In his extensive discography, Gilberto Gil has explored almost every possible shade of pop music. In this album, produced by the independent label Pau Brasil (Gil is a WEA artist), he felt safe to shamelessly go back to earlier days, where his wonderful melodies were free of the artist's anxiety for fame and success.
This album is a delicate collection of acoustic grooves (with a couple of electric renditions), with several different world references, ranging from folkloric chants (the researcher/singer Marlui Miranda is instrumental here), northeastern coco (the folkloric "Tatá Engenho Novo" is hot, swinging, and thrilling), cantigas ("Mana," folklore), xote-ska ("Xote"), new age ("Kaô"), modern ciranda ("Ciranda," beautiful, dissonant melody by Moacir Santos), rap ("Rep," excellent deconstruction of that style by the smart percussion of Trilok Gurtu), xaxado ("Onde O Xaxado Tá," faithful acoustic rendition), and the hot Olodum rhythm ("Oslodum").
Reflecting the then recent association with Jimmy Cliff, this Gilberto Gil album opens with the reggae "Extra," in which he exorcises the powers of political obscurantism invoking the liberating forces of mysticism. "E Lá Poeira" anticipated the crossover pop/Northeastern music made successful in the world music of the '90s. "Mar de Copacabana" has the old Gil, composer of melodies full of a refreshing feeling but at the same time with the two feet rooted in the samba tradition. "A Linha E O Linho" could be a minor pop ballad if it weren't for the sensitive and indigenous lyrics solution, where he used the metaphor of sewing to talk about two people united by a deep love.
Recorded the same year as Gil e Jorge, his brilliant collaboration with Jorge Ben, Refazenda keeps up the pace, but in a completely different way. Instead of the acoustic Brazilian folk of Gil e Jorge, Gil focuses on breezy pop. "Jeca Total," "Ê, Povo, Ê," "Tenho Sede," and the title track are dominated by flute, accordion, horns, and gentle strings. Gil is in excellent voice, whether he's delivering a driving song like "Essa é Pra Tocar No Rádio" or more intimate ballads like the last two tracks, "Lamento Sertanejo" and "Meditação." Though "Pai e Mãe" and a few other tracks are slightly reminiscent of the Gil e Jorge LP, Gil reasserts himself here as the pop star whom all of Brazil had expected him to be.
As on Caetano Veloso's album from the same year, Gilberto Gil does not sound happy away from his homeland. Recorded in London, the eight songs on his final self-titled album are mostly blues and introspective, downbeat pop songs. Steve Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home" is an inspired choice, delivered with a crushing sentimentality rarely found in other versions. Gil also reprises "Volks, Volkswagen Blues" from his 1969 LP. The effect isn't quite as doom-laden as Veloso's work, but Gil is definitely homesick, as the touching "Nêga (Photograph Blues)" shows. [This CD reisssue includes three bonus tracks: a live version of "Can't Find My Way Home" along with "Up from the Skies" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."]
Acoustic MTV is a live album by Gilberto Gil, released in 1994 as part of the MTV Acoustic series. Between the tracks are old compositions of the musician and novelties. For being one of the first in the series, produced by MTV Brazil, did not have on the cover, the logo of the broadcaster or the symbol of 'Acoustic MTV', since it followed the pattern of the North American series of 'MTV Unplugged'. Where he brought only the artist in question, in the classic image, stool and guitar, with the other musicians in the background, reading only 'Gilberto Gil Unplugged'.
Between harsh criticism (due to the retro opportunistic use of Tropicália), and sectarian defense, Tropicália 2 yielded a Caetano Veloso/Gilberto Gil tour through E.U.A. and Europe one year after this release. The reference to Tropicália was used as a safe-conduct for the duo's incursions in electronics, axé music (the contemporary and pragmatic sound of Bahia) and other commercial exploitation – since under Tropicália everything goes (or used to go, some 30 years ago). The album opens with "Haiti," a dry percussive electronic pattern over which Caetano and Gil speak verses dealing with racism; "Cinema Novo" is a beautiful samba, whose lyrics "explain" and greet the Brazilian cinema movement which gained the world. "Nossa Gente" brings the percussive sounds of axé music together with funk brass attacks.
Brazil's former minister of culture is enjoying himself. Freed from the constraints of office, the country's best-known singer-songwriter is clearly determined to show that his voice, guitar work and range are as impressive as ever. His last studio album, Banda Larga Cordel, showed he was still willing to experiment, and this new live set is a further reminder of his ability to develop. His lengthy career has included playing a key role in the rock-influenced Tropicália movement, the establishment of a Brazilian reggae scene, and excursions into anything from forró to electronica. On this album he is backed by his own acoustic guitar, with just a little help from his sons Bem and José, adding additional guitar, percussion and occasional bass.