Sergio Mendes – Bom Tempo (Concord)
Sergio Mendes – Bom Tempo Brasil Remixed (Concord)
There was once a time when one couldn’t turn on the AM Radio and not hear Sergio Mendes. His mix of breezy pop covers and Brazilian rhythm was a tasty mélange of sweet melodies, deft beats and pop reinvention. True, it seemed all we Americans ever listened to were his covers of top songwriters as Paul McCartney or Burt Bacharach, but his arrangements could make even the most cloying composition leave no bad aftertaste.
Of course, what most Yanks didn’t realize was Mendes was a master of redefining his own nation’s standards into an addicting mixes. It took the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am to flex our collective heads to what a killer song “Mas Que Nada” really was…and that was nearly four decades later.
In those 40-plus years since his Brazil ’66 to the present, Mendes has not been idle. Like other such Brazilian superstars as Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Antonio Jobim, he focused on original compositions and his fabulous rearrangements, reinforcing his global position as a true musical treasure.
Bon Tempo marks Mendes’ first release in two years, and only his third U.S. in the last decade.This time he’s surrounded himself with fellow samba and bossa nova masters like Carlinhos Brown, Milton Nascimento, Seu Jorge and more, also relying heavily on the compositions these tropicale giants bring to the recording studio. Not that it really matters who wrote the piece. After all, Mendes reinvents them to suit his own purposes.
The CD starts off with something perfect for carnavale, “Emorio.” A mix of timbales, Brown’s Portuguese rapping, some sly samples of Brazil ’66 and Jobim and one can’t help but be hooked from its introductory keyboard flourish to its sharp conclusion. The following track, “Maracuto Atomico,” splices wa-wa guitar and funk horns ala Earth Wind & Fire with big drums straight out of Rio.
While there is the occasional gaff, such as Steve Wonder’s “The Real Thing,” Mendes and company overall deliver the goods, especially the one track Nascimento contributes, “Caxanga,” a wondrous mid-tempo heart stopper.
In all, Bom Tempo is Portuguese for “good times.” It’s great to see that after all these years Mendes is still quite capable of having them.
One only wishes one could say the same thing for Remixed. For this release, Mendes’ work is handed on to the likes of Paul Oakenfield and similar club producers. With only one exception, all of the mix master talent involved decided to give their adaptations a disco beat, wiping out much of what Mendes is best known for.
The one exception is the production team Funk Generation, who instead of plodding 4/4 beats, big drums and tiny computer-generated arpeggios focused their one track, “Orpheus,” on the little percussion and rhythm guitar. While not that great an adaptation of a Jobim-composed standard, when compared to the other eleven tracks it’s like an ice cold drink on a horrendously hot, muggy day.
Yet one four minute track does very little to compensate for the remaining hour-plus of club-footed (pardon the pun), robotic grooves. If anything, it runs counter to what makes Mendes, and Brazilian music in general, such a crowd pleasing form of world music. Let’s hope something like this never happens again.