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Not every album that Azymuth recorded is great; 1981's Telecommunication and 1990's Curumim, for example, are among its more uneven and inconsistent efforts. But when Azymuth soared, it really soared. More often than not, the 1980s were a productive time for the Brazilian combo. Two of the fine albums that Azymuth recorded during that decade were 1984's Flame and 1985's Spectrum, which, in 1999, Fantasy reissued back to back on this 72-minute CD. Flame is one of Azymuth's most essential albums, and Spectrum is also quite impressive. Hearing the albums back to back, one is reminded that Flame was an incredibly tough act to follow. But even though it is the more essential of the two, Spectrum is still excellent. This is one of those CDs that never leaves you feeling disappointed or dissatisfied. Spectrum excels on original material, which ranges from Flame's playfully funky "Right On" to Spectrum's laid-back "Universal Prisoner" -- and it excels on interpretations of Ivan Lins' "The Island," Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Song of the Jet" (or "Samba do Aviao" if you prefer the Portuguese title), and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Some might be surprised that Azymuth would tackle an early-1970s soul anthem, but "What's Going On" actually lends itself quite nicely to a Brazilian jazz fusion makeover. And, besides, African-American soul and funk had a strong influence on many Brazilian artists in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s -- including Azymuth and singer Flora Purim (who is featured on Flame's caressing and sensuous "The Textile Factory"). If you only add a few Azymuth CDs to your collection, this Flame/Spectrum reissue should be among them.

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