Pop albums: Various Artists Red Hot and Rio Antilles / Verve RH+RIO- 2

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The Independent Culture
The Aids charity here reaches Latin America - and not before time, given that continent's desperate affliction by the disease. And - if only for its relative novelty - it's much more satisfying than previous Red Hot+ releases, which have leaned towards lacklustre soul-jazz and dance.

The album mostly pairs Latin- and Anglo-American acts on material written by the bossa nova genius Antonio Carlos Jobim. George Michael gets to consummate his Jobim infatuation, duetting with Astrud Gilberto on "Desafinado", and Sting basks in the balmy desolation of "How Insensitive", both singers exhibiting a sure touch in the alien genre. Less successful is PM Dawn's collaboration with Latin-jazzers Flora Purim and Airto Moreira, which lacks the suave languor the material demands.

David Byrne's here, of course, sharing "Waters of March" with Marisa Monte, and the odd pairing of Stereolab's mimsy vocals and synthy squiggles with Herbie Mann's jazz flute provides one of the album's most interesting and lucid interpretations on a medley of "One Note Samba" and "Surfboard". The solo offerings are just as wide-ranging, from Everything But The Girl's seamless insertion of drum 'n' bass syncopation into the Latin groove of "Corcovado", to Crystal Waters's perky, disco-friendly gender transposition on "The Boy from Ipanema". With The Mad Professor stretching the formula dub-wise, there's more than enough happening here to satisfy the most ardent multi-culturalist.