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Various Artists: Brazil Classics at 20: Anti-Aging Solutions Revealed

Greg Camphire By

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Following the release of its seventh installment, What's Happening in Pernambuco, Luaka Bop's Brazil Classics is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the series-spanning Brazil Classics at 20: Anti-Aging Solutions Revealed. Cherry-picked from previous editions, the tracks feature folkloric street samba alongside rural forró and eclectic, post-rock tropicalia, with pop superstars like Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil as well as country troubadour Luiz Gonzaga and the uncategorizable experimentalist Tom Zé.

Ben's "Ponta De Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma)" launches the choice selections with some heavy Brazilian funk and a rock n' roll edge. Prime breakbeats full of resounding handclaps and lush percussion back a catchy, call-and-response chorus between the frontman and his female back-up singers; the results of a Brazilian importing his love of James Brown grooves and vintage Rolling Stones swagger.

The Zé tune, "Ma," is irresistibly hypnotic, building on a slow, slinky bed of folkloric percussion by gradually adding looped elements, starting with an acoustic guitar riff. A fuzzed-out electric guitar drops in, augmented several measures later by a horn section that develops punchy, Count Basie-esque syncopations. Half-chanted/half-sung vocals appear almost as after-effects, melded subtly into the groove's layered patchwork.

Several tunes coat their hybrid sensibility with a pop sheen, such as the upbeat tracks contributed by singers Gil and Marisa Monte. Likewise, Lenine's "Hoje Eu Quero Sair Só" brings a modern production style and singer-songwriter vibe that may appeal to those who dig Ben Harper or Dave Matthews, marrying acoustic guitar with a hip-hop beat and wah-wah effects in a bluesy, mid-tempo bounce.

Gonzaga's "O Fole Roncou" stands out as the compilation's only forró contribution, a countrified two-step that bursts out with a driving electric guitar riff. Accompanied by accordion, the polka-influenced style features the unique percussion tandem of metal triangle and bass drum.

Some of the most arresting jams include those from artists who employ a classic, defining samba feel, with acoustic native instruments including the small cavaquinho guitar, the tambourine-like pandeiro and the ear-catching cuica drum, which produces pitch-bending effects that are eerily vocal-like. Agepê's "Ela Não Gosta De Mim" drops a velvety mix of the above with crisp accents and a chorus of chanted vocals to cushion the pelvis-shaking rhythm. The same kind of sweet, mid-tempo sway is heard in "Sonho Meu," the vocal duo of divas Maria Bethânia and Gal Gosta ringing out in rich, bell-like tones with a lilting quality derived from the Portuguese fado tradition. The haunting melodic hook of Martinho Da Silva's "Claustrofobia" shares that quality as well, its aura both fresh and timeless.

Hardcore fans will want to know that, in addition to a limited-edition vinyl version, this compilation features a slightly different set of tracks available on the downloaded version. Either way—with beguiling beats and melodies—Brazil Classics at 20: Anti-Aging Solutions Revealed may not keep the wrinkles off your face, but the buoyant sounds will certainly put a swing in your step and a shake in your rump.


Track Listing: Ponta De Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma); Ma; Ca

Personnel: Jorge Ben (1); Tom Z

Title: Brazil Classics at 20: Anti-Aging Solutions Revealed | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Luaka Bop


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