Far Out Monster Disco Orchestra ‘Far Out Monster Disco Orchestra’ (Far Out) 4/5

Monster-Disco-OrchestraAs part of the twentieth celebration of the Brazilian specialist Far Out label of London, comes this terrific double CD of new material. A different approach to simply rehashing the old classics was adopted and this is one potentially risky endeavour that has paid off handsomely for Joe Davis who is to be congratulated, not only for the production and co-writing duties, but for managing to survive and indeed thrive for so long in an increasingly uncertain music business while sticking to his principles. What we have here is a thoroughly Brazilian take on the disco era which is both authentically retro, yet fresh and offering new perspectives on the genre. Enlisting a stellar cast of some of the top sessions musicians in Rio where the music was recorded (and later mixed in London, giving the overall sound a decidedly funky feel) and including two of Azymuth’s founding members, the late José Roberto Bertrami and bassist Alex Malheiros, there is a strong jazz undercurrent throughout both in the subtle use of keyboard changes and the high calibre instrumental work. Lead vocals are shared between Marcina Arnold and Mia Mendes and are predominantly in English, though wordless scatting is showcased on some numbers. It is Arnold who takes the lead on the fine opener ‘Mystery’ which evokes the 1970s jazz-funk period to perfection and Brazilian cult musician Arthur Verocai is featured here, part of FOMDO. A semi-instrumental, ‘The Last Carnival’, is a favourite of this writer and has some typically Azymuth-esque ingredients with bubbling bass line and adding wordless vocals and punch horns. It is a winner of a tune as is the classic disco intro to ‘Keep believing (can you feel it)’ with joint lead female vocals. Strings and rhythm guitar are pervasive on ‘Disco Supreme’ with a riff that seems to be a homage to Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ and once again FOMDO and Arthur Verocai feature while syndrums make their appearance on the keyboard-laden ‘Freefall’ which was co-written between Bertrami and Davis. A second CD updates the sound with some of the current crop of remixers and among these John Morales who offers a typically danceable M &M mix to ‘Mystery’ and Theo Parrish will be familiar to readers.

Tim Stenhouse