Bird of Paradise

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Bird of Paradise came roosting around the time the second Brazilian wave began to crest in North America, following Djavan's extensive contributions to the Manhattan Transfer's Brasil album. And this album's a beaut -- full of strong, haunting, lusciously melodic songs often backed by that gently jumping, uplifting rhythm that runs through much of his material. Unusual among Brazilian singers, Djavan's English is excellent, and whether singing in English or Portuguese, his dark, virile vocals are crystal-clear in enunciation, and his range of subjects and moods is virtually as wide as that of countryman Milton Nascimento. Standout tunes here include "Carnival in Rio," "Madness (Doidice)," and "Stephen's Kingdom" (presumably dedicated to South African martyr Stephen Biko), and "Take Me (Me Leve)." The backup sounds, gathered under the polished production of Ronnie Foster, are usually made by an American crew of L.A. session vets who nevertheless capture the feeling and rhythm of Djavan's material with uncanny sympathy.

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