Album review: ‘’ monkeys around with Mendes’ ‘timeless’ sound

Mike McKenna

It is unlikely that most college students would recognize former Brasil ’66 front man Sergio Mendes, a man who popularized Brazilian music in the U.S during the mid-60s covering Beatles’ tracks with a unique bossa nova twist.

However, the pianist hooked up with of the Black Eyed Peas on his latest release, “Timeless,” to bring younger listeners a slew of collaborating artists that would make you run out and pick up the disc based on its novelty value alone.

Some popular artists teaming up with Mendes include Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Q-Tip, Jill Scott, John Legend, Justin Timberlake and Black Thought of the Roots. If the amazing list of collaborators has grabbed your attention, you are in the right frame of mind to enjoy the truly unique and refreshing tunes “Timeless has to offer.

Mendes originally teamed up with Will back in 2003 on the track “Sexy,” an adaptation of fellow Brazilian legend Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive,” on the Peas’ album, “Elephunk.” Though “Timeless” starts off sounding like a mixed bag of B-sides to the Peas’ “Monkey Business,” Will unwinds midway through the track list and lets Mendes’ talent flow together with an all-star cast of young hip-hop and pop artists. The outcome yields an alluring set of urban bossa nova and smooth hip-hop cuts.

Though the disc’s opening track “Mas Que Nada” is a dead ringer for “Hey Mama,” do not submit to the feeling that you have been duped into buying a commercialized record devoid of any originality. Mendes’ reliable light bossa nova and airy samba tones can be heard entwined throughout this hip-hop fusion.

“That Heat,” set off by Badu’s ghost-like presence on the chorus is a complex track combining romantic piano melodies with rhythmic reggae beats. Similarly, India Arie scores a direct hit and conjures images of long, sun-drenched boardwalk strolls on one of Mendes’ new original compositions, “Timeless.”

Will and Q-Tip incite some hip-hop flavor through Mendes’ clever wah-wah washout keyboards on “The Frog” while Jamaican dance hall redeemer Mr. Vegas unleashes some reggaeton raps on the R&B inspired “Bananeira (Banana Tree).”

Two of the album’s great triumphs are the mesmerizing romance track, “Please Baby Don’t,” written by Legend and the traditional bossa nova melodies of “Loose Ends,” animated by the raps of Will and Pharoahe Monch combined with the slow-pop crooning supplied by Timberlake.

At first, listeners may be turned off by the idea of another BEP record released under the guise of a Latin musical icon and a hodgepodge of hip-hop artists. Rest assured, “Timeless” is well worth your time. Its complicated blend of bossa nova, rap, R&B and pop influences are all anchored by Mendes’ panache and ability to equalize all forms of music through his long-celebrated sense of timing and legendary piano accompaniments.

Give this track a second listen: “That Heat.”

Our rating: 4 stars (out of 5).