Mariza Transparente Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Mariza is singing with a new maturity and restraint which only seems to underline the...

Jon Lusk 2003

For some time now, Portugal's most immaculately coiffured fado singer has been hinting that she'd like to record an album celebrating other Lusophone song forms like bossa nova and morna. She occasionally dips into these during live performances ­ not so much when she's abroad, but more likely at home in one of Lisbon's tiny rustic fado bars in the early hours of the morning. That idea is still just an idea, as Transparente sticks with fado, but the decision to record it in Rio with Caetano Veloso's long term producer Jaques Morelenbaumtakes at least a step in this direction.

The most obvious change he's brought is the grandiose arrangements, which add a silky string backdrop to many of the tracks, and on others feature solo instruments not usually associated with fado, such as accordion, cello and flute. While fado purists often maintain that you can only do fado with Portuguese guitar, Spanish guitar and bass, there's a long tradition of major stars like Amália Rodrigues and Carlos do Carmo flouting this convention with aplomb.

Significantly, both are commemorated in the choice of songs, and Morelenbaum has done his job with a great deal of style. Anyway, the 'Holy trinity' is kept in the foreground ­ just behind that voice. Add to that the fact that Mariza is singing with a new maturity and restraint ­ which only seems to underline the enormous power she's capable of­ and you have a rather fine, if not quite faultless album.

I did find myself thinking of Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" when the French horn kicks in on "Há Palavras Que Nos Beijam", and the strings do overdo the melodrama a little on the closing "Desejos Vãos". No matter, there are plenty of compensations. These include the breathtaking opener "Há uma Música do Povo", once again pairing the writing talents of Portuguese guitarist Mário Pacheco and the poet Fernando Pessoa, as on previous effort Cavaleiro Monge. The lovesick lurch and poetic imagery of "Montras" effortlessly jumps the language barrier. Clarinettist Paulo Sérgio Santos steals softly into "Toada do Desengano" and haunts it till it sounds like the ghost of a Brazilian choro.

Roll on that Lusophone album, I say, but in the meantime this will do nicely. Just like the new hairstyle.

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