Gal Costa ‘Recanto Gal’ (Wrasse/Universal) 3/5

Brazilian singer Gal Costa is one of MPB, or Brazilian popular music’s most enduring stars and this new album marks a radical departure from the past. However, despite the photo of a young Gal with fellow singer Caetano Veloso on the back of the main CD cover, this is certianly no exercise in retro, but rather a twenty-first century vision of the chanteuse. The twin musical talents of Moreno Veloso (son of Caetano) and Kassin are on hand here to provide a distinctly younger, electronica-driven feel to the veteran singer, but the key question is whether this has served to reinvigorate Gal, or merely place her in musical surroundings which are unbefitting. If one were to make a parallel with Diana Ross at the beginning of the 1980s, then the distinctive production of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards from Chic opened up new avenues for the soul diva and attracted a whole new audience in the process. In truth here with the pairing of Gal and Veloso/Kassin it is highly questionable whether a younger audience will be enticed by the music and her long-term fans may actually be alienated by the whole experience. There is in fact an attempt at the dancefloor on ‘Neguinho’, but with a rock guitar and beat underpinning the song, this is a flawed effort. By far the most interesting piece and one with sympathetic accompaniment is on ‘O menino’ which is a haunting number where the voice of Gal is finally afforded the opportunity to take centre stage and what a gloriously natural and undistilled pure voice she still possesses. Ironically she is accompanied here by another set of musicians, Banda Rabotnik which is telling. Elsewhere there is a successful attempt at a more sensitive sound to accompany Gal on ‘Mansidao’ with Daniel Jobim on piano and long-time Caetano accompanist Jaques Morelenbaum on cello. What a pity the latter could not have produced the whole album with a more subtle element of electronica incorporated. Only on the minimalist ‘Recanto escuro’ does the electronic programming fit and even here the staccato rhythm pattern is intially unsettling for the listener. Above all one is left with the abiding impression on this recording that Moreno Veloso and Kassin have been left too much to their own devices here and that greater input on the production side from both father Caetano (he is cited as executive producer and several of/all the songs are written by him) and Morelenbaum would have resulted in a stonger album. As it stands too much of the instrumentation here comes across as self-indulgent musings by the production duo which would have been better placed on one of their own recordings. Tim Stenhouse