Various Artists

Casa de Samba [Polygram Brazil]

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This is an uneven release. Strong points first: it's a samba album (the pure samba of the hills, that is); it has the participation of amazing samba singers/performers, like Dona Ivone Lara, Elza Soares, Martinho da Vila, Jorge Aragão, Jair Rodrigues, Alcione, João Nogueira, Velha Guarda da Portela, Beth Carvalho, Demônios da Garoa, Elton Medeiros, Zeca pagodinho, Jovelina Pérola Negra, Leci Brandão, Arlindo Cruz, Sobrinha, Nelson Rufino, Neguinho da Beija-Flor, and Dominguinhos do Estácio. Other competent artists who are not sambistas but have much to say in other idioms join them: Caetano Veloso, Sandra de Sá, Nana Caymmi, Ivan Lins, Zizi Possi, and Miltinho. All compositions are excellent tunes, most of them are classic hits. The band is excellent, mostly composed by genuine samba artists with full percussion, cavaquinho, seven-string guitar, etc. -- discreet keyboarding and electric bass are also included. The enthusiastic applause from the audience also adds excitement. And, finally, Rildo Hora signs the production.

Now for the bad news: the excessive greed made the execs to devise a tricky expedient -- to mix in this album the real thing with some opportunistic pop acquisitions. Therefore, each of the samba artists shares one track with other artists, including the pop singers Lobão (with predictable and completely dispensable overdriven guitars), Simone, Elba Ramalho, Zélia Duncan, and Ivete Sangalo.

On the other hand, it may be instructive, a real class, to follow this recording and witness the active effort that highly successful pop singers make, trying to come close to the totally natural, swinging, and passionate performance of the samba artists. It is evident the abyss which separates them: in the first tone emitted by a samba artist, one knows -- everything begins in (but is not restricted to) the timbre, which sometimes is metallic, sometimes velvety, but always sambista.