Isolated moments of magic fail to ignite the rest of this disappointing album.
Colin Irwin 2010
You might imagine that signing to Verve, a label synonymous with jazz legends, would have encouraged Bebel Gilberto to explore the more extreme end of her illustrious Brazilian heritage.
Not so. Here the daughter of bossa nova creator João Gilberto has made an album that either drowns in its own sensuousness and sentimentality – “Bebel Gilberto is in love,” fanfares the press release – or stutters awkwardly in a self-conscious striving for broader populism.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of romance, of course – love does make the world go round apparently – but once you become attuned to the sashaying allure of opening track Canção de Amor, with its desultory whistle, and marvel again at a voice of such persuasive intimacy that you’d run round Rio in a clown outfit if it asked nicely, the album is kidnapped by a faux-poppiness, insidiously plodding arrangements and a dull sheen that her producers presumably see as the key to greater glories. Instead it robs Gilberto of her floaty magic and deadens the impact whenever those Brazilian rhythms are unleashed. One of these producers is Mark Ronson, who’s done wonderful things with Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, but his attempts to apply a sharp, clubby edge to Stevie Wonder’s The Real Thing merely makes her sound like a sad renegade from a 1970s disco.
Other attempts to broaden her range don’t fare much better. A bilingual chill-out treatment of Bob Marley’s Sun Is Shining is strangled by an ugly drum rhythm, some ill-advised computer effects and a heavy-handed funky bass line, while the original material tends to sink into background music and fails to wield the emotional clout she clearly intends.
There’s some salvation in her spritely revision of her father’s song Bim Bom, featuring Daniel Jobim – Antonio Carlos Jobim’s grandson – and the joyous sense of mischief conveyed by Carlinhos Brown’s incorrigibly rhythmic arrangement of Chica Chica Boom Chic. But these are isolated moments, insufficient to ignite the rest of the album. Operating in a similar field, CéU’s Vagarosa album knits new styles into a rich Brazilian heritage far more convincingly.