Various Artists

Batucada Por Favor

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Question of the moment: how can Batucada Por Favor sound so leaden, dull and repetitious when Mr. Bongo's first Batucada compilation was so fresh, invigorating and enjoyable? It must be a case of you can't go home again because Batucada Por Favor is pretty dispensable (total percussion/drum freaks excepted, of course) even for fans of current samba schools like Timbalada or Olodum.

One reason is Batucada Por Favor didn't stay home in Brazil for the music -- these are international, mostly European responses to the initial batucada outbreak in the late '60s and early '70s. Swedish percussionist Bob Azzam's title track is static, with only incremental tempo pick-ups for dynamics and resolves in a "Tequila"-esque groove with whistles and drums that wants to be ecstatic but only makes it sound too forced. Italian Augusto Martelli's fully orchestrated "Sambalonga" finds strings, horns and percussion adding up to a cluttered, clattering mess. Niagara's "Niagara" is solid, but was there any real need to bring the German all-star percussionist outfit led by Klaus Weiss back for "Sangandongo" -- 19 minutes of solo breakdowns with hippie-era phase-shifting soundwashs?

The homegrown contingent focuses on Airto Moreira and Dom Um Romao, both of whom worked with Weather Report and/or Miles Davis, so there's a strong Brazilian jazz fusion flavor. Their tracks aren't bad, but are nothing special, either -- Airto's "It's Time for Carnival" is fine for what it is (how many New Orleans musicians have survived on Mardi Gras-related hits?) and "Tombo" does build up a convincing head of steam. But you have to be a pretty dedicated drum devotee to find much of interest on Batucada Por Favor -- maybe it qualifies as acid jazz roots, but head for the Mr. Bongo Batucada: The Sound of the Favelas compilation first if you want that.

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