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Daniela Mercury

Reviewed on this page:
Companhia Clic (1989) - Companhia Clic (1990) - Daniela Mercury - O Canto Da Cidade - Música De Rua - Feijão Com Arroz - Elétrica - Sol Da Liberdade - Sou De Qualquer Lugar - Eletrodoméstico - Carnaval Eletrônico - Clássica - Balé Mulato - Balé Mulato Ao Vivo - Canibália - Canibália: Ritmos do Brasil - Daniela Mercury E Cabeça De Nós Todos - Vinil Virtual - O Axé, A Voz E O Violão

Daniela Mercury is yet another Brazilian superstar from Salvador, Bahia, a city steeped in Afro-Brazilian traditions which has also produced Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, Olodum and Gilberto Gil. Like Margareth Menezes and Olodum, Mercury mixes traditional Brazilian samba with reggae. Though Menezes is better-known in "World Music" circles after a world tour with David Byrne, Mercury is more popular inside Brazil, thanks to her flawless pop sensibility and unapologetic use of electronic instruments. Her voice is a treat, supple and clear but with a strong edge to it - full of life. She's a terrific dancer too, and her live shows emphasize choreography as much as music. Her made-for-TV looks didn't get any doors slammed in her face, either. But her most valuable asset is her knack for making harmonic sophistication accessible with simple hooks and gritty rhythm arrangements, both on her own compositions and the tunes she selects.

There's a fine fan club site with biographical info and discography. (DBW)

I was lucky enough to attend one of her 1997 concerts, which I've reviewed here.

Mercury's usual band:
Cesario Leony, bass; Ramon Cruz, drums; Toni Augusto, guitar; David Santiago and William Magalhães, keyboards; Ramiro Musotto and Beto Rezende, percussion

Companhia Clic (Companhia Clic: 1989)
Mercury started out as lead vocalist for a six-piece reggae/samba/pop band, with Rudnei Monteiro (guitar), Raul Carlos Gomes (drums), Jonga (percussion), Marcus Sampaio (bass) and Sérgio Henrique (keyboards). I have six tracks from the self-titled debut on a compilation with the entire following record - I don't know if this was an EP, or if there are more tracks I'm missing. The record's way too slick: all the rough edges of the different genres have been smoothed off, making the experience something like eating pre-digested food. Not that I've ever done that, you understand. The keyboards are too loud and too bland, and the tunes are simplistic ("Pega Que Oh...!"). while Mercury's vocals are back in the mix and echoey ("Vida Ligeira"). Her voice does manage to overpower the arrangements at times ("Zona Solidão"), and Monteiro plays fine Ray Phiri-style guitar on "Porto Belo." Everything was written by the band, frequently together with Edmundo Carôso. (DBW)

Companhia Clic (Companhia Clic: 1990)
The sound is a little cleaner and less tacky (the reggae "Vou De Vez"), and the compositions are improving: "Perto Da Selva" is a lovely ballad with affecting vocals from Mercury, "Tô Na Mão" is a pleasant midtempo groove, and "Manágua" is a lighthearted if obscure political comment. Still, though, too many of the tunes have an anonymous, assembly-line feel ("Espada De Xangô"). Again everything was written by band members and/or Carôso - Mercury's only cowrite is "Luxo De Beijar." (DBW)

Daniela Mercury (1991)
Mercury's first solo record (sometimes known as Swing Da Cor) uses better compositions to further Companhia Clic's basic approach: reggae beats ("Todo Reggae"), catchy samba (the hit "Swing Da Cor," "Todo Canto Alegre" by Carlinhos Brown), and affecting pop songs ("Milagres," Daniela's "Vida É"). At this stage her voice is perhaps lacking in subtlety, but it's strong and compelling. The instrumentation is largely synths, bass guitar and percussion, though Gilberto Gil's "Geléia Geral" is decked out with acoustic guitars. Though nothing here is boring, it's not as tuneful or compulsively danceable as her later work. Mercury only wrote two tunes this time out, but wasn't on the sidelines: she produced with Wesley Rangel. (DBW)

O Canto Da Cidade (1993)
I believe this was her biggest commercial success inside Brazil, starting with the hit title track. The instrumentation is basically the same as the previous album, though there's a fun excursion into gentle hip hop (Herbert Vianna's "Sô Prá Te Mostrar"). The reggae sound is more pervasive ("Bandidos Da América") though sometimes a bit watered-down (Caetano's disarming "Você Não Entende Nada"). She has fun varying the formulas, too: her own "Vem Morar Comigo" is reggae played so fast it sounds almost like merengue, with rock guitars thrown in for good measure. Traditional samba is represented by a medley of "O Mais Belo Dos Belos" and "O Charme Da Liberdade." Varied and enjoyable though Mercury does get carried away on the impressionistic "Geração Perdida" and there's some generic pop towards the end ("Exótica Das Artes"). Produced by Liminha, and the sound is noticeably tighter; arrangements are credited to Daniela and the band. (DBW)

Música De Rua (1994)
Here Mercury shows more versatility without losing any of her pop appeal. Horns add life to the title track and "O Reggae E O Mar," and she brings in the Bahian percussion ensemble Vulcão da Liberdade on several exciting samba cuts ("Por Amor Ao Ilé"). Then there are light funk numbers that would put most US R&B bands to shame ("Saudade" - a stunning remake of Angélique Kidjo's "Batonga"; "Tem Amor"), and she proves that she can carry a love song ("Sempre Te Quis," which was the theme song for a Brazilian soap opera). Again, she co-wrote about half the tracks including most of the best ones. Attempting to crossover to other Latin American markets, Mercury includes a Spanish version of the title track. Production and arranging credits are the same as the previous album. (DBW)

Feijão Com Arroz (1997)
A masterpiece. On this record she makes a strong push for authenticity, dropping the funk bass and synth lines. Plus, almost nothing is a Mercury original: instead, a wide range of other writers contributed 14 of the 15 tunes, including Antônio Carlos & Jocafi's ancient "Você Abuso" (also recorded in Spanish by Willie Colón and Celia Cruz). Even the packaging is free from MTV gloss - an unsmiling Mercury looks mature and sensible. Somehow, though, the record is as catchy as anything she's ever done, and more exciting, partially due to fantastic brass arrangements by producer Alfredo Moura (Carlinhos Brown's "Rapunzel," "Rede"). The layers of percussion vary enough to keep things interesting, and when she keeps things simpler, it's to play up a song's melodicism, and her own lovely vocals ("Nobre Vagabundo"). The first single was the clever "À Primeira Vista," by up-and-coming songwriter Chico Cesar; Mercury's one contribution is "Vestido de Chita," with co-lead vocals by her daughter Giovana Povoas. Every track has melodic interest and good hooks; the only weakness is that the arrangements may be too consistently samba-oriented for non-Brazilian audiences. The CD contains a bonus track in Japanese(!), transliterated as "Ue Wo Muite Aruiko." (DBW)

Elétrica - Ao Vivo (1999)
A live album recorded in her stronghold, Salvador, and the high energy is thrilling. Though it's largely made up of big hits ("O Canto Da Cidade," "Musica De Rua," "Swing Da Cor"), there are several new songs, mostly by Mercury (the fine love song "Tua Lua," the frantic title track), and a few covers (Gilberto Gil's "Toda Menina Baiana"). A couple of medleys - including an interpolation of Margareth Menezes's signature "Elegibo" - don't sound like rushed retreads as so often happens in live performance: they're coherent and sometimes awe-inspiring ("O Mais Belo Dos Belos/Por Amor Ao Ilê"). That said, this is no exception to the rule that live albums are mostly just for fans - much of the subtlety is lost, in both the arrangements and Mercury's vocals, and a Mercury novice would likely be irritated by the crowd noise that's present throughout the disc, rather than fading out after the track opens as custom dictates. Continuing the approach of Feijão, there's more percussion and less synth than on her first albums, and judging from the new material ("Abraço"), she's heading further into reggae territory; there's also a full horn section, though it's used sparingly. Produced by Moura. Rezende and Leony are the only holdovers from Mercury's studio band, as Alexandre Vargas (bass), Marcelo Brasil (drums), Mikael Mutti (keys), Gustavo De Dalva and Leonardo Reis (percussion), plus Moura himself (guitar and keys) take the reins. (DBW)

Sol Da Liberdade (2000)
Shortly before this release, Mercury apparently recorded an MPB (Brazilian pop) album with no samba that was rejected by her record company. If so, she completely reversed direction, because almost everything here is percussion-heavy axé or samba, more or less in the mold of Feijão. It doesn't have that record's irrepressible tunefulness and urgency, though a few tracks do rise to that level ("Axé Axé" by Caetano Veloso, the hard rock/rap current events rant "Itapuã @no 20000"). But it's still a lot of fun: even the unmemorable tunes (the reggae-samba "Santa Helena") are blessed with clever arranging details and Mercury's honeyed, confident vocals. And there are a couple of soft acoustic numbers for balance: "De Tanto Amor" and Caetano's "Sou Você." Mostly produced by Will Mowat, Andres Levin, and Mercury; she also wrote "Dara," a duet with Angélique Kidjo. Emilio Estefan (Gloria's husband) produced two tracks, together with Juan Vincente Zambrano, and they're okay: "Ilê Pérola Negra" (also present in a dull club mix) and "Crença E Fé" are both energetic axé. Salvador Cuevas plays bass on Estefan's tracks, but doesn't show any of his old innovative spark; otherwise it's mostly Mercury's usual studio band. Not as varied as her earlier records and not as consistently brilliant as her later ones, it's somewhere in the middle. (DBW)

Sou De Qualquer Lugar (2001)
A failed crossover attempt, definitely no place to start with Mercury but not unpleasant. Easily her mellowest release, it's hi-tech MPB that's carefully produced and competent but rarely exciting or moving, with only a couple of striking cuts ("Aeromoça," with an Arabic-sounding melody; the energizing self-penned closer "Nina"). Even the samba tunes tend toward the less danceable, post-bossa nova end of the spectrum ("Nossa Música"). "Beat Lamento" does recall the slower numbers on Feijão, with live percussion and horns, and her vocals are lovely as always, though she's sometimes overshadowed by the electronica-influenced production (title track). Several tracks were produced by Mercury, three of hers and two of Carlinhos Brown's ("Bora Morar"); the rest by Ramiro Musotto, Celso Fonseca, Marcelo Sussekind ("Um Tempo De Paixâo," a ballad with a funk rhythm section) or Leony ("Janela"). Too many musicians to list, including the usual studio band, the touring band, and a bunch of horn players and computer programmers. (DBW)

Eletrodoméstico (2003)
Another live record, and since she'd done nearly all her hits on Elétrica, this time she does mostly new material (the exciting title track) and Brazilian standards (Caetano Veloso's "Baby"; Roque Carvalho's "Nossa Gente (Avisa Lá)"). A few old Mercury songs do make welcome appearances ("À Primeria Vista" and "Nobre Vagabundo," both from Feijão Com Arroz). There's a good balance between breakneck dance tunes ("Tempora Das Flores") and more contemplative material ("Meu Plano"), allowing Mercury to show how commanding her voice is whether she's belting or barely audible ("Baby"). Her husky interpretation even makes Lenny Kravitz's clichéd "It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over" bearable. A bunch of guests drop by: Italian rapper/singer Jovanotti duets on Jorge Ben's "Ive Brussel"; Carlinhos Brown appears on his lilting "To Remember"; Dulce Pontes sings on Veloso's "Milagre Do Povo"; Olodum provides percussion support to "Umbigo Do Mundo" (originally a hit for Javonotti as "L'Ombelico Del Mondo"). Produced by Nelson Motta and Mercury; the band is essentially the same as Elétrica except for the absence of Alfredo Moura. (DBW)

Carnaval Eletrônico (2004)
If you're one of those people who use "insistent" and "nagging" as positive attributes, this voyage into electronica may be the record for you. For the rest of us, it's a painful endurance test: a procession of overlong, unmelodic tracks with pounding 4/4 synth bass and repeated vocal refrains ("O Canto Da Rainha"). On some tracks, like "Quero Ver O Mundo Sambar," Mercury doesn't even bother to sing, just speaking the lines. There are a ton of producers - DJ Renato Lopes, DJ Zé Pedro, DJ Anderson Noise - but they all sound pretty much the same. Even Carlinhos Brown's "Maimbê Dandá" is nothing much, though his percussion layers add a modicum of interest. Fortunately, Mercury hedges a little bit by including a few actual songs: "Amor De Carnaval" with Gilberto Gil, and "A Tonga Da Mironga Do Kabuletê," both gentle samba that wouldn't stand out on her other albums but shine here, like a glowworm at the bottom of a well. (DBW)

Clássica (2005)
Much as Spike Lee seems determined to make films in every genre, whether he has a feel for it or not, Mercury continually strays outside her axé comfort zone, with iffy results. She posed as a lounge singer for this set, recorded live in a nightclub with a backing combo of piano, guitar, standup bass and drums. Though she's shown great subtlety on quiet tunes in the past, here she lays on way too much vibrato ("And I Love Her") and at times grandstands abominably (the tortuous, yelled "Vapor Barato"). Most of the songs are from the country's biggest names: Gil ("Se Eu Quiser Falar Com Deus"), Veloso ("Divino Maravilhoso"), Buarque ("Retrato Em Branca E Preto"), Jobim ("Brigas Nunca Mais"), Djavan ("Serrado"), with two of Mercury's own ("Maria Clara"). Mercury does nail some of the tunes (Brown's "Covered Saints"), and "Areomoça" has a breezy piano-led arrangement, but I suspect her next genre venture will go better. (DBW)

Balé Mulato (2005)
Another heaping helping of Feijão Com Arroz: plenty of pounding axé ("Levada Brasileira") with some lighter fare (the part-ballad, part-reggae "Amor De Ninguém O Amor"), all brimming over with confidence and enthusiasm. For once nothing was written by Carlinhos Brown or Caetano Veloso; apart from Mercury, who wrote three tunes, the most prominent songwriter is Pierre Onasis ("Balé Popular"). The band is anchored by percussionist Ramiro Musotto, who gets a remarkable din from a wide assortment of noisemakers, and arranged most of the disc with Mercury. Many of the compositions aren't exactly classics ("Toneladas De Amor"), but it's been a long time since I've heard a record that was so interesting sonically: Lincoln Olvetti's funky strings on "Nem Tudo Funciona De Verdade"; the Rhodes piano behind funk bass on "Sem Querer"; "Olha O Gandhi Aí" is reggae at speed metal tempo, not heard on a Mercury record since "Vem Morar Comigo." (DBW)

Balé Mulato Ao Vivo (2006)
Just like it says: the entire studio album rendered in concert. The tiny arranging and production details that made the previous record such a treat, though, aren't reproduced in the live context, so there's basically one axé tune after another ("Pensar Em Vocé"), with an occasional ballad ("Nem Tudo Fuciona De Verdade"). And since all the songs had just been released the year before, there's no novelty (apart from the interpolation of "No Woman No Cry" in "Quero Ver O Mundo Sambar"). So it's high octane (the funk-rock "Meu Pai Oxalá"), and as musical as it is energetic (luscious group vocals on "Pensar Em Vocé"), but ultimately just another Mercury live album. (DBW)

In 2007, Mercury contributed a track to an Ennio Morricone tribute album.

Canibália (2009)
Here Mercury encapsulates various styles she's tackled over the years: electronic dance music ("Oyá Por Nós"), light pop ("Sol Do Sul"), ballads ("This Life Is Beautiful" with Wyclef Jean), and a little axé (the gently funky "A Vida É Um Carnaval"). This time, though, none of these approaches are used to deliver meaningful or memorable tunes (Mercury co-wrote about half of them): the disc is professional and uninspired from top to bottom ("Tico Tico No Fubá"). "Trio Em Transe" is pleasant, and it's certainly possible I'm looking for more in the lighthearted numbers like "O Que É Que A Baiana Tem" (a duet-after-death number featuring Carmen Miranda) than was ever intended to be there. But I still have to call it an underdone, trite, flat, forgettable mess of an album. (DBW)

Canibália: Ritmos do Brasil (2011)
Mercury is in Rolling Stones mode, where she follows nearly every studio release with a live album. I don't know about you, but I wish everybody did that: even if the record wasn't that great, it's worth hearing how the artist takes the songs on the road and integrates them with the back catalog. Plus, they're recording the dang show anyway, how much can it cost to mix it, design a cover, and upload the MP3s to Amazon and Apple? In theory, Mercury is pursuing her Canibália theme of digesting every conceivable influence to form her own style (which the Tropicalia movement had termed "anthropophagia"); in practice, this generally means putting touches of other styles - Afropop guitar on "Quero A Felicidade"; amped guitars on "Trio En Transe"; the plaintive acoustic opening to "Iluminado" - over an axé beat. And while audience participation is usually cheesy on disc, on "Sol Do Sul" it brings her parallel theme of Latin American solidarity to life. A few older hits are revived ("Minas Com Bahia," with more of a reggae lilt than previously), but not enough to make the show feel like a greatest hits procession - it's the rare live release that's better than the studio album it's meant to promote. (DBW)

Daniela Mercury E Cabeça De Nós Todos (2013)
Neither an axé set or a genre experiment, just a varied batch of pop tunes in collaboration with Grupo Cabeça De Nós Todos. Whether that took some pressure off Mercury, or there's some other reason, she sounds looser, more relaxed, than usual, and the good vibes are contagious ("Chela De Graça"). The fastest material is never frantic (the uptempo "Neguinho Maravilha," with a rap from Mercury), while the slowest doesn't get sluggish (the ballad-with-a-beat "Seda Azul"). And wherever the tunes come from (I'm still looking for songwriter credits), they're exceptional without calling attention to themselves, in tune with the laid-back feel of the project ("Tira Onda"). The band stays in the background, but the players add deft touches that bring the material to life - the impossibly funky clavinet part on "Aquele Abraço"; the sinuous unison lines on "Sinto"; berimbau on "Alma Feminina." (DBW)

Vinil Virtual (2015)
Written mostly by Mercury (under her new married surname Verçosa), produced by her and Yacoce Simões. (DBW)

O Axé, A Voz E O Violão (2016)
Yet another live album, and as the title states it's just her voice backed by guitarist Alexandre Vargas. (DBW)

Wilson, você não entende nada.

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