A labor of love if there ever was one, this is an album that should make less successful compilations slink away and hide in shame. There's a joyful quality that permeates the record, snaking in and around the 23 songs with an exultation that's downright inspiring. The 11th release in the Red Hot Organization's projects benefiting AIDS charities, Red Hot & Lisbon brings together artists from 11 countries in the Portuguese diaspora. There are seven languages that span five continents on these songs, and musical styles that truly range the world.
As a whole, the record is an emotional roller coaster. The album begins with a
sensuous hip-sway: David Byrne and Caetano Velosa's paean to Carmen Miranda, "Dreamworld: Marco De Canaveses," is sung in alternating verses of English and Portuguese with a provocative beat and lyrics to match. Byrne manages an innocent leer when he sings, "The taste of each flower is sweet/ So why do they say she's a bad girl?"
The Spanish love song "O Cara Lindo" (RealAudio excerpt) continues the ardency in the languorous
style of "Girl From Ipanema": the singer comments on the swoon-worthy "Mr.
Gorgeous" who "moves like a panther," but you won't get a smile " 'cause it's
really not his style at all." And the insistent beat as rendered by
Spain's Carmona Brothers, Brazil's Djavan and the Bahian beats of the female
percussion ensemble Banda Feminina Dida is as irresistible as Mr.
Gorgeous' female counterpart, who finds that "eager eyes follow her thighs and
k.d. lang's velvet voice makes "Fado Hilario" (RealAudio excerpt) memorably poignant; she takes
her time with each melancholic note, spinning the traditional Portuguese
melody out like glistening silk that piles up in heaps at her feet. The
contemporary and folkloric meet in unexpected ways throughout the record:
another fado, "Os Dias Sao A Noite" (RealAudio excerpt) melds acoustic guitar and the lilting
voice of Tereza Salgueiro with well-chosen electronic elements and ambient
sounds. The Creole ballad "A Mar" is a lush soundscape that mixes urban beats
into the earthy notes, urging forth a hybrid sound that's uniquely memorable.
The term "world music" has become pejorative, much as the term "compilation" has become code for mediocrity. But the artists on Red Hot &
Lisbon have transcended the trend and showcased the similarities and
differences between musicians the world over. The end result is perhaps best
articulated by a line in the David Byrne collaboration that opens the album:
"It is wild, it is real, it is good."