Daniela Mercury

Sol da Liberdade

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AllMusic Review by

Call this a bid for the big time by the queen of axé music, and one of Brazil's biggest stars. By enlisting the talents of one of Latin music's biggest producers, Emilio Estefan, Jr., it's nothing less than an attempt to crack the lucrative American market. The question is, can she do it -- adding the gloss and sheen -- without losing her roots? And from the first moments of the first track, the answer is apparently yes. The snares and percussion are crisper than on any of her earlier releases, firing the cuts along with a real directness, while the horn arrangements have a real zip about them that frames her powerful, emotive voice, as on Caetano Veloso's celebratory Bahian "Axé Axé." The ballads don't go over the top, unlike so many Latin artists, and even the hip-hop flavor of some songs is never overstated, all due to Mercury's fastidious quality control on the material (as well as co-producing, she's responsible for many of the arrangements, as well as co-writing some songs), as well as the work of the other producers -- Andres Levin, Will Mowat, and Juan Vincente Zambrano. The result firmly keeps its Salvador grounding, but takes on an international flavor in its colorations, more than in the songs themselves, where the complex rhythms could be from nowhere but Brazil. In fact, the only piece that doesn't work, surprisingly, is a club mix of "Ilê Pérola Negra," tacked on at the end of the CD, and done in half-hearted '80s fashion, accomplishing nothing except filling out time. An alternative version of the record was released, with six songs in Spanish instead of Mercury's native Portuguese, but still bearing the glamour shots of Ms. Mercury throughout the booklet. While it might not be her very best album, the sonic clarity does her justice, and brings out the richness of her singing -- enough for anyone to understand why she's acquired a reputation as one of the major stars of MPB, Brazilian popular music.

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