Crystal Illusions" was the 5th album from the pop superstar group Sergio Mendes &
Brasil '66. Containing a total of 9 tracks, it's yet ANOTHER musical masterpiece from this amazing ensemble. It's still
my all-time favorite recording by them. The title cut, at almost 8 minutes, is the reason why. A brilliant, adventurous,
and experimental work from Brazilian composer Edu Lobo (along with Johnny Guarnieri and '66 singer Lani Hall), it is
the piece that brings me back to this recording time and time again. I first heard it on their 1972 double-lp "Foursider"
A&M compilation collection and was stunned by its beauty, structure, complexity, & depth. I was used to hearing "Fool
on the Hill", "Look of Love", and "Going Out of My Head" from them (which are all marvelous performances & versions
that I loved and still do), but "Crystal Illusions" ("Memorias de Marta Sare") immediately struck me as something very,
very special, indeed. As on the remaining 8 tracks on the recording, the legendary Dave Grusin arranged & conducted
the stellar orchestra which backed Mendes (keyboards, vocals, arranging), the great jazz guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves,
bassist Sebastiao Neto, Rubens Bassini (percussion), Dom Um Romao on drums, and the magnificent Lani Hall & Karen
Philipp on vocals. "Crystal Illusions" continued with the group's proven, successful formula performing energetic, tight,
and effervescent tunes including, "Viola", "Salt Sea", "Pretty World", and the Otis Redding pop smash "Dock of the Bay"
that opens the set. Mendes also does a solo vocal on the romantic standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream", w/ Grusin's
lush strings backing him in fine fashion. Mendes & '66 cover, as well, Brazilian superstar Milton Nascimento's landmark
piece, "Empty Faces", also known as "Vera Cruz". (For another terrific version of this tune, check out the great Brazilian
jazz songbird Flora Purim's classic 1974 "Stories to Tell" cd on Milestone.) When Sergio Mendes was getting started as a
musician in the late 1950's, he developed a strong interest in jazz and bossa nova working with such legends as Antonio
Carlos Jobim and later, with Herbie Mann & jazz giant Cannonball Adderley. Brasil '65 was subsequently formed with the
Sergio Mendes Trio along with singers Wanda Sa & Rosinha de Valenca. When Sergio's promotional partner Richard Adler
suggested the group increase sales and exposure by exploring more English-based songs, two American female vocalists
who could sing in both Portuguese and English were found (Lani Hall and Bibi Vogel who was replaced by Janis Hansen).
The ensemble then became Brasil '66, successfully demonstrated their material at an audition, and were signed to A&M
Records by founders Herb Albert and Jerry Moss. Albert would take over the group as producer. The rest, as they say, is
history with their first album going platinum. The original personnel of Brasil '66 would change over the course of several
albums. By the time "Crystal Illusions" was recorded, Lani Hall was still present, but all others had been replaced in their
previous album, "Fool on the Hill" and remained with "Crystal Illusions." Produced by both Herb Albert & Sergio Mendes,
"Crystal Illusions" is a timeless, gorgeous, late 60's pop work-of-art. The title-track, ALONE, is worth the price of the cd.
The final track on the album, it's almost as if it's a story and message about looking back on the 1960's decade that was
closing out, as well. Their next studio album, 1970's "Stillness", would reveal still more of the group's magic. Beautifully
recorded at A&M studios in Hollywood, "Crystal Illusions" is a desert island disc.
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 6, 2007
Excellent album by Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66, this one features Lani Hall singing lead vocals on just about every track. Very relaxing, mellow, and melodic. Great Pop music from the late 60s..........
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