Reviewed on this page:
Mais - Rose And Charcoal -
A Great Noise -
Memories, Chronicles, And Declarations Of Love - Tribalistas - Infinito
A top-selling Brazilian popular music artist, Monte doesn't have the commanding voice of a Daniela
Mercury, but she makes up for it with a flawless pop sensibility, floating from kinetic funk to gentle acoustic samba,
blending syncopation, harmonic sophistication, and irresistable melody. Whether singing original material, Brazilian standards
or US pop songs, she's MPB (Brazilian pop music) at its best. On the other hand, since Monte always follows the same
routine, it's hard to recommend one of her records over another.
I haven't found a fan site on the web yet; her own site used to be fine, but it's gotten insanely graphics-heavy and hard to use.
Marisa Monte (1989)
On her debut, produced by Nelson Motta, Monte didn't record any of her own songs, covering tunes by everyone from
Brazilian funk pioneer Tim Maia ("Chocolate") to Norm Whitfield ("I Heard It Through The Grapevine")
to Gershwin ("Bess You Is My Woman Now").
Monte's in fine form here, alternating powerful funk ("Tudo Pela Metade") with gentle pop ("Eu Sei," "Beija Eu"), impeccably
hummable, pleasantly complex, and curiously sly.
The instrumentation relies heavily on acoustic and electric guitars and a variety of percussion; there are also horn
sections on a copy of tracks ("Ensaboa") and light touches of keyboards (mostly provided by Bernie
Worrell). Produced by Arto Lindsay, and presumably it was his influence that
brought in Worrell and other NYC scenesters like saxophonist John Zorn
and guitarist Marc Ribot. Most of the material is by Monte and/or Nando Reis, and the lyrics are light, ambivalent and
thought-provoking ("Diariamente"); there are also a couple of covers (Caetano Veloso's "De Noite Na
Cama"). I could have rated this higher, but some of her later records are more varied and a better starting point.
Rose And Charcoal (1994)
Though there are great tunes here - Carlinhos Brown's "Maria De Verdade,"
"O Céu" by Monte and guitarist Nando Reis - it seems a bit perfunctory and artificial compared to the albums
which surround it. Partly that's because of some thin song material ("Alta Noite" by Arnaldo Antunes). Partly it's
because too many arrangements stick with the same acoustic guitar-bass-loads of percussion approach.
Mostly, though, it's an overdose of Soho pseudo-sophistication: the guest appearance by Laurie Anderson (reciting an English
translation of Monte's vocals on "Enquanto Isso"), the clumsy string arrangement by Philip Glass on "Ao Meu Redor,"
and the endless acoustic cover of Lou Reed's "Pale Blue Eyes" are just a waste of time.
But don't let any of that stop you if you're already a fan, or if this is the only Monte record you can find: the
arrangements are impeccably tasteful, her voice is lovely, and then there are the aforementioned great tunes.
The disc scores extra points for the packaging: the lyrics sheet
has the chords written out - so useful and so simple that it makes
you suddenly pissed off that nobody else ever does it.
Gilberto Gil adds guitar to a couple of tracks ("Dança Da Solidao"), and Worrell appears on several; produced by Lindsay.
A Great Noise (1996)
The track selection for this record came out of a long-running concert tour: most of the cuts are recorded live,
including two beautifully rendered Veloso songs: "Panis Et Circenses" and "De Noite Na Cama" (very different
from the Mais version). Monte's not afraid to get down - check the hard rock take on Gilberto
Gil's 1969 "Cérebro Eletrônico," or Carlinhos Brown's funky horn-backed
"Maraçá" - but much of the record is mellow. Her mood is
typified by a cover of George Harrison's
"Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)," with a brief interpolation of
"Me And Bobby McGee." Most of the
new tunes are by Brown or Monte herself; she also produced with Lindsay. The
musicians are mostly her standard band; Worrell is prominently featured on the
studio cuts. And again, chords are included with the lyrics. Almost any pop music fan should get something out of this.
Memories, Chronicles, And Declarations Of Love (2000)
Many of the usual elements are in place: produced by Monte and Lindsay; much of the material by Monte and Brown; another
lovely cover version of a Veloso tune ("Sou Seu Sabiá"); chord symbols provided.
And again, the tunes are lovely and sophisticated ("Não É Fácil"), lively and languid (Jorge Ben's "Cinco Minutos").
But she works to avoid falling into a rut: the laid-back "Amor I Love You" sports not just an unpredictable horn and string arrangement, but also a spoken word middle by Arnaldo Antunes;
the funky "Não Vá Embora" features electric sitar and buzuki by Davi Moraes and funk bass by Liminha. Even the soft-rock anthem "Gentileza" is souped up
with wah-wah'd keyboards. Her best sounding record to date, even if a few of the compositions lack depth (Brown's "Perdão Você"), and
Lindsay's occasional No Wave guitar gurgles are boring ("Para Ver As Meninas").
Tribalistas (Arnaldo Antunes/Carlinhos Brown/Marisa Monte: 2002)
Co-written by the three principals; sometimes each sings a verse and they all sing the chorus ("Carnavália"),
sometimes Antunes just contributes a spoken word part ("Velha Infância"), sometimes they all sing straight through the tune.
The core band is Antunes (voice), Brown (voice, percussion, occasional other stuff), Monte (voice, acoustic guitar), plus Cézar Mendes and Dadi Carvalho (guitars);
Partly due to the guitars-and-percussion instrumentation, the tone stays mellow, ranging from slow love songs ("É Você") to
midtempo singalongs ("Passe Em Casa," co-written and with vocals and guitar by Margareth Menezes; the
Bo Diddley-beat title track). You'll get a better sense of Monte's range from any of her other albums, or of Brown's from
any of his, and there are so many soothing, barely there numbers like "Carnalismo" that it's easy to stop paying attention.
That said, it's in unfailing good taste, and the best songs are wonderfully catchy ("Já Sei Namorar," "Mary Cristo")
- the anthemic yet gentle "Carnavália" may be the best song Monte's put out to date.
Produced by Monte.
Infinito Particular (2006)
Is it unfair to say the Monte's coasting on her effortless, mellow vibe and unerring melodicism here? I mean, shouldn't that be enough? On one level, sure it is: the album is endlessly listenable ("Aconteceu"; "Aquela"), a string of lilting, gentle tunes with varied instrumentation held together by her cool vocals (title track). But it's all so pleasant and clever and midtempo that it rarely matters: only the haunting "Pernambucobucolismo" digs to a deeper emotional level.
Most of the tunes were co-written by the Tribalistas team of Monte, Brown and Antunes, and this album has the same weaknesses only more so... As accomplished as anything she's done, but less significant.
The heavy duty crew of musicians and arrangers includes Liminha, Jaques Morelenbaum, Eumir Deodato, Peu Meurray, Pedro Baby and Dadi.
Give me love (give me record reviews).