Bebel Gilberto – João

It is supposed to be a tribute to her father João Gilberto. Singer Bebel Gilberto‘s new album, simply called “João”, has just come out and it is a return to her basic musical memories. The instrumentation on this nicely subdued and stripped-back album is actually quiet comforting. However, her voice is not. She has now developed this unpleasant color in her middle register which just doesn’t distinguish her from so many other vocalists. I think it is also astonishing how she lacks to convey the typical saudade that is the core of “Adeus América”. Listen to Susannah McCorkle’s interpretation of the song and you know what I’m talking about.

Bebel Gilberto "João"

There are a couple of João Gilberto‘s compositions, like the beautiful “Undiú”, which, interestingly, is the best song on the album because there is no singing involved. The other wordless song here, João’s “Valsa”, gets a pretty trivialized treatment. I like the backing on “E Preciso Perdoar”. Bebel sounds downright flat and lifeless on “Ela E Carioca” and the swing of “O Pato” is nowhere to be found. And where is the depth and soul and involvement which is the essence of “Caminhos Cruzados”? In this version, it seems that she is just sticking to the written lyrics in front of her, reading the words off one by one. Once again, a reminder to check out Susannah McCorkle’s version on her brilliant 1999 album “From Broken Hearts To Blue Skies”. And just like the English lyrics to “Desafinado”, she actually is off key here, but I think rather inadvertently.

I’m really a fan of “Você E Eu”, the brilliant Carlos Lyra/Vinícius de Moraes composition. Here, it seems that the performance has put her in a rather strenuous situation, missing the “for me, there is only you and me” mood of the song completely. The album is out on vinyl and Bebel is on a European tour in October.


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