Wednesday 13 August 2014

'The Brazil Connection' by Studio Rio [album review]

Stumbled on to this one through the Studio Rio take on Aretha Franklin’s ‘Walk On By’ – and what a gem that is!

Hailed by the Berman Brothers (Frank and Christian) who packed up and headed over to Rio assembling a dream team of musicians established within Brazilian bossa nova.  Being fortunate enough to recruit names including Marcos Valle and Roberto Menescali, twelve soul classics are revisited here and reimagined in a completely unique context – some of the songs have such a perfect end-result, you almost have to remind yourself that the vocals in some cases over 50 years ago.

As well as the aforementioned ‘Walk On By’, Dave Brubeck and Carmen McRae’s ‘Take 5’ finds itself a perfect backdrop amongst the Studio Rio musicians, as does Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Bill Withers.  An impassioned and sentimental producers’ notes section in the inlay booklet – prepared by the Berman Brothers themselves – describes more intricate details of how the project came together along with stories of the recording sessions, which is really worth a read.  It also discloses that 20 songs were recorded in total so hopefully the remainder can see the light of day some time.

The project is reminiscent of Buena Vista Social Club’s ‘Rhythms del Mundo’ project in 2006 which saw the legendary musicians pairing themselves with existing material by Kaiser Chiefs, U2, Coldplay and Faithless.  As enjoyable an album as that was though, there was little for specifically soul music fans to embrace – quite the opposite in this case!

While you peruse the complete tracklist below, let me leave you with Studio Rio and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Walk On By’ for your listening pleasure…

1. Bill Withers with Studio Rio - 'Lovely Day'
2. Aretha Franklin with Studio Rio - 'Walk On By'
3. Marvin Gaye with Studio Rio - 'Sexual Healing'
4. Billie Holiday with Studio Rio - 'You've Changed'
5. Sly & The Family Stone with Studio Rio - 'Family Affair'
6. The Isley Brothers with Studio Rio - 'It's Your Thing'
7. Mel Torme with Studio Rio - 'I've Got You Under My Skin'
8. Nina Simone with Studio Rio – 'I Wish I Knew What It Means To Be Free'
9. Johnny Nash with Studio Rio - 'I Can See Clearly Now'
10. Dave Brubeck with Carmen McRae with Studio Rio - 'Take 5'
11. Andy Williams with Studio Rio - 'Music To Watch Girls By'
12. Sarah Vaughan with Studio Rio – 'Summertime'

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