Born in Angola when it was still under Portuguese control, resident of Brazil for a while later in life, Waldemar Bastos sounds like an amalgam of all three places, rhythmic and and sad, the Brazilian sway, the Portuguese saudade, and the African nation, troubled but hanging on. His voice has been getting huskier since 1990 when he recorded “N’Gana”, the song that introduced him to the English-speaking world through Luaka Bop’s 1995 compilation Telling Stories to the Sea. Today’s voice is darker, a little harder, not so smooth, more lived-in, giving the suffering-soul side of him a more persuasive impact, and soul is the idea he’s pursuing on this Classics. He can pain-shout like a king but he saves up these shouts—he swings you first—then bam. The London Symphony gets wheeled in, a trumpet goes blurt, but the core of the album is the man and his guitar, very simple, very strong, a sustained feat of high-emotion singing.
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