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NUNO MINDELIS Free Blues AP0004/2009 (2010)

Nuno Mindelis

Among the critical acclaim down the years for Angolan born, Brazilian guitarist Nuno Mindelis, he's been called a 'Brazil's Guitar God', which when you thnk about it is no small claim. But for a man whose intial musical inlfuence was Booker T & the MG's and soul in general, this is a strangely sterile outing. For while Nuno contributes several gently nuanced and delighfully toned solo's over several relentless goorves, the overall feeing is a bit like David Sanborne's appraoch to sax playing, he's technically superb but a little too cold and sials too close far too close to dreaded muzak.

Once you strip away the pretentious claims of Nuno Mindelis's 'Free Blues' you are left with a smartly arranged album of rock and blues covers that at best offers wide spread accessibility to those who wouldn't otherwise approach the blues. And in that respect Mindelis does go some way towards updating the style, or a he himself says, 'Free Blues' continues the rebirth of the blues' but now infusing the contemporary musical language instead of the rock themes of the 60's'.

Make of that what you will, but this is an album that will find greater appeal with rock fans and fusion fans than blues heads. There's simply not enough emotion and feeling left in the loop to engage the listener sufficiently strongly. And contrary to his claims he's certainly not introducing 'this vital music to a new generation just as rock artists did year ago.

After all, Nuno is 53 and only just a short step behind the baby boomers who have already grown up with the development of rock/blues in the hands of Hendrix, Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan and all manner of recent rock blues contemporaries from Gary Moore to Walter Trout and Joe Bonamassa,. What we have here is in effect a new marketing ploy for selling old wine in new bottles. The music is superbly played, the arrangements vary from the highly original to the misguided, but ironically this album sounds like a distant claustrophobic cousin of the 'Free Blues' title.

All that said Nuno is a lovely guitarist with a deft touch and a mellifluous voice. He opens with a languid but insistent groove on an original reworking of Junior Wells's 'Messing With the Kid' (the Rory Gallagher version) and adds a funky hue to Dave Mason's 'Feeling Alright'. The latter is another neat arrangement but loses much of Dave original vitality let alone Joe Cockers' soulful interpretation. Similarly 'Get out of My Life Woman' is a one dimensional groove that is pleasant enough but rarely breaks sweat. Perhaps it's the high in the mix electronic programming by Guilherme Chiappetta that renders too many tracks overly clinical. But there are unlikely successes such as the cool version of 'All You Lovin' which loses its original clumsy tempo change and settles for some beautifully delivered crisp notes over a metronomic rhythm track.

In some respects 'Free Blues' will have greater appeal with the smooth jazz /fusion crowd. This is certainly the case with the minimalist approach to 'The Thrill is Gone', with it's heavily reliance on another metronomic groove rather than any emotional sense of the blues. Happily there's slightly more muscle to 'Dust My Broom' which cleverly uses an angular guitar riff to punctuate another relentless rhythm track.

And so on it goes. It you're looking for a mighty guitar break, a burst of passion or a barn storming vocal, you've come to the wrong place. Nuno's take on 'Bullfrog Blues' for example, comes close to JJ Cale's laid back, beguiling style, but its one of the few occasions where his subtle nuances triumph over a technically proficient but emotionally cold approach. Similarly the closing 'Red House' finds him in a down home exploratory mode, but his delightful playing is all but flattened by a horrible electronic drum track. As with much of this album the guitarist's work is almost sidelined by an over bearing state of the art production that tries to hard to update a traditional genre.

'Free Blues' still has its moments and is worth 4 stars and a guarded recommendation if only because Nuno is such a fine player, but beware of the studio trickery.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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