Marisa Monte

Memories, Chronicles and Declarations of Love (Metro Blue)

Though it would have been nice if this album had followed up on the oddball studio experiments of 1997's A Great Noise, Monte's third album for Metro Blue is another winner. Memories draws on a rotating cast that includes several members of Monte's standby Brazilian crew, including Dari Moraes on guitars and other stringed instruments, Liminha on bass, Carlinhos Brown on percussion, and many others. A few of co-producer Arto Lindsay's downtown New Yawk friends (Marc Ribot on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass, Peter Scherer on keyboards, and Greg Cohen turning in string and brass arrangements and one bass performance) join the mix and help demonstrate that the greatest voice currently working in Brazil has shown that her 1995 masterwork Rose and Charcoal was no fluke.

Unlike that album, Memories, Chronicles and Declarations of Love does not strive to display Monte mastering a different style of music with each cut. Instead, the selections demonstrate that she's learned to integrate and synthesize her influences into something uniquely her own, a fact borne out by the songwriting credits: Monte is responsible for writing or co-writing more than half the tracks here. And though the songs she covers are still ace -- Jorge Ben's "Cinco Minutos" and Paulinho Da Viola's "Para Ver As Meninas" are standouts -- the original numbers clearly steal the show. "Tema de Amor," "Nao Va Embora" and the opener, "Amor I Love You," are among the best tunes Monte has ever committed to record.

If there is a problem with the record, it's that the pacing slackens as it progresses: All of the up-tempo numbers occur early on, and the album becomes increasingly moody with the last few tracks. With music this beautiful, however, it's a very minor quibble, and anyone already sold on Monte probably won't mind -- or even notice. English cribs in the liner notes would have been a nice touch for the U.S. market, but musicians will no doubt appreciate the play-along guide to the songs' chords, and listeners should have no trouble following these gorgeous and catchy songs, translations or no.

 
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