Red Hot + Rio 2 - Various Artists


Into a world plagued by famine and disease comes Red Hot + Rio 2, an embarrassing feast of creative energy and goodwill. The Red Hot organization is a non-profit that has been fighting AIDS through pop culture since 1989. Starting with Red Hot + Blue in 1990, the organization has since released 15 albums featuring collaborative efforts from some of music’s most forward-thinking artists. Red Hot + Rio 2 is a follow-up to the original 1996 album collection which was a contemporary tribute to the bossa nova its pioneers like Antonio Carlos Jobim. Part deux picks up on another phenomenon in Brazilian modern music that arose in the 60s called the Tropicalia movement, popularized by the likes of Caetano Veloso and Os Mutantes, the quirky art popsters who are still making cool and relevant music today. Os Mutantes’ version of Caetano’s classic ‘Baby’ has become the poster song of Tropicalismo and, indeed it’s covered in two very different ways as part of Red Hot + Rio’s 33 tracks. Alice Smith and Aloe Blacc open the show on Disc 1 with a fairly safe reworking of the original and later offer up a deconstructed dubwise remix. It’s probably best to allow some time to put the collection on shuffle and let it wash over you, all the while paying enough attention to recognize what perks up your ears. Not all of the collaborations work; not by a long shot but there’s organic authenticity in the hit and miss. One of the biggest disappointments for me brings together 3 outstanding global acts; Forro In The Dark, Brazilian Girls and Angelique Kidjo. The resulting Aquele Abraco is surprisingly, a mismatched sonic mess. And, the grand masters of them all, David Byrne with Caetano Veloso don’t do much better; Byrne seemingly, after all these years still unable to temper the fact that he’s one of the goofiest sounding vocalists on the planet. And then, there are the gems, enough to make Red Hot + Rio 2 a must-have for summer listening. The pairing of Beck and Seu Jorge on Mario C’s remix of Tropicalia is a stroke of creative genius. The first disc also introduces us to the sextet Superhuman Happiness and the art rock duo Cults. Early favorites include Tudo O Que Voce Podia Ser from New York’s darlings of the urban underground, Phenomenal Handclap Band with Brazilian bossa singing legend, Marcos Valle. Keeping up the Red Hot series tradition, there are major moments to enjoy and many more of indulgent prospecting to look forward to here.