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For those who still don't know him or his music, Seu Jorge is one of the most recent prodigies of Brazilian music, bursting onto the music scene with his début international album 'Carolina' to immense critical acclaim in 2001. Whether it's the distinct Brazilian vibe, the beautiful blend of instruments, or the insightful vocals, it's an incredibly fresh album oozing with charm and panache.
The album bursts into life with 'Carolina', where a soft acoustic vibe leads into a drum roll - what follows is a laid-back, trumpeted tune whose measured tempo accompany the entrance of Jorge's deep trademark vocals. With bongos maintaining a subtle rhythm, Jorge sings about Carolina, a lady who has him lovestruck and he can't stop thinking about. And this all precedes an incredibly unique chorus which is neither too loud nor too soft - put simply, it captures the mood wonderfully and is full of the life and vibrancy which is to come on the rest of the album. 'Chega no Suingue' (Come do that swing) follows, where the tempo has risen and Jorge sounds more pensive. The highlight of this tune is undoubtedly the chorus, where electronic sounds, percussion, acoustics and rhythmic background singing merge to form a background to Jorge's lyrics. He soothingly and rhythmically asks the listener to 'Salva a vida / Salva o amor' (Save the life / Save the love).
This song contrasts with the distinctly samba tune which follows, 'Mangueira'. The title of the song itself refers to one of the 'shanty' neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro, famed for its distinct samba tradition, and this ode is perfectly projected to the listener. The sharp, rousing trumpeted intro leads into an upbeat tune which breeds a party atmosphere: the sustained rhythm and party vibes near the end are highlights, as is the chorus which creates a wonderful microcosm of Brazil's samba scene. A simply sublime tune, it manages to both uplift and involve the listener, as Jorge proclaims 'Alvorada lá no morro que beleza / Ninguém chora, não há tristeza' (It's a beautiful dawn on the hill / No one cries, no one's sad).
The samba vibe continues in 'Pequines E Pitbull', where Jorge's upbeat and melodic vocals dance around your ear drums like the soothing percussion and strings which pump in the background. You'd be excused for thinking this song had been plucked from the Rio Carnival, with a samba school lending Jorge a helping hand with the upbeat tune to great effect. As the album rolls onto 'Te quería' (I wanted you), the tone changes once again, with Jorge's contemplative vocals opposing the vibrant, upbeat bassline to create a perfect mix of sounds.
Though you can hear the unique sound of the 'cuíca' instrument in most of Jorge's songs, it is most distinct on 'O Samba Tai'. The high pitched cry is meant to mimic the sound of the small jungle animal which shares its name, and it is immediately noticeable beside Jorge's dancing, hypnotic vocals. The tune is more melodic, the tempo sustained and the sounds varied but simple, as the samba vibe flows freely and Jorge remarks that 'Vou pro samba de noite e de dia' (I'll samba through night and day). He even manages a jazz skit near the end, in another wonderfully vibrant tune.
Nevertheless, he still makes room for thought-provoking and insightful tunes, with the reggae vibe in 'Hagua' accompanying his lamentation at the state of the world. He wails at the start of the slow-paced tune and hits every note perfectly. The lyrics are charged with feeling and delivered with unique panache, with a particularly striking line mentioning what our current way of life will eventually provoke: 'Desequilíbrio mental / Desequilíbrio do meio ambiente' (Mental imbalance / Environmental imbalance). It's a refreshing twist in the album, and shows Jorge's incredible versatility: even in a largely upbeat, samba album he shows that he can still stun us with thought-provoking tunes.
'Samba que nem Rita à Dora' brings the album back to samba form, with the cuíca in full force again and the percussion lightly maintaining the rhythm as Jorge melodically delivers his vocals to great effect. Nevertheless, Jorge tweaks the album formulae again by offering a jazz-infused tune in 'Madá', whose slow tempo and intermittent trumpeting accompanies Jorge's soothing love song, dedicated to his love Magdalena. This can also be said of 'Funk Baby', which does exactly what you'd expect by offering a funky, edgy tune which is defined by Jorge's rap-esque lyrics and dance-inducing bassline.
Not content with sticking to the rulebook, Jorge manages to create another refreshingly upbeat love tune in 'Em Nagoya Eu Vi Eriko' (In Nagoya I saw Eriko). Here, Jorge soothingly says farewell to a woman he met in Japan, as a compelling bassline matches harmonic electronic beats to make for a love song with a distinct Seu Jorge twist. The tempo is spot on, the vocals are full of feeling and the deep vibes will have you bobbing your head to the beat. In a fitting end to a majestic, uplifting album, Jorge offers up another masterpiece to round off the experience. 'De Alegría Raiou o Dia' (From joy dawned day) is another unique song which maintains samba influence but owes more to funk and jazz for its mix of a compelling bassline and smart guitar riffs. Jorge soothingly remarks how the uplifting samba vibes take people out of the darkness and make them happy: De alegria/ Raiou o dia / A alegria de nascer / Alegria de cantar / Alegria de viver / Alegria de amar (From joy dawned day / the joy of birth / the joy of singing / the joy of life / the joy of love).
In summary, this is an album so unique, so full of vibrancy and so uplifting that you'll want to hear it over and over again. And then some more. Rarely can an album so varied maintain your interest throughout, but 'Carolina' perfectly merges samba, jazz and funk influences into a holistic whole. This was Jorge's international début, and compared the pensive 'Cru' and the very honed sound of 'América Brasil o Disco' (see my other reviews if you want to know more :D ) it is probably the most vibrant album of the three. Here, Jorge has created a masterpiece in music: not only will your head be bopping and your toes be tapping, but the lyrical genius will leave you in awe. A début not to be missed.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Chega No Suingue
4 Pequines E Pitbull
5 Tu Queria
6 O Samba Tai
8 Samba Que Nem Rita A Dora
10 Funk Baby
11 Em Nagoya Eu Vi Eriko
12 De Alegria Rajou O Dia