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Album reviews: Sergio Mendes' 'Bom Tempo' & 'Bom Tempo Brasil'

Mendes_2401 Earlier this year the great Brazilian artist Gilberto Gil toured the United States performing what he referred to at UCLA’s Royce Hall as a “very simple concert”: vocals, cello and two guitars. Gil’s contemporary Sergio Mendes takes the opposite tack on his new album, which features busy interpretations of tunes by Gil, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jorge Ben Jor and other Brazilian songwriters. Where Gil’s tour demonstrated the writerly sophistication and architectural elegance of much of his country’s music, “Bom Tempo” emphasizes its rhythmic dexterity and blithe geniality. As the album’s title makes clear, it’s a party record.

The dance floor has long been Mendes’ place of business; for his last two CDs he solicited input from members of the Black Eyed Peas. Here he cuts back on the all-star collaborations — Seu Jorge, who appeared in “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” is probably the brightest light — but keeps the energy high, occasionally juicing the music with strains of other styles: disco (“You and I”), hip-hop (“Maracatu Atomico”), R&B (“The Real Thing,” written by Stevie Wonder). “Ye-Me-Le” even lifts what sounds like a riff from Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

The result is consistently lively, yet it’s also somewhat anonymous, without a specific viewpoint underpinning the good-time grooves. That actually works to the benefit of “Bom Tempo Brasil,” a companion disc featuring beat-heavy remixes by such electronic-music mainstays as Paul Oakenfold and Roger Sanchez. Freed from the need to communicate, Mendes’ complicated rhythms accrue a kind of universal clarity.

— Mikael Wood

Sergio Mendes
“Bom Tempo”
(Concord)
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

Sergio Mendes
“Bom Tempo Brasil”
(Concord)
Three stars (Out of four)


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Comments () | Archives (3)

What you say "sounds like a riff from Rod Stewart's 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy'" is most likely the riff which Rod Stewart allegedly lifted from Jorge Ben Jor's Brazilian hit "Taj Mahal". If you look up "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" on Wikipedia, you will see that Stewart settled a plagiarism suit regarding the song and agreed to give all his profits from it to charity.

I say "most likely" because I haven't heard the Mendes recording yet, so I don't know exactly what you are referring to, but this is a famous piece of Brazilian music trivia. And when you hear "Taj Mahal" (there are plenty of versions on Youtube) the similarity to Stewart's song is obvious.

First commenter gets four stars. Paul D. is correct! The "Ye-Me-Le" song credits in the "BOM TEMPO" booklet say: "This track contains a sample of the recording "Taj Mahal" as performed by Jorge Benjor. Courtesy of Universal Records under license from Universal Music Enterprises. Used by permission. All rights reserved." Reviewer gets one star. By the way, this album is much better than the 2 1/2 stars you gave it. Maybe next review you will be better informed.

The song in question, Ye-Me-Le, was first recorded by Sergio Mendes in 1969 on an LP which, strangely, and easily googleable, enough, was entitled Ye Me Le, and that disc came out a full 3 years before Jorge Ben's great Taj Mahal. The original doesn't sound that different from the small sample of the new version I heard. Sergio Mendes has often recorded Ben's work through the years, just do a little research: Pais Tropical and Mas Que Nada are two well known examples.

Music writers today are lazy and uninformed, and, if the disc's notes actually cite the song by Jorge Ben, then that makes the mistake even worse. The Rod Stewart plagiarism case is infamous, and should be known to any properly schooled music "expert", no matter how young, especially if they know the Stewart tune well enough to say that someone else lifted a lick from it.

Shame on you, Mr Expert, and shame on your editors for not catching this error, and for hiring you in the first place!!!!


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