This latest album from Sergio Mendes will not disappoint fans. It just hit stores in June and is a follow-up to Timeless, which was released in 2006. Encanto is rich in Brazilian influence and has the expected bossa nova beat, along with a new interpretation of  “The Look of Love”.  Will i am  created a new arrangement of the classic that starts with a rap style by Fergie then segues into the standard arrangement. That was an interesting approach, but not one that worked particularly well for me. Other’s who enjoy rap will probably not be bothered by it, but I found the rap segments of the song offsetting.

One of the best thing about Sergio Mendes is the energy that he puts into every song. A listener can’t help but be infused with some of that energy, and I wanted to get up and dance as the CD played. There is a sense that everyone involved in recording the music is having a great time, and that sense of fun spills over to the listener.

The recording started in Brazil in Rio and Bahaia, then was finished in Los Angeles. A number of guest musicians from all over the world joined Mendes on the CD.  They include Latin superstar Juanes from Colombia; multi-talented Carlinhos Brown and Vanessa da Mata from Brazil; the foremost Japanese pop group, Dreams Come True; Belgium’s Zap Mama and Italian rapper Jovanotti; as well as American stars like Fergie, Ledisi, Natalie Cole, Herb Alpert and his wife, original Brasil ’66 singer, Lani Hall.  “I’ve always dreamed of making an album with guest artists singing in their native languages,” Mendes says on his Web site.   “It’s a way to illustrate the power and magic of Brazilian melodies.”

There is definitely a lot of power in the music. The high intensity songs such as “Funky Bahia”  and “Y Vamos Ya” contrasted dramatically with the slower beats of  “Somewhere in the Hills”  and “Dreamer”.  “Dreamer” was a particular treat for me and featured the vocals of Lani Hall and Herb Alpert. This was the first time that Alpert, a long-time mentor of Mendes, joined him in a recording. Natalie Cole provided the vocals for “Somewhere in the Hills”.

This new album features four Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions:  a hip-hop version of “Agua De Beber” with Toninho Horta on guitar, Mendes’ wife and longtime vocalist Gracinha Leporace. Mendes opens that cut with a light touch on piano.   “Waters of March,”  features 2006 GRAMMY®-Award nominee Ledisi and is also reprised in French by Afro-European vocal ensemble Zap Mama.

In a commenbt on his Web site, Mendes says that making a new record “is always an adventure and my main motivation is to record wonderful songs. In the process I enjoy sharing with the world the diversity of Brazilian music, both is rhythm and melody.”

Within a week of release, Encanto topped the i-Tunes list of top Latin Albums and was number two on CMJ’s  World Music Chart.

La Onda Tropical,  a blog that reviews Latin music, had some good things to say about the album and made this comment, “The music is as sunny, colorful and sexy as the album cover.” And I have to agree. The cover is stunning,  with bright yellows and oranges that are captivating and give a glimpse of the tropical paradise that is Brazil.

The album has twelve tracks and is available in many retail outlets including

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