Sergio Mendes / Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77 / Pelé

Pele

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World-renowned soccer star Pelé makes his singing and songwriting debut on this, the soundtrack album for a French documentary film about his life. Produced and arranged by Sergio Mendes, the sounds are as lilting and tropical as all of the Brazilian light jazz specialist's work, though there are a few moments of quiet brooding that are unexpected. While plenty of non-musical celebrities have embarrassed themselves with their attempts at pop stardom, Pelé's contributions are pleasant and low-key. He sings on his two compositions, "Meu Mundo É uma Bola (My World Is a Ball)" and "Cidade Grande (Big City)," both of which fit right in with producer Mendes' musical world view. "Meu Mundo É uma Bola" serves as the film's main theme, and as a result there are five different versions (mostly instrumental variations) scattered across the album. Pelé's vocals on this number are done in unison with Brasil '77's Gracinha Leporace, and her soft, sweet tones blend smoothly with the soccer star to ensure that he never strays into discordant territory. "Big City" opens with a brief chance for Pelé to sing on his own, and he's revealed to be a bit nasal, though Leporace isn't far behind to save the day. The documentary was released in 1977, the year of Pelé's retirement after more than two decades on the soccer field, and he most likely felt free to dabble (he also found his way into a few acting roles in future years). In a way, Pelé's musical endeavor serves as a forerunner to rapping basketball players like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Fortunately, this athlete didn't have to dodge questions about his "authenticity" or "street credibility" to do it.

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