Forgotten series: Milton Nascimento – Angelus (1994)

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NICK DERISO: Brazilian legend Milton Nascimento achieved a timeless genre-blending classic here, deftly mixing a bevy of jazz greats, some pop music and these wondrous, title-worthy angelic textures from another land.

A heightened realism traveled throughout the recording. Its lyrics, translated to English, were brilliant, nearly blinding lights — beacons of imagery and distraction along the lines of the genius Latin writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Yet, for the uninitiated, “Angelus” is grounded in the familiar: Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny and Wayne Shorter matched those flights of meaning with spiraling rhythm intrusions, crisp guitar arpeggios, and the just-right sax insinuation.

Additional vocalists included Peter Gabriel, who on “Qualquer Coisa A Haver Com O Paraiso” (embedded below) confirmed the notion that his voice may be the most ineffably melancholic, quietly resolute instrument in pop music.

I’m less interested in the faster cuts like “De Um Modo Geral,” which had a somewhat tired, repetitive beat. And the tune with James Taylor had an as-you-might-expect sound to it: Pleasant singer-songwriter folk. (That said, I must almost shamefully report an undying love for JT’s voice, where ever it may appear.)

There followed, though, the oddest pleasure: Nascimento’s at-first dreaded reading of the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye,” a tune that barely requires even its original version. On “Angelus,” however, it’s explored in an absolutely atmospheric range — turning this simple, almost unabashedly silly tune into something approaching beauty.

Such is the genius of Nascimento, who has the ability to produce corner-of-the-eye revelations at the most unexpected of times.

That makes “Angelus” a nice entry point into his music, one that bridges the Brazilian genre with the wider Western aesthetic — both jazz and mainstream popular music. It’s also a great listen, easy but rarely simplistic.


Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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