Caetano Veloso

The title of this CD, ‘Book’ in English, is an apt one, since
Caetano Veloso is a walking archive of contemporary Brazilian music
and culture. One of the lions of the Tropicalia movement, which
mixed Western pop forms with Brazilian and acoustic with electric,
Veloso has spanned it all since he emerged as a musical and
political rebel in the late ’60s-from samba and frevo to jazz, rock
and a recent Latin album in Spanish. The scope of his musical
musings is so wide it can make some of his work too discursive for
these ears. But not this time out. I’ve been wearing out my copy of
Livro, an album rich in the sensual rhythms of Veloso’s native
Bahia. It puts me in the kind of glazed reverie I used to feel
after emerging from a great foreign film, aglow in a delicious,
artistic and sensual world not my own-but, reassuringly, from
somewhere on this planet. Veloso’s concept was to mix the visceral
African vibe of Bahia with its seeming polar opposite, the cool,
muted arrangements of Gil Evans for Miles Davis. And it works in an
evocative yin-yang melding. Beyond the gorgeous sambas, churning
drums and tasty horn charts, the stories-and Veloso’s gift for
verse-draw you in, to the tale of an 85-year-old samba singer in
‘Where Rio Is Most Bahian,’ or to lines like this one from
‘Carnival Dancers’: ‘I’m going to touch your hips, multiply your
feet by a thousand.’ Livro multiplies the artistry on display at
your local CD shop by more than that. It’s a seductive, imaginative
work from a composer at the top of his game. Bring your popcorn.
Nonesuch. FromEscape(September, 1999.) Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box
462255, Escondido, CA 92046.

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