Milton Nascimento & Belmondo Milton Nascimento & Belmondo Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Nascimento's voice isn't quite the glorious instrument of his youth, but it's still a...

Jon Lusk 2008

Brazilian singer and songwriter – or more accurately, composer – Milton Nascimento is a one-off. Best known for putting his hitherto little-known state of Minas Gerais on the map at the height of his fame in the early and mid-70s, his music has always had a strong sense of place, although ironically he's never been tied to one style. Instead, he synthesises local roots pop and folk along with diverse foreign influences (ranging from The Beatles to liturgical music and jazz) into an instantly identifiable oeuvre all his own, as a showcase for his soaring, ethereal falsetto.

This collaboration with brothers Lionel and Stéphane Belmondo and arranger Christophe Dal Sasso recasts highlights of Nascimento's illustrious back catalogue. In a moment, the lush but sensitive orchestral settings often wander in and out of jazz, thus making a mockery of musical boundaries. There's also one new item combining Ravel's Bereuse with a dinner jazz style piece by Lionel Belmondo, which initially sticks out but eventually makes sense. The album is book ended by the quite overwhelming Ponta Da Areia and its short reprise, effectively making it a song cycle that, unlike many, makes pressing play again a treat once it's over. Surprisingly, there's nothing from either of his iconic Clube Da Esquina albums, although Canção Do Sal – which first raised his profile in Brazil in 1966 when his mentor Elis Regina covered it – is here, underlining the reasons for his fame.

It's interesting to compare the original (or earlier) versions with these new ones. Ponta Da Areia is much improved, having lost a child choir, soprano sax and keyboards, but gained a very fine orchestra. Travessia's bombastically clouting drums and crashing cymbals are wisely replaced by more sensitive percussion. Pianist Eric Lengini contributes several masterful solos, and Stéphane Belmondo's bugle and flugel horn work is even more impressive. Nascimento's voice isn't quite the glorious instrument of his youth – he struggles with the high notes on Nada Será Como Antes – but it's still a thing of wonder, as is the timeless appeal of his goose-bump inducing music.

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