Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Today sees the release of a new album from bossa nova legend Sergio Mendes. Called Timeless, it's a set of old songs given new interpretations under the production guidance of Will.I.Am. Better known as the front man for pop rappers Black Eyed Peas, he brings his studio talents and a bunch of his friends to the party. There are guest spots from Q-Tip, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, John Legend, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Chali 2na, India.Arie and Justin Timberlake, as well as some lovely harmonica from Stevie Wonder. What you're getting is some classic bossa nova and samba tracks from the '60s given a hiphop/rap makeover. I was admittedly nervous about this collaboration because I am a bigger fan of the Black Eyed Peas of old - a rap trio with some crossover appeal instead of the pop foursome with some hip hop flava that they are today. It turns out that it's not as bad as it could have been. There are maybe one or two too many Will.I.Am raps, but so far I like the overall vibe. There are also plenty of Brazilian guest on this, so it nicely straddles the two worlds. I am familiar with most of these tracks in their original forms, having grown up listening to Sergio and his various combos. I have to say that some of these are pretty cool updates. The tracks that appeal to me the most so far are the more traditional ones - less hip hop and more bossa nova. E Menina (Hey Girl) is pure Brasil '66 material given the bottom heavy touch, with a clicky, programmed rhythm and boatloads of sunny melody and riffy vocalese. Love it. Samba da Benção (Samba of the Blessing) is more of the same - there are a lot of doo-doo-doos, some nice Portuguese raps and some beautiful piano playing. I know a lot of people think Sergio is too easy listening, but he has a unique style and I love the stuff he plays. It kind of surprises me but I think I'm going to be liking this album a lot...

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