As mentioned in Cassandra Wilson, this is another version of the song sung by a woman, whose name, alas, I cannot discover on Allmusic.com. She is the anonymous singer of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, who, in 1969, released their cover of the song on Ye-Me-Le. It was enough of a hit that it was rereleased as one of Twenty Easy Listening Classics. Ye-Me-Le is mostly covers of popular pop tunes of the time – it’s followed up by “Norwegian Wood”. This version feels a bit perfunctory, maybe with some historical reason: I have 11 other cover versions from 1969.
It’s quick: 2:47. There’s a spritely intro full of Latin percussion for ten seconds, then things slow down, for the verse, speeding up again after the chorus. What’s nice is that this start-stop dynamic is carried through the song: you can neatly divide it into three sections. Just before the third section starts, there are orchestral flourishes. The third section is followed by the glorious full-speed ending, with scat singing, probably improvised. This is the best part of the song – it could go on for another three minutes and I’d be quite happy. Probably this would have been a better song-as-a-song if they cut the first two choruses and verses and started with the orchestra at about 1:30.
The lyric here (sung in English) is quite honestly disposable. As mentioned previously, the position of the singer does get switched up in the first two lines (“He is a lineman for the county / And he rides the main roads”) but this isn’t followed up in the rest of the song. She goes back to the original “you” in “I can hear you through the wires”, and soon afterwards “I know I need a small vacation”. There doesn’t seem to be a connection made to the song’s switch to the third person later, which Cassandra Wilson makes. I don’t think this is particularly thought-out – it’s an easy cover version.
There’s undoubtedly something to be said about the cultural context of this version, but I don’t feel qualified to say anything about how Brazilian musicians covering “country” songs would have been received in the United States in the late 1960s. Were Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 seen as a novelty act? From the evidence of this song, I’d say they saw themselves as entertainers rather than artists, but it’s hard to tell.
Is this cover a novelty song? It’s certainly a jolly rendition of a sad song. I’m not sure that it’s being disrespectful to the song, however, so much as it’s using it as a base to play with. There’s a clear joy in how the song takes off when it leaves the choruses, which I think is the real worth of this rendition. Rather than a novelty, the cover might be being used as a Trojan horse to get that in the door.