Rita Lee's career and life have seen plenty of ups and downs. After a barren spell in the late '80s and '90s, she came back strong with a couple of excellent albums clustered around the turn of the century, but then almost ten years elapsed between 2003's Balacobaco and 2012's Reza. In many ways, Reza represents a return to Lee's albums of the '80s, which is to say, it is uneven. Also, Reza's sound often harks back to Lee's trademark pop/rock of the '80s in a couple of good tracks such as "Divagando" and "Reza" (featured on the soundtrack of the hit Brazilian soap opera Avenida Brazil, testament to Lee's enduring high visibility in the media), but also in weaker material in which Lee repeats characters she has played better in previous songs. In two instances, however, "Vidinha" and "Tô um Lixo," Lee gives a new twist to her reckless persona by despairing about her legendary life of excess now being forced to become healthier, and hence inexorably boring -- incidentally, Lee announced earlier in 2012 that she was retiring from live performances due to her ailing health. As usual, Lee made this album with lifetime hubby Roberto de Carvalho, which also accounts for its similarity to the duo's '80s work. In a conscious attempt to refresh their formula, DJs Zegon and particularly Apollo Nove (who is also listed as co-producer) are brought in to add an electronic character to several of the tracks. Nevertheless, the real trump card of the album is Lee's dusting off of the pastiche humor characteristic of her work with Os Mutantes. This becomes evident on the second half of the record, with the inclusion of as many as four examples of linguistic contamination, reminiscent of songs like "El Justiciero," that surprisingly provide many of Reza's most entertaining moments. The English-sung "Paradise Brasil" piles up all the clichés about Brazil into a track that foreign audiences, unaware of the intrinsic irony, could easily mistake for a fabulous Bebel Gilberto dance number. In "Tutti Fuditti" Lee pays tribute to Rita Pavone with a '60s Italian twist meeting electronica, using familiar Italian words and expressions without worrying much about making any sense. Even more absurdist is "Bagdá," which does not even bother to use real words, as Lee sings in something that is vaguely Arabic-sounding and peppers it with Brazilian words that rhyme, over a faux Oriental arrangement. Lastly, "Bamboogiewoogie" is a seven-and-a-half-minute jam that alternates between Latin, Brazilian, and electronic sounds, and flows straight into the downright weird instrumental that closes the album, making its last ten minutes utterly different from what came before. ~ Mariano Prunes
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