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Soul Express Album Review

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US Concord, 2008
1) The Look Of Love 2) Funky Bahia 3) Waters Of March 4) Odo-Ya 5) Somewhere In The Hills 6) Lugar Comum 7) Dreamer 8) Morning In Rio 9) Y Vamos Ya 10) Catavento 11) Acode 12) Agua De Beber 13) Les Eaux De Mars 14) E Vamos La (Let's Go)

I didn't expect to like this album new album from one of my heroes, Sergio Mendes. Not one bit, mainly as I HATED the inclusion of the Black Eyed Peas on the maiming of some old, cherished favouries on his last set.  This collaboration with the likes of the said Black Eyed Peas on his last album really was too much for me, and I was NOT impressed when I heard it! When I saw the same ingredients on this album I groaned inwardly and thought 'I'll give this one a chance, BUT I won't like it..'. I'm glad I did. For me this is his most consistent set for years!

“Encanto” boasts a rare ability to blend pop, Brazilian, jazz and rap effortlessly. Possibly this is too eclectic for some listeners BUT for me the real gems are the out-and-out Brazilian cuts. I write this on yet another hot, perfect sunny day in late July here on the East Coast and this is the perfect soundtrack for this kind of blistering hot day. PLEASE give the opening song, “The Look Of Love”, a chance... the warm opening music enters into a samba beat and Fergie and Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas doing a rhyme atop this. How easy it could have been to have hit the skip button. Don't, as this is actually a very hot, more-ish version and Fergie sounds very, very sexy on this, and not one mention of humps or lady bumps thank goodness. This is SUPERB. The keyboards on here are dreamy in the extreme as they are straight from the early 80s, and the Carnival in Rio groove is addictive.  Similarly, the excellent “Funky Bahia” with the wonderful Siedah Garrett and the more subdued but excellent Will.I.Am on vocal is an essential track; lush, humid and dripping with tropical flavours this is Sergio Mendes at his 21st Century best!

The delightful and talented Ledisi adds her exuberance to the standard Antonio Carlos Jobim tune “Waters Of March” and does so with real gusto! The bassline carries you along nicely! Natalie Cole is another joy to behold at any time, and she springs into action on another Jobim standard, “Somewhere In The Hills” and sounds absolutely brilliant! Nice flugel horn and percussion. Perfect, so it is! I also adore the downtempo “Dreamer” which features vocalist Lani Hall and our old friend, Herb Alpert on trumpet. This is absolutely gorgeous.  Believe it or not, this song is the first collaboration between Alpert and Mendes!  Unbelievable, but better late than never.

The samba and flugel drizzled “Morning In Rio” is a real highlight and I cannot play this enough. If you are a fan of all things Samba then you will adore this track, as you will the vocal cut “Y Vamos Ya (...Let's Go)” with Juanes on main vocal. If you are a fan of both Joyce and Sabrinha Malheiros then “Acode” with Vanessa Da Mata will sate your hunger. This driving latin rhythm is really a driving force towards the climax of this album – a strong one at that! Another Jobin tune, “Agua De Beber” features Will.I.Am and is updated and tweaked for today to great effect. Musically I am in heaven listening to this...the warm fender rhodes... the percussion and! Even Will sounds good on this, and fits well into a Latin rhythm. I am so pleased I did not pass this over, so please cast aside doubts and dive on in...the Waters Of March are very warm!
- Barry Towler

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