Earlier this year the great Brazilian artist Gilberto Gil toured the United States performing what he referred to at UCLA's Royce Hall as a very simple concert": vocals, cello and two guitars.
Gil's contemporary Sergio Mendes takes the opposite tack on his new album, which features busy interpretations of tunes by Gil, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jorge Ben Jor and other Brazilian songwriters. Where Gil's tour demonstrated the writerly sophistication and architectural elegance of much of his country's music, Bom Tempo" emphasizes its rhythmic dexterity and blithe geniality. As the album's title makes clear, it's a party record.
The dance floor has long been Mendes' place of business; for his last two CDs he solicited input from members of the Black Eyed Peas. Here he cuts back on the all-star collaborations -- Seu Jorge, who appeared in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," is probably the brightest light -- but keeps the energy high, occasionally juicing the music with strains of other styles: disco ("You and I"), hip-hop ("Maracatu Atomico"), R&B ("The Real Thing," written by Stevie Wonder). Ye-Me-Le" even lifts what sounds like a riff from Rod Stewart's Da Ya Think I'm Sexy."
The result is consistently lively, yet it's also somewhat anonymous, without a specific viewpoint underpinning the good-time grooves. That actually works to the benefit of Bom Tempo Brasil," a companion disc featuring beat-heavy remixes by such electronic-music mainstays as Paul Oakenfold and Roger Sanchez. Freed from the need to communicate, Mendes' complicated rhythms accrue a kind of universal clarity.
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