Simone ‘É melhor ser’ (Biscoito Fino) 4/5

simoneBrazilian songstress Simone came to prominence in the mid-late 1970s following on from her slightly older contemporaries, Maria Bethania and Gal Costa. Her sophisticated balladry and subtle mid-tempo musings place her on the more reflective side of Brazilian popular music, which became somewhat lost during the uniformity of glossy orchestrated sound in the 1980s, and her influences include Elis Regina and both Bethania and Milton Nascimento whose voice at its deepest she resembles to some extent. Only a now deleted compilation of her work on EMI has been released in the UK and her music is thus largely ignored and unknown even among Brazilian music aficionados. That is a pity because there is a good deal to admire in Simone’s sound, though the refined palate may be initially off-putting to some. Her traditional terrain is a combination of heartfelt ballads as on the classy ‘Descaminhos’ with exquisite jazz inflections, or subtly lilting samba-inducing numbers such as ‘Trégua suspensa’ and here the vulnerability of her voice comes to the fore. Simone is in fine form on the light and breezy bossa ‘Aquele plano para me esquecer’ which is a musical homage of sorts to the maestro Tom Jobim and on the cavaquinho-led samba of ‘Haicai’ which is favourite of this writer. A mid-tempo version of a song made famous by Os Mutantes, ‘Mutante’ illustrates how wide ranging the selection of song writing is on the album with one song co-written by Simone. Brazilian label Biscoito Fino is to be commended for taking the time and effort to allow some of the greatest singers in MPB who are now in the twilight of their careers in search of rediscovering the true roots of their music. Tim Stenhouse