Review Red Hot + Rio 2

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Red Hot + Rio 2 is a compilation honouring tropicália produced by the people who brought us the bossa nova-inspired Red Hot + Rio and indie/folk of 2009’s Dark Was The Night compilation. Over 33 tracks the 2CD set features a wide variety of international artists ranging from Seu Jorge to Angelique Kidjo to Beirut.

The aim of the album is to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS. The first Red Hot + Rio raised over US$1 million for the cause, and hopefully this album will do the same.

Let’s start with some of the highlights. Superhuman Happiness, who has been releasing a number of excellent 45s on Electric Cowbell Records, joins forces with Cult for a version of Caetano Veloso’s “Um Canto De Afoxé Para O Bloco Do Ilê” that turns this simple chanted song into a NYC underground anthem. Prefuse 73 offers up a less radicalised version of Veloso’s “Terra” simply upping it’s grandeur with barrels of reverb. Crucially it works and turns one of Veloso’s most serene songs into a haunting epic. The idea of covering Veloso is obviously quite tempting and Aloe Blacc and Alice Smith do this twice, offering up two versions of “Baby”. The best is the second, entitled “Dirty Baby (Dub Version)” which matches the original’s urgent vocals with a new bass-driven back-drop.

As well as big name international artists there are a number of lesser-known artists featured here, such as Quadron and Mia Doi Todd, who provide some of the true highlights, Quadron with their own unique take on modern soul, and Mia Doi Todd with her Los Angeles hippy environs. Her decision to cover both Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes’ “Canto De Iemanjá” and Milton Nascimento e Lo Borges’ “Um Girassol Da Cor Do Seu Cabelo” prove to be inspired moves as she infuses both with her own style while also maintaining the quality of the originals.

I have of course neglected to mention the most hyped song on the album, which is another Veloso cover, this time in the shape of Beirut’s version of “O Leãozinho” who offer up their own unique European take on this early Veloso pop melody. I would even go so far as saying this sounds better than the original!

Although there are some great songs on this compilation it is sometimes let down by it’s looseness in it’s choices and the lack of a singular identity. There are covers of tropicália alongside covers of bossa nova, afrosamba, 80s kitsch (“Freak Le Boom Boom”) and afoxé as well as a number of original songs and quite a few that have already featured on previous albums. As a tribute to tropicália then, or even as a tribute to Brazilian music of the 60s and 70s, it doesn’t quite work with a few choices lacking the passion and inventiveness that many of the originals from that era in Brazil had.

Aside from this there are some very successful songs and the compilation will introduce people to new international artists such as Quadron and Superhuman Happiness as well as the likes of Orquestra Contemporânea De Olinda, Curumin, Emicida, Rodrigo Amarante, CéU and Mayra Andrade, all of which are new artists from Brazil who people really should check out.

You can buy Red Hot + Rio 2 from Amazon and iTunes.

You should also visit the Red Hot Organization to find out more about the project.


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