December 2006

Eliane Elias - Around the City
RCA Victor 82876 84432-2
Format: CD
Release: 2006

by Katherine Silkaitis

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***

Brazilian-born singer Eliane Elias recorded her first album in 1990 and has produced 19 albums over the past 16 years. Around the City, her latest effort, retains her jazz and Latin influences, while gliding the album onto firm pop territory. Her Latin-tinged covers of Top 40 hits like Santana/Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va," Bob Marley's "Jammin'" and Beck's "Tropicalia" provide interesting material for the album, but the standout tracks are her own compositions and her variations on Brazilian classics.

Elias has a beautiful, sensual voice that is well suited to the songs she takes on -- she treats it like an instrument, and her vocals are always an integrated part of the song. The lyrics she sings toy with the bass and melody lines, and no matter what type of song she may be singing, she is adept at balancing the multi-harmony parts.

"Slide Show" exemplifies the tone of the album -- quiet, passionate and smooth. The song’s lyrics are haunting, and the jazz overtones give the song a Brazilian Norah Jones-esque quality. The album would actually be much stronger had Elias stuck with what she does best -- jazz in any form -- instead of including reworked covers. "Oye Como Va," for example, sounds exactly as it would have when Santana recorded it had the group employed her as lead singer.

The recording itself handles the soft, shuffling sounds of Brazilian jazz well. All the instruments and parts are audible and harmonious, and one isn’t left wondering what happened to the bass.