I’ve actually bought a few things in the last couple of days. Not all of them have arrived yet.

Astrud Gilberto: 'Gilberto Golden Japanese Album' (CD; UMG Japan; 1969)
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So here it is, Astrud's Golden Japanese album, recorded in Japan in the late 1960s with Japanese musicians. At first glance, the track listing seems to be packed with familiar tunes, but in fact, the first half consists entirely of Japanese-composed tracks in the bossa nova style, some of which were composed by Sadao Watanabe, the most famous of the musicians involved.

The style of the arrangements is very pleasant, and not unlike Astrud's classic mid-60s recordings, although slightly more jazzy (with some nice vibrophone playing audible) and less heavy on the strings. Astrud seems to take to the Japanese language quite well. Certainly, to a non-Japanese speaker it sounds quite pleasant. I remember that when I first heard Claudette Soares's recordings from around this time, I thought she sounded Japanese, so perhaps the languages just sound similar when set against this kind of musical backing. Or is that ridiculous?

The first track is a happy samba, almost in the vein of Chico Buarque's 'A Banda' (although much better than Astrud's version of that song from Beach Samba!). The next few are slower and have a melancholic air. The only track on this album that I find hard to listen to is track 6, 'Cupid's Song', which sounds rather off-key to my ears.

Not surprisingly, the second half of the record, with its Brazilian songs sung in Japanese, is much more immediately accessible. Astrud singing 'The Girl from Ipanema', such a familiar song, is delightful, while her version of 'Mas Que Nada', the most upbeat and percussive track on the album, is great, with some stabbing brass hits adding to the mood as Astrud sings the verse in Japanese. I remember the shock I felt when I heard Nancy Ames sing this one in English (on her Spiced with Brasil album), but this one is actually a really cool recording as well. 'A man and a woman' sounds slightly ridiculous, but is great fun. Although lots of people think it's a schmaltzy theme, I really like Francis Lai's theme for 'Live for life,' and this version is nicely arranged and well performed. The album closes with 'The Shadow of your smile,' which Astrud recorded so well on her 1965 album of the same name. This arrangement is quite different to Don Sebesky's, but builds up very effectively with strings.

The album is over too quickly really, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Track Listing:

1. Street Samba
2. I Love Old Love
3. You, I and Love
4. White Waves
5. Love and Grief
6. Cupid's Song
7. The Girl From Ipanema
8. Mas Que Nada
9. La Chanson D'Orphee
10. A Man and a Woman
11. Live For Life
12. The Shadow of Your Smile

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