After her deep dive into South African music on the 1984 album Zulu Rock, Lizzy Mercier Descloux had hoped to follow in a similar vein with an album recorded in New Orleans featuring both the Soweto crew she had worked with on Zulu Rock and local Cajun and zydeco musicians. However, securing visas for the South Africans proved impossible, and Mercier Descloux and producer Adam Kidron instead traveled to Brazil, where they recorded One for the Soul in Rio de Janeiro. While there's a breezy cool to Mercier Descloux's vocals and she seems to enjoy riding the percussive grooves of tunes like "God-Spell Me Wrong" and "Women Don't Like Me," for the most part she never sounds as invested with the material here as she did on Zulu Rock, and though she makes savvy use of local colors and flavors on "Queen of Overdub Kisses" and "Sound of Leblon Beach/Garden of Alas," the use of synthesizers occasionally drowns out the layers of acoustic instruments, and "A World Is a Whah" sounds more like standard-issue Latin pop than deep Brazilian grooves. While in Brazil, Mercier Descloux met Chet Baker at a jazz festival, and invited the iconic trumpeter to play on several tracks; given Baker's distinctive style, the songs on which he appears sound like they've been built around his solos, which doesn't always work to Mercier Descloux's advantage, though the originals "Fog Horn Blues" and "Love Streams" and a cover of "My Funny Valentine" suggest she could have made a fine and very individual jazz album if she'd chosen, especially with a soloist like Baker at her side. As it is, for the most part, One for the Soul is a good and clever dance record from an artist capable of a great deal more.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming