New World Music Reviews

Welcome to my "New World Music" page, which highlights new(ish) African, Asian, Latin American and Celtic records, and "miscellaneous" records that I had the good fortune to check out in Spring, 2013. This page is added to as new records come in... If you want more to read more reviews, many others are archived nearby, and there are separate sections for various kinds of world music that you might like exploring as well.

Recommended Records: Spring, 2013 | Review Archives | World Music Index

Maria Bethania "Oasis De Bethania" (Biscoito Fino, 2012)
An excellent album from one of Brazil's greatest divas... With Bethania, it all depends on what approach she's taking, and this record has fresher, brighter, more energetic arrangements than some of her more formal, more serious-sounding albums. A nice variety of instruments and styles, with creative accompaniment that frames her vocals well. She's always a force of nature, but sometimes the winds blow stronger and sweeter than others. This one's definitely worth a spin!

Raquel Bitton "Rhythm Of The Heart" (RB Records, 2013)
(Produced by Raquel Bitton & Rafa Sardina)

A sweet, subtle, classy album by French-born chanteuse Raquel Bitton, who is best known for her stage show in tribute to Edith Piaf. On this album, Bitton glides skillfully and soulfully through a number of Latin American styles -- tangos, boleros, bossa nova and rumba -- with wonderful French-language tunes gleaned from the repertoire of Corsican crooner Tino Rossi, a French superstar who specialized in "Latin" flavored material in the 1930s and '40s. Bitton's versions are sublime, and bring a richness and immediacy to these songs that is a pure delight. Lush, emotive, redolent with melodrama and romance, this is exactly the way these songs should sound. Recommended!

Joao Bosco/Various Artists "40 Anos Depois" (Universal-Brasil, 2012)
A celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Joao Bosco's career as one of the leading lights of the Brazilian MPB scene, with guest performers including Chico Buarque, Joao Donato, Milton Nascimento, Roberta Sa and Trio Madeira Brasil.

Buika "La Noche Mas Larga" (Warner Latina, 2013)
(Produced by Eli Wolf)

Spanish-African singer Buika delves deeper into Afro-Cuban style music, sounding a bit like Omara Portuondo, though with an experimental, jazzy edge. Pianist Ivan "Melon" Lewis provides most of the counterpoint and gives this album its adventurous edge -- his declarative, assertive phrasing evokes great Cuban piano players such as Bebo Valdes, but with a fragmented, broken approach to the melody, leaving notes out, playing with the rhythm and phrasing, as does Buika in her vocals. The repertoire includes several original compositions, as well as classics from a variety of Latin and jazz sources, as far-flung as Ernesto Lecuona, Jacques Brel, Abby Lincoln and Billie Holiday. Buika's avant approach to this material will prove challenging for many listeners and richly rewarding for a few; I wouldn't say I found this an easy album to listen to, but it certainly was interesting.

Elemotho "My Africa" (ARC Music, 2013)
(Produced by R. G. Mosimane)

A sweet set of melodic modern African pop drawn from three albums by Namibian singer-songwriter Elemotho... Fans of Habib Koite, Youssou N'Dour or other African balladeers might like this. This disc collects songs from three records originally released in Namibia -- "Human," "The System Is A Joke," and "Ke Nako" -- and the songs present a range of styles from sublime, stripped-down acoustic material to broader, flowery modern pop that may bring artists such as Cheikh Lo and Salif Keita to mind. Elemotho sings a few songs in English, but the real allure is his native language of Setswana and the other dialects he uses here -- they have an unusual tang, just a little different than other, more familiar languages in African pop. In the English and bilingual lyrics we get hints of Elemotho's world view and his insistent yet indistinct political perspective -- in general he seems life-affirming and pro-joy, but bitter about and withdrawn from organized, power-oriented politics. The Bob Marley-esque "The System Is A Joke" probably sums it up best, with a grin and bear it philosophy which urges us to not take the powers that be too seriously and to make a point of living life as freely and joyfully as possible. This is an impressive debut by a bright young artist, someone who we can look forward to hearing from in years to come.

Francoise Hardy "L'Amour Fou" (EMI, 2012)

Francoise Hardy "La Collection: 62-66" (EMI, 2009)
This release goes back a few years, but it's worth knowing about. Brightly remastered editions of six early albums from the incandescent Francoise Hardy, an artist who was queen of the '60s ye-ye girls and evolved to become a Marianne Faithfull-style elder stateswoman of intelligent French pop. This early stuff has her best youthful work, from achingly beautiful ballads to the brilliant, girl-groupish go-go rock of her L'amitie album. The six discs come in stylish reproduction of the original album art, they're on those weird black-surfaced CDs they use in Europe, which plays fine on my equipment, but might not be compatible with all players, particularly on some finnicky computer drives. (I speak from experience.) Overall, though: wow. Really great music in a really great package.

Noel McLoughlin "Home Is The Rover" (ARC Music, 2013)
(Produced by Noel McLoughlin)

A lively set of traditional Scottish and Irish songs, with a few more modern songs as well, all firmly in the Celtic folk style. McLoughlin, who hails from Limerick, is a pleasantly robust singer, a melodic storyteller in the same style as Andy Irvine or John Faulkner, slightly gruff but full of vigor. He plays multiple instruments on most tracks of this album, but despite studio overdubs it has an organic, earthy feel. A fine offering of straightforward, stripped-down trad folk from the Emerald Isle.

Otto "The Moon 1111" (Deck Disc, 2012)

Maria Rita "Redescobrir" (Universal/Facil, 2013)
A live concert in which singer Maria Rita pays tribute to her superstar mother, Brazilian diva Elis Regina. The MP3 version has two disc's worth of songs; not sure if the CD is as long... There is also a concert DVD available in Brazil.

Ivete Sangalo/Gilberto Gil/Caetano Veloso "Especial" (Universal-Brasil/Wrasse Records, 2012)
Three Brazilian stars in a live show in which they trade off taking the lead, soloing on some songs and harmonizing on others... The overall sound is a little too glitzy, poppy and showbiz for me with Veloso predictably showing the most restraint and subtlety. A wide variety of styles -- samba, reggae, salsa and classy MPB jazz-vocals -- but it all has the same cheesy, overproduced feel. I wouldn't rush to buy this one, but there are a few okay tracks, mostly Caetano's stuff. I will say this, though: omigod! Look at that picture of Caetano on the cover! He is still one of -- if not the -- most handsome men on the face of the planet. And he's what? Seventy years old?? Whatever he's taking, I'll have two.

Ivete Sangalo "Multishow Ao Vivo: No Madison Square Garden" (Universal-Brasil, 2010)
Another Ivete Sangalo concert show, recently re-released in MP3 format for a global audience... The music is too high-tech and flashy for me, and beauty of her voice is obscured by the hackneyed, hurried wall of pop behind her. Lots of loud cheering from the audience: Brazilian expatriates are a great live crowd.

Emy Tseng "Sonho" (Mei Music, 2012)
(Produced by Marco Delmar)

Proving the lasting global appeal of Brazilian bossa nova, Korean vocalist Emy Tseng glides through a jazzy set of standards -- songs such as "Berimbau," "Deixa," and Caetano Veloso's "Coracao Vagabundo" -- with sympathetic backing that sticks closely to the sound of classic Brazilian MPB, with flourishes of '70s-style jazz fusion. She also covers a few English-language songs, bossa nova style, such as "California Dreaming" the same as when Brazilians sing in English, I have to say I prefer the Portuguese-language performances. This is a gentle, supple album, much in the style of Nara Leao, and could fit nicely into a smooth-jazz set in need of a little extra spice.

Caetano Veloso "Abracaco" (Universal-Brasil, 2013)

Various Artists "PUTUMAYO PRESENTS: VINTAGE FRANCE" (Putumayo, 2013)
A delightful collection of richly romantic, emotionally powerful, melodic French songs. The "vintage" part of this album's title is a slight misnomer: with the exception of the first track, sung by legendary chanteuse Juliet Greco, the artists are all modern, although many songs are covers of older classics, like "J'Attendrai" and "La Javanaise," sung by new-chanson artists such as Art Mengo, Raphael Bas and Madeleine Peyroux. It's all very French, though, with the alluring murmur of the language of love, and beautiful, understated accompaniment on song after song. There are a few manic instrumentals that dip into the musette tradition that can sound a bit jarring, but with careful sculpting, inventive listeners can craft a perfect playlist out of this album. Another winner from Putumayo, made even better by the fact that many of these are artists I'm not already familiar with, which is something I like... a lot. Definitely worth checking out, and stands up well to repeated auditions. Recommended!

New To Me...

Evinha "Eva 2001" (EMI-Odeon, 1969/2005)
(Produced by Milton Miranda, Lyrio Panilcali & Renato Correa)

A sweet, slightly sappy set of sunshine-y soft-pop from Brazilian singer Evinha, the youngest sister from the vocal group Trio Esperanca. I love her voice; the arrangements are a little cloying and cutesy, but very much in keeping with the soft-pop sounds of the era, not just in Brazil, but in the US and Europe as well, with gentle horn arrangements, mellow rock-pop rhythms and an occasional marimba riff that Herb Alpert would be proud to call his own... The song selection is intriguing: several from her brother Roberto Correa, a couple by Marco Valle and a couple by jazz pianist Antonio Adolfo, who may have played on these sessions (although the liner notes don't indicate that he did...) The pop sound provided by the EMI crew isn't very challenging, but in some ways that's a good thing -- it has a modern feel but doesn't go way out into the avantnik goofiness of Rogerio Duprat and the tropicalistas... Mostly it's just a nice, simple, uncomplicated frame for Evinha's sweet vocals, and I really do love her youthful, girlish voice. Definitely worth a spin.

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