'Cru' ('Raw') is the second release of famed Brazilian singer Seu Jorge, and is one of the most refreshing, thoughtful and musically diverse albums you're ever likely to hear. Sung mostly in Portuguese, it would be useful to have prior knowledge of the language before listening. Yet for someone like me who doesn't this is still an incredibly enjoyable experience.
A beautiful mandolin riff opens the album in 'Tive Razao', and before long Jorge's deep, melodic voice makes its entrance. As he rhythmically hums a tune, the song builds up and the soft acoustic sounds contrast wonderfully with his deep vocals. The song, which means 'I was right' is a sombre song in which Jorge recounts a lost love and his coming to terms with it. If sounds heartfelt and the vocals are simple but delivered perfectly.
The more upbeat tone in 'Mania de Peitao' is matched by a more light-hearted topic. Literally meaning 'Large chest obsession' Jorge harmoniously warns the listener from women with silicone implants. With simple but layered audio, and vocals which are gravelly but charged with emotion, the song is a nice change from the opener. 'Chatterton' introduces an electronic vibe for the first time, accompanied by a smooth, rhythmic drumbeat. As a cover for the Serge Gainsbourg song of the same name, its subject matter is suicide, and Jorge's vocals are deep, focussed and bordering on the insane. Contrasting with the soft mandolin vibe which kicks in halfway, the song is a welcome variation to the tested album formulae and puts a suitable modern twist into a Gainsbourg classic.
'Fiore de la Citta' offers a much softer vibe after the louder song which precedes it, and Jorge excels with his melodic vocals. As soft as the acoustic sounds which accompany him, the vocals deliver the Italian lyrics wonderfully. Meaning 'flower of the city', Jorge reminisces about a former love, and hums rhythmically as he talks of their time together. As the album rolls onto 'Bem Querer' (My dear) the melodic tone is sustained, as Jorge recounts how his lover gave him "vida razao de amar" (reason to love life). With a small chorus of sorts in which Jorge softly hums a tune, this song is both refreshing and enjoyable, and the sun-drenched vibes of the album are plain to hear.
Jorge covers the Elvis song 'Don't' at song six, and remains true to the original material while offering enough variation to make it a refreshing tune. With a distinct Brazilian twist, but maintaining the tempo and acoustic vibes of the original, it is a joy to listen to. Another heart-felt love song follows in 'Sao Gonça' where delicate, meaningful lyrics are delivered expertly by Jorge. As he devotes himself to his 'pretinha' (sweetheart) and promises to marry her one day, and the vocals are full of feeling and melodic weight.
In 'Bola de Meia', soft acoustic vibes once again take a back-seat to the insightful lyrics, though the simple tune does not detract from the song in any way. Conversely, it gives Jorge a platform to work upon, and the delicate vocals blend with the soft sounds to make for a completely relaxing and harmonious song. The chorus blends seamlessly into the main body of the tune as Jorge asks the love of his life to reciprocate his devotion, and to stop kicking his heart about like a 'bola de meia' (literally a ball of socks used as a football in Brazil).
The acoustic sounds are just as subtle in 'Una Mujer' (A woman), where powerful vocals are once again delivered to great effect. The lyrics are simply genius, and offer the song a structure unfound in many other love songs. The repeated chorus, harmonies and melodic tone shifts offer the simple tune a satisfying complexity. In 'Eu Sou Favela' (I am the favela), a heartbeat-esque sound pumps as Jorge slams the negative press given to the favela (the slum housing areas of Brazil). In an example of lyrical intelligence and astuteness, Jorge proclaims 'Ela só tem gente humilde marginalizada/ e essa verdade não sai no jornal' ('She [the favela] has only humble marginalized people / And that's the truth you don't read in the papers'). This personal battle with preconceptions of city dwellers is delivered in beautiful style, with more lively vocals than in the previous songs showing the heart of the favela in wonderful fashion.
Included at the foot of the track-listing are two alternative interpretations of 'Mania de Peitao' and 'Tive Razao' - the first being a faster version, and the latter being a slowed, even more acoustic remix of the album opener. Both are nice additions to the main album, and are interesting remixes to enjoy.
In summary, 'Cru' delivers in every department. Jorge has composed a masterpiece, showing that even the simplest audio is sufficient if you have the vocals and lyrical complexity to create cohesive tunes. With soft acoustic vibes, impressive latin beats and sounds and insightful, personal accounts of Jorge's life experiences, this album is a Brazilian classic which deserves to be experienced. Highly recommended.