Seu Jorge

América Brasil: O Disco

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América Brasil, the fourth album by Brazilian singer/songwriter and actor Seu Jorge, is his first to be comprised almost entirely of his own songs and carries some thematic weight. Jorge's first two albums, Samba Esporte Fino (2001) and Cru (2004), were half-comprised of covers while his third, The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (2005), was entirely comprised of covers. Granted, the cover material on these albums was generally arranged in a creative fashion and is a testament to Jorge's cleverness as a musical artist. Yet the best songs ("Carolina," "Tive Razão") are the ones written by Jorge himself, and so as a discerning listener it's easy to crave more of his own songs rather than all the covers, especially in the case of The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions, which is great for what it is -- an album of left-field David Bowie covers -- but doesn't reward repeated listening. Those listeners who crave a showcase for Jorge the songwriter rather than Jorge the interpreter have it here. América Brasil is not only a showcase of self-penned compositions but is also a thematic song cycle about the relationship between Brazil and America. The ambitions of América Brasil extend beyond the lyrics to the music, which is varied in style and instrumentation from one song to the next, all but one clocking past the four-minute mark and a few in the range of seven minutes each. As on past albums, Jorge kicks off América Brasil with a rousing standout ("América do Norte") and follows through with a couple more upbeat standouts ("Trabalhador," "Burguesinha") before he shifts gears with the spare "Cuidar de Mim," the epic "Mina do Condominio," and a breezy bossa nova, "Mariana." Amid this varied array of songs that succeed the excellent opening run, "Samba Rock" stands out, along with the aforementioned "Mina do Condominio." Despite the appeal of several songs and the intrigue of the album's overarching ambitions, however, América Brasil isn't as easily enjoyable as Samba Esporte Fino and Cru. The consistently long running times of the songs sometimes can be a drag, and the thematic weight of the lyrics sometimes overshadows the sense of fun that characterizes previous albums, in particular the feel-good vibes of Samba Esporte Fino. All the same, América Brasil is an impressive album, one sure to engage longtime fans who admire Jorge as a songwriter. Anyone looking for a more substantial effort from Jorge than usual -- such as those listeners who might have grumbled about the Bowie covers album as being lightweight -- will find plenty to consider here.

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