The original "Red Hot & Rio", released in 1996, was important for many reasons. Beyond being for an excellent cause it featured what would soon be a heavy, popular genre in the late 90's up to mid 00's. What followed were various series featuring similar approaches - Brazilectro, Glucklich, Brazilution, Nova Latino, Brazilian Love Affair, Bossa Mundo...Japan Meets the World - all of these were series which would follow (except Glucklich 1). RH&R featured collaborations and an abundance of great popular artists from around the world and was a tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim, MPB and Bossa Nova. Marisa Monte, Astrud Gilberto, Ana Caram, Gilberto Gil, Cazuza (who did pass away of the disease), Bebel Gilberto and several others highlighted the Brazilian artists while David Byrne, Stereolab, George Michael, Maxwell and others highlighted some of the other guests. What we have here is a similar approach but just different enough to give it the fresh take that it deserves. Though said to focus on Tropicalia, it is also heavy in bossa-nova and MPB and I'd say 'Sambadelic' rock. Beco Dranoff, who worked closely with Bebel Gilberto on a number of occasions was one of the producers of this one and between him, Joao Parahyba, Carlinhos Brown and Mario Caldato Jr., you have incredible musical knowledge at work.How does it stack up to the first?
Fairly well, but falls a little short. This is a two disc compilation that pays appropriate hommage to the first while moving forward; a difficult task given the nu-brazil genre from a few years ago. But the quality of some of the tracks just isn't there. Provided are new takes to classics by Lo Borges, Caetano Veloso, Joyce, Os Mutantes and many others. Disc one was by far the stronger of the two, opening up with Veloso's classic "Baby" done by Alice Smith & Aloe Blacc. It was never one of my favorite songs but it's done well with a nice pace. "Tropicalia" follows and I loved the quirky/cool collaboration of Beck and Seu Jorge. Mario Caldato Jr.'s work is signature all over this, giving it just enough of a fresh vibe. The real gems on disc one to me came a bit later in; Bebel Gilberto's "Acabou Chorare" is beautiful while Marisa Monte has a nice song like she did on the first RH&R. It surprises me that Marisa's voice is every bit as sweet and innocent as it was nearly 15-20 years ago; the song feels like a lullaby. Meanwhile disc two underwhelmed in several ways, with Joyce's "Banana", done with great crashing beats and RH&R veteran Madlib's influence. Then "Tropical Affair" was outstanding, a notable highlight featuring Money Mark, Thalma De Freitas & Joao Parahyba (Trio Mocoto/Suba). Such a nice dreamy song.
I would recommend this - and there were other songs I enjoyed but didn't have time to mention. It took a few listens to appreciate but I fell for it; I wouldn't recommend giving up on it right away. If you are/were a fan of the nu-Brazil sound you cannot miss this. But this is not to say that the album is without fault. Keeping it from five stars are that some of the takes I REALLY didn't like. "Roda" didn't pull me in, and Seu Jorge's/Almaz song with Vanessa Da Mata I didn't fall for either. "Misterios" was an interesting interpretation of another of Joyce's songs but featured a little too much heavy exhaling while 'Ela' was just bad. Also, note that the CD version of this is different from the iTunes version, which has a better version of "Terra" available, so a docking there too. "Terra", a Veloso classic was especially bittersweet. The over-produced effects ruin the enjoyment of the song (that horrible buzzing sound...) and what would have otherwise been a beautiful & powerful song. Another version is available for download, but the one featured here 'would' have been the better choice if recorded better. When you get down to it in terms of the number of quality songs, I think this would have been better off at 1 disc. Still, there's very nice quality and the 3.5 stars rounds up generously to 4... but it's a stretch. The original Red Hot & Rio had a companion piece released by Verve records, which owned a substantial catalog of the original Bossa Nova artists and albums. It would be nice if something similar could accompany this one, though that may be a tall order.
Kind of interesting note though - "Onda Sonora" was at one time considered the follow-up to the first RH&R. But the release here, RH&R 2, is definitely truer to it. Also, there was a television special for Red Hot & Rio 1 that aired in 1996 but is very difficult to track down.