MOMENTO Bebel Gilberto Some
have pegged Bebel Gilberto as the Norah Jones of Brazilian pop, as a tasteful purveyor of global music for the Starbucks market. And while her third solo album might seem like a bid for the middle of the road, splitting the difference between her electronic debut and its more acoustic successor, ultimately the record stands as a testament to Gilberto’s omnivorous musical appetites and command.
“Bring Back the Love,” for example, layers samba rhythms over contemporary dance beats. “Caçada,” a song first written and recorded by Gilberto’s uncle Chico Buarque, is set to a traditional forró arrangement, complete with the flutes, drums and steel-string guitars native to northeastern Brazil. On “Night and Day” Gilberto reimagines the Cole Porter standard as a bossa-flavored reverie. Whether in Portuguese or English, nearly every song here feels like an instinctive vehicle for her supple, languorous phrasing.
Gilberto made “Momento” in three different cities with three different sets of collaborators. In London she worked with producer Guy Sigsworth, who is perhaps best known for his contributions to the recordings of Bjork and Madonna. In Manhattan she teamed up with eclectic New York dance-rockers the Brazilian Girls, and in Rio she worked with members of the neoBrazilian pop combo Forro in the Dark and, on the cha-cha-inflected “Tranquilo,” with the 19-member Orquestra Imperial.
Stylistically far-reaching yet utterly of a piece in spirit, Gilberto’s record sounds like what she has taken to calling “Bebelmusic,” a sleek, sensual pulse that would sound at home on the streets of just about any city on the planet.
— Bill Friskics-Warren DOWNLOAD THESE: “Caçada,” “Tranquilo,” “Bring Back the Love” WE’LL NEVER TURN BACK Mavis Staples At
this point, recording an album of freedom songs might strike some as an exercise in nostalgia, but for Mavis Staples, one of the most stirring gospel and soul singers of all time, it couldn’t be timelier — or more prophetic. Outraged by what she saw in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Staples reinvests the likes of “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “(Ain’t Nobody Gonna) Turn Me Around” with the moral authority to speak to social and economic injustices that persist today.
“Down in Mississippi / brothers in jail, uneducated children / It’s the 21st century, it feels like it’s 1960,” she ad-libs in a searing remake of Dorothy Love Coates’s “Ninety-Nine and a Half.” Later, in “My Own Eyes,” testifying to how as a little girl she and her father and siblings were jailed by Jim Crow police, she cries, “It’s been almost 50 years / How much longer will it last? / We need a change now more than ever / Why are we still treated so bad?”
Staples enlists a cloud of kindred witnesses to join her in her calland-response, notably Ladysmith Black Mambazo and members of the original Freedom Singers, all of whom have known oppression firsthand. Ry Cooder’s gutbucket production lends the music further ballast. Often consisting of no more than Cooder’s slide guitar and his son Joachim’s ambient percussion or drum loops, the arrangements sound like 21st-century updates of the soul-folk that the Staple Singers patented back in the 1960s. Rarely have “remakes” sounded so tonic or inspired.
— Bill Friskics-Warren DOWNLOAD THESE: “Ninety-Nine and a Half,” “My Own Eyes”
Bebel Gilberto’s Brazilian pop captivates listeners wherever they might be.
Mavis Staples’s social justice message is more resonant than ever.