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Caetano Veloso

Reviewed on this page:
Àlbum Branca - Transa - Muito (Dentro Da Estrela Azulada) - Cores Nomes - Uns - Totalmente Demais - Caetano - Estrangeiro - Circuladô - Tropicália 2 - Fina Estampa - Livro - Orfeu - A Foreign Sound -

Caetano Veloso has been, with Gilberto Gil, the foremost exponent of "Tropicalismo," a Brazilian approach combining traditional samba with a variety of Caribbean, US and European styles, political enough to get most of its practitioners exiled by the military dictatorship. It's more an attitude than a musical style per se, a mysterious, sophisticated blend capable of incorporating anything from hard rock to opaque elegies to delicate love songs to elevator music. Caetano's main contributions are his lovely lyrics - often complex and even arcane, other times stunningly direct - and his keen sense of irony. He has a typically Brazilian complex approach to harmony, and can craft a simple melodic hook with the best of them. His voice is rather ordinary, and his guitar playing is more notable for his timing and drama than technical skill, but he's a huge talent and a fascinating character.

I'm still missing many of his key records, because they're mostly either not available or expensive imports. We don't ordinarily recommend greatest hits collections, but if you have trouble finding his original records, you ought to check out Verve's compilation Personalidade.

Domingo (with Gal Costa: 1967)

Caetano Veloso (1968)

This solo debut showcases the omnivorous nature of the Tropicália movement, ranging stylistically from Schubert's "Ave Maria" to Veloso's upbeat 90-second pop-rock hit "Superbacana." The first of many self-titled albums. The same year, Veloso contributed to the hugely influential compilation Tropicália ou Panis et Circenses, which features all the names in Tropicália: Gil, Costa, Tom Zé, Nara Leão and Os Mutantes. (DBW)

Àlbum Branca (1969)
Yes, that's Portuguese for White Album. By this time, Veloso was in trouble with the military - he fled the country soon after - and was essentially under house arrest in Salvador, so he recorded his vocals and Gilberto Gil's guitar there, and sent the tapes to São Paulo where producer Rogério Duprat oversaw the other tracks, including effective use of orchestra ("The Empty Boat"). Standard late 60s studio tricks abound, but they're used lightly: the opening light pop "Irene" breaks down in the middle with a spoken interlude and sped-up electric guitar, but Veloso gets back to business almost before you realize what happened. They do overuse fuzz guitar fumbling on otherwise acoustic tunes: after a while, it's not incongruous anymore, just distracting ("Marinheiro So"). However, apart from "Não Identificado" and the jaunty "Alfomega," the compositions themselves are often slight ("Carolina"; "Atras Do Trio Elétrico"), as Veloso was working out his medium rather than his message at this point. (DBW)

Caetano Veloso (1971)

Barra 69 (with Gilberto Gil: 1971)
A live record released while Veloso and Gil were exiled in England. (DBW)

Transa (1972)
Recorded after his return to Brazil, but paradoxically most of the lyrics are in English. It's basically stripped-down rock and roll, differentiated by Brazilian percussion and occasional tricky chord changes. Though his knack for unusual analogies and non-linear thinking is already in full swing, it's often not very enlightening: he goes overboard with sprawling jams on the ten-minute "Triste Bahia," and the repetitive Beatles tribute "It's A Long Way." The brief album closing blues "Nostalgia (That's What Rock and Roll Is All About)" is amusing but trivial. He does come up with a couple of brilliant tunes - the cleverly-arranged "Neolithic Man" and the dramatic "You Don't Know Me." It's more energetic and less refined than his later work, with an attitude that's at once rocking and carefree. (DBW)

Caetano e Chico Juntos e ao Vivo (with Chico Buarque: 1972)

Araçá Azul (1973)
Apparently this is one of his most experimental works. (DBW)

Temporada de Verão (1974)

Jóia (1975)

Qualquer Coisa (1975)
Supposedly there's a heavy Beatle influence here, plus "Jorge de Capadócia." (DBW)

Doces Barbaros (1976)

Bicho (1977)
Contains "Odara." (DBW)

Muitas Carnavais (1977)
More or less a concept album about Carnaval. (DBW)

Muito (Dentro da Estrela Azulada) (1978)
With A Outra Banda da Terra (the Other Earth Band); I've read that Veloso was going for a deliberately sloppy sound. It still seems pretty professional to me, though: the title track is a clever hit; "Love, Love, Love" has a tongue-in-cheek cornball arrangement, while the album-ending "Eu Te Amo" is stripped-down and tender. It's low-key, and for me doesn't stand out relative to his other work, but it's still enjoyable. (DBW)

Cinema Transcendental (1979)
"Menino do Rio" is here, and I think this was one of his biggest hit albums. (DBW)

Outras Palavras (1981)
I think the hit "Lua E Estrela" is here. (DBW)

Cores Nomes (1982)
This time, Caetano is covering all musical bases: "Ele Me Deu Um Beijo Na Boca" is winking funk with a playful chorus; "Um Canto De Afoxé Para O Bloco Do Ilê" is percussion-heavy traditional samba; "Genesis" is catchy syncopated pop; "Meu Bem, Meu Mal" is quiet and introspective. Everything is clever and well-performed; though the only big hit is "Queixa," it's a consistently artful work, and a fine introduction to his approach. (DBW)

Uns (1983)
The last album with A Outra Banda da Terra, which he broke up because they were becoming too professional. And indeed, the sound is a bit overprecise and claustrophobic, resolutely low-key, without the excitement or range of Muito or Cores Nomes. It's still perfectly enjoyable, with the hit "Você É Linda" and other gentle love songs, plus his customary ironic, thought-provoking lyrics ("Quero Ir A Cuba") and an irresistable pop tune, "Eclipse Oculto." (DBW)

Velô (1984)
With the classic "Podres Poderes," plus "Língua" and "Shy Moon." (DBW)

Totalmente Demais (1986)
Another live record, Veloso solo singing and playing acoustic guitar. Without any other instrumentation to hide behind, he's at his most open and vulnerable - this lends numbers like "O Quereres" a ferocity the studio versions lack. Most of the tracks are covers, often in strange juxtaposition: a song about slander and jealousy ("Calúnia") next to the naive "Nature Boy" (also recorded by John Coltrane); a condemnation ("Pra Que Mentir") next to a defense (his own "Dom De Iludir") of deception. I still have trouble telling whether he intends certain songs as straightforward or ironic, including the title character sketch - I think it helps to be Brazilian. Because his compositional talents aren't particularly what's on display here (one of his five compositions is the bizarre, rambling "Vaca Profana"), this is not a record for the uninitiated, but his fans should find it captivating. (DBW)

Caetano (1987)
A fairly conventional batch of samba ("O Ciúme") with various outside influences like funk ("Eu Sou Neguinha?") and rap ("Vamo Comer," a duet with Luiz Melodia). Though it's rarely innovative or exciting, it's always pleasant and tuneful ("Valsa De Uma Cidade," one of several tunes Veloso didn't write). The most prominent musician is Carlinhos Brown, who contributes his customary room full of percussion to most tracks ("Depois Que O Ilê Passar"); Tavinho Fialho's fretless bass is the standout instrument on a few numbers ("José"). Despite all this, the general mood is mellow, with a higher proportion of ballads than most of Veloso's albums. Produced by Guto Graça Mello. (DBW)

Estrangeiro (1989)
Produced by Peter Scherer and Arto Lindsay, and it seems Caetano was finally trying to tap into the US world beat market: his chord progressions are dumbed-down, and layers of synths (courtesy of Scherer) are everywhere. Fortunately, his lyrics are still wry and thought-provoking (title track). Musically, the highlights are the understated, carefully syncopated "Rai De Cores" (featuring Carlinhos Brown on percussion) and the self-effacing acoustic "Etc." As one of the few Veloso records readily available in the US, you may want to pick this up, but don't expect to be blown away by it. (DBW)

Caetano Veloso (1990)
Self-titled album number five, and it's just him and an acoustic guitar, reinterpreting songs from his back catalog - like a Caetano Unplugged without the commercials. (DBW)

Circuladô (1991)
To my taste this is a substantial rebound from Estrangeiro. Sherer is out; Lindsay produces by himself, and synth is minimal, replaced by a variety of instrumentation: a string quartet on "Itapuã"; guitars and percussion on "Santa Clara, Padroeira Da Televisão" and "Boas Vindas"; layered funk setting off the abstract lyrics of "Fora Da Ordem." Everything's catchy and clever, with "Ela Ela" an experimental standout: over a completely chaotic Lindsay electric guitar solo, Veloso creates a fragmented melody relating a slice of romantic life. As usual, most tunes are by Veloso; the music of "A Terceira Margem Do Rio" is by Milton Nascimento, "Baião Da Penha" is by Guio de Morais and David Nasser, and the words to the title track "Circulado de Fulô" are from a book by Haroldo de Campos. Lots of backing musicians; the big stars are Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa. (DBW)

Circuladô Vivo (1992)
This is a two record set, with live versions of many of his classics plus odd cover tunes like Michael Jackson's "Black Or White" and Bob Dylan's "Jokerman." I can never tell when Caetano's serious and when he's just fucking around. (DBW)

Tropicália 2 (with Gilberto Gil: 1993)
Working together for the first time in who knows how long, Gil and Veloso put everything they've got into this, and it's marvelous. The lyrics are consistently challenging ("Cinema Novo") and often political ("Haiti"), and the arrangements vary from simple acoustic guitar ("Aboio") to full-band samba (the standard "Nossa Gente") to hard rock ("As Coisas"). It's endlessly inventive: Veloso throws in a sampled collage ("Quem"), and there's even a sly cover of Jimi Hendrix' "Wait Until Tomorrow." Many of the songs are co-written, and frequently they sing each other's tunes, so it's a collaboration on a level rarely seen. Produced by Gil, Veloso and bassist/percussionist Liminha; Carlinhos Brown guests again. (DBW)

Fina Estampa (1994)
This time around Veloso records standards from throughout Latin America, all in Spanish, mostly with lush orchestral backing. It's a sincere, well-recorded homage, but the songs aren't exactly profound, and I don't find the performances very moving, either. I get the feeling that Veloso got exactly what he was after - it's just not anything I want to hear. (DBW)

Fina Estampa Ao Vivo (1995)
Yet another live record, but not related to the previous studio album at all: instead, the track listing mixes his past hits with offbeat covers, like Circulado Vivo. (DBW)

O Quatrilho (1996)
Stay away: this is not really a Veloso album, it's a pseudoclassical mostly instrumental film soundtrack (by Jaques Morelenbaum) that merely features vocals by Veloso on two songs. Don't be fooled like I was. (DBW)

Livro (1998)
The first studio album of new Veloso compositions since Circuladô, and instead of the bewildering profusion of styles on that record, he integrates his usual lively melodicism with the complex orchestrations of Fina Stampa and lots of traditional Brazilian percussion. The effect is marvelous on "Onde O Rio É Mais Baiano" and "Doideca," where leaping horns and reeds (arranged by Jaques Morelenbaum, who produced with Veloso) cleverly complement the driving drum tracks. "Livros" incorporates distorted electric guitar for extra grit, but the sound is never calculated or determinedly experimental: Veloso has a knack for making disparate elements sound natural together, partly because his nimble voice always sounds comfortable regardless of the arrangement. The strangest cut is "O Navio Negreiro," with Veloso reciting from a poem by Antonio de Castro Alves while sister Maria Bethânia adds vocals and Carlinhos Brown bangs on everything in sight (including PVC tubing), but somehow even that makes musical sense. A few tracks are quieter ("Pra Ninguem," "Os Passistas"), reminding you how soothing he can be when he wants to. As Caetano matures, he's getting even more musical - this is the kind of record you never get tired of. (DBW)

Prenda Minha (1999)
Yet another live album, mixing early hits ("Eclipse Oculto") with material I'm not familiar with ("Jorge De Capadócia") and even a dramatic reading ("Verdade Tropical"). (DBW)

Orfeu (1999)
Another film soundtrack, but this time Veloso did write or sing most of the songs. Apart from the lively samba school-backed "O Enredo De Orfue (Históris do Carnaval Carioca)," the album is low-key, relying on either acoustic guitar ("Os Cincos Bailes Da Historia Do Rio") or orchestra (Tom Jobim's "A Felicidade," sung by Maria Luiza Jobim), largely instrumental ("Alucinaçao"). It's nice that Veloso is stretching himself to compose for orchestra, but most of the pieces are disposable background music ("Orfeu Leva Euridice"). The big exception is "Batuque Final," a voice and percussion improvisation by Ramiro Mussoto that's impressively creepy. (DBW)

Noites De Norte (2001)
A further exploration of orchestral strings and dense percussion, along the lines of Livro ("Zera A Reza"), but incorporating more of Veloso's standard samba ("Meu Rio"; the lovely "Cobra Coral"). And again, it's strikingly melodic and memorable ("Zumbi"; "Cantiga De Boi"), apart from a few failed experiments like the muddled "Ia," a precursor to . Lyrically, there are a couple of tributes - "Michelangelo Antonioni"; "Rock 'N' Raul" (to Raul Seixas) - and otherwise his usual crypticism ("Tempestades Solares"). Produced by Veloso, half with Morelenbaum, and son Moreno co-produced "13 De Maio," with pleasant, laid-back electric guitar interplay. (DBW)

A Foreign Sound (2004)
All covers of songs from the U.S., and as so often with Veloso, it's hard to tell what he's getting at. A bunch of the songs are mid-century standards from guys like Gershwin ("Summertime") and Cole Porter ("Love For Sale"), while others are from Sixties legends from Bob Dylan ("It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)") to Stevie Wonder ("If It's Magic"). So far - and particularly because everything is delivered without irony - it sounds like sincere homage, produced carefully by Veloso and Morelenbaum (the tricky horn arrangement on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"). But then there's pap like Paul Anka's "Diana" and Morris Albert's "Feelings" (actually ripped off from Frenchman Louis Gaste's 1957 "Pour Toi") which makes you think the project's a sendup. In the middle are things like Nirvana's "Come As You Are," Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy" and Irving Berlin's dreadful "Blue Skies," where you can't tell whether he really thinks the song is any good or not. Come to think of it, Veloso might be making fun of "If It's Magic" while he's at it. Who does he think he is, making fun of Stevie? Screw you, Caetano Veloso! Unless he's not, in which case I take it back. Jeez, this is confusing. (DBW)

He's finally found the deliberately sloppy sound he was looking for back in 1978... Most of the way through, the band is out of tune, out of time, and out of ideas, both on the fast rockers (the 3/4 "Outro") and ballads ("Minhas Lágrimas"). At least Veloso's voice still sounds great ("Não Me Arrependo"), and there are a few numbers that transcend the performances ("O Herói," one of his patented socio-political diatribes). His son Moreno Veloso co-produced with Pedro Sá, who also contributes the shoddy, Thurston Moore-lite lead guitar ("Rocks," where he stinks up what could have been one of the disc's standout tunes). (DBW)

Outro retrato?

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