Carlinhos Brown

Bahia do Mundo: Mito e Verdade

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Carlinhos Brown has been working his way back to his Brazilian home base ever since his radically eclectic Alfabetagamatizado solo debut, and he's pretty much all the way there on his third CD. The mixture is more subtle and formalized, with soft vocals and chord patterns that are recognizably Brazilian over rhythm foundations that generally fall closer to more familiar pop models. There's a big cast of musicians on every song -- the heavy string arrangement on "Senhora" features 20 players -- but Brown often uses them in different sections to change the flavor or course of the song. He's still fond of studio technique touches and unusual sounds or instrument combinations -- like the background wah-wahs and burbles in the rhythm track of "Pegadas Na Areia" or the strings over surdo drum solo on "Lagoinha" -- but his formidable pop instincts always rule in the end. Well, almost always -- "Mess in the Freeway" blends heavy rock touches with reggae and some pretty nonsensical English lyrics ("You kick my ankle and kiss me/And let the freeway break into/Our cool house/And use the bathroom"). "Crendice" reflects his fondness for straight funk and "Cavalo Da Simpatia" boasts surdo drum thunder underneath a haunting melody -- it's Brown at his best, when the Brazilian root is strong but his idiosyncratic take makes the music distinctive. The more exuberant "Vai Rolar" works off reggae rhythms plus a bit of loopy vocal scatting with guitar, just as he did more dreamily with the strings on "Senhora" -- melodic ideas just seem to flow out of him. That may account for his prolific songwriting output in Brazil, but there's also no guarantee that every melodic idea will be as good as gold. But he hits a pretty high percentage and he's such a talented craftsman (especially when it comes to interesting little sonic details in the arrangements) that Bahia Do Mundo: Mito e Verdade winds up as a strong, solid outing even if lacks the sense of being radically different that characterized Alfabetagamatizado.

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