Bebel Gilberto at the Carlu (444 Yonge), Friday (August 20). $29.50. 416-870-8000, www.emergelive.com. Rating: NNNNN
The pairing of Madonna's multi-platinum production guru Marius DeVries with sweet-voiced Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto might sound on paper like a surefire formula for a pop crossover breakthrough. But listening to Gilberto's new self-titled disc, it doesn't sound like her music really benefited from DeVries's hands-on work, even though he went beyond knob-twiddling and was also deeply involved in the compositions and arrangements.
Gilberto's vocals remain the focus, and she does an admirable job of delivering the English-language songs like she means them - no matter how painfully facile the lyrics may be. But DeVries tends to gloss over the subtle rhythmic and harmonic complexities inherent in Gilberto's bossa-schooled musical conception with his decorative sonic texturing.
"I've admired the work of Marius for a long time, particularly what he did with Björk and the Moulin Rouge soundtrack," says Gilberto from her Atlanta hotel room. "We met in New York while he was recording with Rufus Wainwright, and he started talking about wanting to do a Brazilian project. So I got the impression he was the right person for the job. But I later discovered he knew less about Brazilian music than I first thought.
"He's English with a Nordic heart, and I'm 100 per cent Brazilian, and that established the tension from the beginning. I'm very emotional, and he sees everything in black-and-white, so it was difficult for us to find a balance. It made for a painful collaboration - for me as I'm sure it was for him - but I think in the end it was worth it."
Since Gilberto has benefited enormously from the creative revisions of celebrity remixers - in fact, the Tanto Tempo Remixes disc featuring the reconstructive studio surgery of Rainer Trüby, King Britt, Peter Kruder and Faze Action is more interesting than the original recording - there's always a chance that the new disc will likewise be saved in the (re)mix.
"Ohh, I love the remix versions of the song Tanto Tempo by Peter Kruder and Chari Chari, and I also like what 4Hero did with Samba Da Benção. And from the new album there's a remix of Aganj by the Latin Project, which is unbelievably great, and one by John Beltran, whose work I really love.
"If your songs are like your babies, then remixers are like babysitters who come to take care of them. Sometimes they might put a red hat on your baby that you wouldn't choose yourself, and it doesn't look right. But then they might put some shoes on that make your baby walk better. So sometimes it can be a good thing. But really, remixes are just... remixes."