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Milton Nascimento - Milagre Dos Peixes / Minas

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Artist: Milton Nascimento

Album: Milagre Dos Peixes / Minas

Label: Water

Review date: Sep. 24, 2006

In 1973, Milton Nascimento had just come off the success of his collaboration with Lo Borges, Clube Da Esquina. Esquina helped to loosen the shackles of the ballad forms that populated earlier albums like Courage, and Milagre Dos Peixes sees Nascimento stretching his wordless vocalisations and string-bean melodies much further. Nascimento has never quite held the cachet of Caetano Veloso, but Peixes is as far-reaching as Veloso’s contemporaneous Araça Azul: it just wears its experiment a little lighter on its sleeves. (Veloso’s abstraction was always rather more self-conscious.) Nascimento and percussionist Naná Vasconcelos weave intricate, intertwining skeins of rhythm and glossolalia, offering a densely polyrhythmic framework within which Nascimento and Nelson Angelo hang obtuse-angled acoustic guitar. Rough clusters of piano and circular song-forms help complete the picture of near-delirious imagination run riot. Common consensus suggests Brazilian pop was most experimental in its easily signposted Tropicalia era: records like Milagre Dos Peixes tell a different story.

Clube Da Esquina also works as a manifesto of sorts for music from the Minas-Geraes region. Minas is the first of Nascimento’s two direct tributes to the area. (It would have been nice if Water could also have made its sequel Geraes readily available.) Nascimento’s run from 1972 to 1976 is generally faultless, but Minas is the weak link in the chain: though a lovely record, it tends toward the saccharine, a risk Nascimento repeatedly faced through his career. There are some gorgeous touches here, including the children’s choir that opens the set and reappears throughout the disc, but the production flattens things out, the arrangements lean over just the wrong side of lyrical, and there’s an alto saxophone scrawling in the margins of the songs, doing no one any favors.

By Jon Dale

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