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Gal Costa portrait One of Brazil's most popular singers, Gal Costa came to prominence in the mid-1960s, alongside the other rebellious "tropicalistas" such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben. For decades she has been a fixture in the superstar strata of Brazilian pop, and is one of Brazil's most renowned song stylists.

This page looks at her work from the 1980, '90s and onwards...

Discography: 1965-79 | 1980-Now | Best-Ofs

Gal Costa "Aquarela Do Brasil" (Verve/Polygram, 1980)
A classy (and classic) tribute to Ary Barroso, who was perhaps Brazil's most revered songwriter of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. In general, it is the smooth ballad which rules here. Gal's voice is sweet and fluid, and the soft-pop arrangements are mostly understated, even on the quartet of disco-flavored samba numbers which bookend the album. Might be too florid for many listeners -- I'm on the fence about this one-- but this is considered one of her better records.

Gal Costa "Fantasia" (Verve/Polygram, 1981)
Another strong pop album. Depending on your tastes, you may or may not find this disc too slick or cheesy. Costa's voice is in especially fine form, framed by immaculate jazz-pop that is top of the line, split between lugubrious ballads and upbeat pagode-style pop. She includes four Caetano Veloso songs, and a pair of wretchedly saccahrine tunes by up-and-comer, Djavan. Overall, though, this album is still very good -- as good as this style gets.

Gal Costa "Minha Voz" (Polygram, 1982)
A predictably glossy pop album with plenty of North American pop hangovers, though, on the whole, not as bad as it might have been... This is terrible, icky pop music, but it's done very well -- her vocals are confident and controlled, as are the arrangements. The highlight of the album is probably her version of Jobim's "Borzeguim."

Gal Costa "Baby Gal" (1983)
A picture-perfect, immaculately arranged pop album, which would almost be good to listen to... except I hate this sort of bombastic synth-pop. I can't say I'd recommend this album to anyone, although I can see how if anyone was inclined towards the style, that this would be a perfectly fine record. Title track is an icky, re-made version of the Caetano Veloso oldie; there is also an early Vinicius Cantuaria tune as well.

Gal Costa & Tom Jobim "Gabriela" (RCA, 1983)
The soundtrack to a fun Sonia Braga/Marcello Mastroianni film, written by Jobim and conducted by Oscar Castro Neves. The three Jobim/Costa duets are pleasant enough, but on the whole this album is fairly unremarkable. The highlight is, I suppose, Jobim's solo vocal number, "Walking Through The Forest," though all the instrumentals, with their dated disco-ish filagrees and predictably oceanic string arrangements barely qualify as aural wallpaper. Maybe someday I'll have to go back and watch the film again, to see how well this works in its original context.

Gal Costa "Profana" (RCA, 1984)
A pretty scary post-disco, synthy '80s pop album, with little to satisfy the more traditionally-oriented listener. Includes a Portuguese cover of Stevie Wonder's "Lately," which is actually one of the more appealing tracks on here. On the whole, this is one you can skip.

Gal Costa "Bem Bom" (RCA, 1985)
Her voice is beautiful, mellowed with age into a smoky, port wine quality. But the arrangements are super-slick, and mostly abysmal. The worst moments are on a couple of rock tracks which sound like the soundtrack to "Beverley Hills, 90120," turned up REALLY LOUD. Other tracks are OK, I suppose, if you like terrible AOR pop from the mid-'80s. The title track is OK. Finally, what's up with the cover art, where Costa -- dressed in a leather midi -- looks like she's about to hump her microphone? Yeesh.

Gal Costa "Lua De Mel Como O Diablo Gosta" (RCA-Ariola, 1987)
(Produced by Guto Graca Mello)

A softer album, still too slick and synthy for my tastes, but more reserved and less outlandish than some of ther other albums from this era. A few tracks are nice: her soft acoustic version of Djavan's "O Vento" is lovely and Lulu Santos' "Lua Mel" is okay. Once again, Costa's voice is in fine form, but the arrangements are a bit overripe. Worth checking out.

Gal Costa & Antonio Carlos Jobim "Rio Revisited" (Verve, 1987)
A nice live album featuring Gal Costa on a couple of tracks, and some breezy but appealling arrangements courtesy of Jobim and cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, who later went on to form the Quarteto Jobim-Morelenbaum (see below). Recorded in LA's Wiltern Theatre, this concert is dominated by a perky female vocal ensemble ala the Quarteto Em Cy... But these gals are far less slick than Em Cy, and less bland and technique-obsessed. Plenty of engaging performances, with several tunes sung in English... Despite the lackluster artwork, this is one of Jobim's better albums, and also some of Costa's more appealling, understated work of the time. Recommended!

Gal Costa "Plural" (RCA-Ariola, 1990)
Predictably slick, glossy pop material. Her vocals are declarative and confident, in fact technically speaking some of the best of her career. But the material and arrangements are hopelessly pedestrian and bland. Not screamingly awful, just uninvolving. A pair of nice North American pop standards are the highlights - Cole Porter's "Begin The Beguine" and the Hart/Rodgers tune, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," along with the Olodum-inspired "Salvador Nao Inerte," a drummy duet with Caetano Veloso.

Gal Costa "Gal: Saudacao Aos Povos Africanos" (RCA-BMG, 1992)

Gal Costa/Various Artists "Concert For Planet Earth" (Sony Classics, 1992)
With Placido Domingo and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Gal sings two songs: "Dindi" and "Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar."

Gal Costa "O Sorriso Do Gato De Alice" (RCA-BMG, 1993)
Despite attempts at injecting this album with creative arrangements (albeit in a synthy, electronic fashion), this is a fairly lackluster, stuffy album. I mean, yeah, it's okay for what it is, but it doesn't really stir me up inside. As is often the case, Gal is classy almost to a fault... Mostly, this is just too reserved and controlled -- there's no zip-zing-pow anywhere, even with a set list drawing exclusively on the work of Jorge Ben, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Djavan. Includes a couple of English-language songs as well, both co-written by Arto Lindsay.

Gal Costa "Mina D'Agua Do Meu Canto" (RCA-BMG, 1995)
Can't say that I would recommend this one... Although Costa's sugary voice creates a few moments of grace, for the most part this Caetano Veloso/Chico Buarque songbook is pretty wretched. Who really listens anymore to the kind of Barry Manilow-ish disco arrangements that clutter the corners of this disc? The slower tracks have their moments (for example, it's hard to screw up songs like "Quem Te Viu, Quem Te Ve"...) but you'd probably have more luck listening to something better... or older. Cellist/arranger Jacques Morelenbaum contributes throughout...

Gal Costa "Novela Hits" (RCA-BMG, 1996)
A cheesy collection Brazilian television theme songs recorded by Costa over the years. To put it delicately, this is not my cup of tea.

Gal Costa/Caetano Veloso/Zeze Motta "Tieta Do Agreste" (Soundtrack) (Blue Jackel, 1996)
Smooth MPB ballads and incidental music from a film by director Carlos Diegues. Both Costa and Veloso are in fine form, although overall this album may be too mellow for some. The arrangements have an Italian feel to them, like something from Fellini's Amarcord. But there's nothing overtly drekky here, just a couple of old pros knocking out another solid album.

Gal Costa "Acustico MTV" (BMG Brazil, 1997)
A suave, tony concert album, with lush arrangements, and very much in keeping with the often un-stripped down nature of MTV "Acoustic" shows. Although Costa's voice is starting to show it's age, this record is better than you might imagine. It starts with a lovely quintet of Caetano Veloso cover songs, which are also some of the most stripped down tracks on here. Unfortunately, the album becomes progressively more ornate, and some touches, such as the lite-jazz flute and horns are less than desireable. On the whole, though, this is a pretty good contemporary album.

Gal Costa "Aquele Frevo Axe" (BMG Brazil, 1999)
With all the competition from the younger pop divas such as Marisa Monte, Gal needed to pump things up a bit, and she does it pretty admirably on this album's opening track, a Tim Maia cover ("Que Beleza") with a booming, beguiling, almost trip-hoppy sound. Co-produced by guitarist Celso Fonseca, this is a prety solid album, even if it does quickly devolve into typically slick, sadly gushy MPB soft-pop cliches. The early presence of the soprano sax is a warning sign, and by the time you hit the appallingly icky duet with Pedro Anzar ("Amor De Juventud"), it's clear the fun is all but over. Firther on, a blandly techno-funky version of Jorge Ben's "Habib" lacks all the balance and savvy of the album's opener... alas! Still, Costa's voice is in marvellous form, and there are a couple of softer ballads that are pretty nice, including the mildly trip-hopped "Voce Nao Gosta De Mim" (one of three obligatory Caetano Veloso songs...) Not, ultimately, my cup of tea, but certainly one of her best albums in recent years, and worth checking out.

Gal Costa "Gal Costa Canta Tom Jobim -- Ao Vivo" (BMG Brasil, 1999)
A 2-CD live tribute to songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim...

Gal Costa "De Tantos Amores" (BMG Brasil, 2001)

Gal Costa "Bossa Tropical" (Abril/MZA, 2002)
This has some interesting moments on it, and some of the most distinctive pop arrangements Gal's tried in years. But she also lays a few eggs, particularly on the album's second track, an awkward cover version of the Beatles' "Fool On The Hill," which she sings in English, and which has some truly dreadful keyboard work. Still, this is probably worth checking out, just to see what Costa's been up to recently. Includes some sprightly guitar work by Armandinho, on the "Bahian guitar," and some striking arrangements. Overall, though, this doesn't really grab me.

Gal Costa "Todas As Coisas E Eu" (Som Livre, 2003)

Gal Costa "Hoje" (Trama, 2005)

Gal Costa: 1965-79 | 1980-Now | Best-Ofs

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