Gil & Milton buds but -- sadly -- never blossoms.
Gil & Milton buds but -- sadly -- never blossoms.

Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento

Fans who were hoping Gil & Milton would do for Brazilian music what last year's Congreso Nacional de la Salsa did for salsa will be disappointed. Very, very disappointed.

The Gil and Milton involved here are, of course, Gilberto Gil and Milton Nascimento, two giants on the mosica popular brasileira (MPB) scene. In the mid-1960s Gil led the tropicalismo movement, a cultural revolution that started in Brazil's music and crossed over into its literature, film and theater. Gil's work was considered so innovative back then that he was jailed and spent a couple of years in political exile. (It seems the military regime didn't want him to rework the bossa nova.) In the years since, Gil has continued to produce cutting-edge and influential work, his talent and reach always growing.

Nascimento had only a slightly less dramatic beginning, when superstar Elis Regina recorded his "Canção do Sal" and landed him a spot on Brazil's International Song Festival. That was more than 30 albums and a slew of hit singles ago. Along the way, Nascimento picked up a few Grammys and earned a reputation as an accomplished songwriter and singer.

So what went wrong with Gil & Milton?

Frankly, it's hard to pinpoint the exact source of the problems that spill out with every revolution of the CD. Gil & Milton just proves that even great talents sometimes produce mediocre music.

The pair co-wrote four of the 15 tracks here, and one or the other contributed to five more. What's surprising, it's the songs that they didn't have a hand in that shine. "Baião da Garoa" ("Baião of the Light Rain"), by Luiz Gonzaga and Hervé Cordovil, is upbeat and happy, a perfect example of the dance-hall music from northeast Brazil. "Yo Vengo a Ofrecer Mi Corazón" ("I Come to Offer My Heart"), by Fito Paez, is the only cut in which Nascimento's vocals approach his usual expressiveness.

Less accomplished, although still pleasant, is a reggae cover of George Harrison's "Something." Longtime Gil fans won't be surprised that a little reggae infiltrates an MPB album, since Gil has often mixed Caribbean and funk rhythms with traditional Afro-Bahian xote, samba and baião. Gil is such a reggae enthusiast, in fact, he even recorded with the Wailers and toured with Jimmy Cliff. "Something" is mellow, but Gil and Nascimento bring nothing new to it.

Unfortunately, these three tunes are buried in the second half of the album, and most listeners will have given up long before then. The rest of the cuts range from simplistic to simply -- and surprisingly -- bad. "Sebastian," which opens the session, remains undeveloped, while the folksy "Bom Dia" ("Good Day") is flat and uninteresting. Even the children's choir on the chorus can't save it from tedium. The most surprising failure is "Xica da Silva," by Jorge Ben. Gil & Milton's version of the funk classic is over by the 16th bar.

There are a couple of 30-second vignettes thrown in, tiny snips of tunes that are hardly more than a phrase. They seem representative of the entire project -- mere buds of ideas that never blossom.


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