Caetano Veloso's Album from Prison


Sounds good to me

VELOSO, CAETANO s/t (Irene) (Lilith) cd 21.00 It is with no small significance that we end this year highlighting one of our very favorite artists of all time, Caetano Veloso. If we were anything like Time Magazine, we could definitely see ourselves making him Man of the Year, because indeed, it has been a stellar year for Veloso. Not only have some of the many highlights of his extensive back-catalog been made available once again, but he also began the year, at age sixty, releasing one of the best rock albums of the year (Ce) that has made many of our top ten lists. If you were lucky enough to catch his performance at this year's San Francisco Jazz Festival, he shocked and delighted the audience by performing with just a stripped-down rock band, three young men on electric guitar, bass and drums, barely over a third of Veloso's age, his voice in amazing form, running from one side of the stage to another working the audience into a frenzy, causing a seemingly endless string of female (and one male) fans to jump on the stage for a quick kiss. Here was someone who could of easily just sat on his laurels and played his popular hits with the kind of over-orchestrated band you see in concerts on PBS, but instead embraced his forward-thinking musicality playing mostly new songs with a tight killer band and still managed to sway his oldest fans to cheer along. One of the best shows of 2007 for sure!

Years ago, when we first discovered the sounds of Tropicalia, it was through the more blatant psychedelic spectacle of Os Mutantes and their first three well-beloved records. But while we were aware of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil being the main songwriters and architects of the movement, most of their songs, until recently, we got to know through compilations and cover versions rather than through their full length records. While we have seen in the past couple of years so much amazing music being dug out of the far reaches of that fertile period and the post Tropicalia boom from Alceu Valenca, Jorge Ben, and Lula Cortes, as well as the amazing Soul Jazz comp, Brazil '70, it's been nice to see some of the best full length albums from Gilberto Gil and Veloso becoming available again. Earlier this year, Lilith reissued Veloso's first solo record from 1967 and his post-exile experimental jaunt from 1972, Araca Azul. So for a year that began with a return to musical form from this beloved Brazilian musical master, it's even more fitting that by years end we see the reissue of arguably the most important and most essential album of his vast discography, the second self-titled solo album from 1969. Notice the blank cover with just a signature? Much different from most of Veloso's records which almost always feature his picture. That's because when he recorded this album, Veloso and Gilberto Gil were in captivity by the Brazilian Government for violating recently imposed orders against artists performing non-nationalistic music or expressing any statements that could be perceived as antigovernment. While confined, their long hair was shaved off, hence the decision to not display a picture. Allowed to play acoustic guitar and record songs through a masterful use of the media to keep a connection with the public for fear of being "disappeared" or tortured, both Gil and Veloso recorded albums (Gil recorded his masterful 1969 album as well at this time) using just voice and guitar and then sending the tapes to Rogerio Duprat, who added all the arrangements: electric guitars, strings, flutes and rhythm tracks. For such a strange and backwards production process, what results is a fervently articulate statement of politics and personal freedoms, with some of his first songs sung in English, namely the very pointed, "The Empty Boat".

Of course with time, it may be difficult to understand how radical the situation was, especially with the language barrier. Album opener "Irene" may seem like a pastoral groover with its opening flutes and guitars, but when he sings in Portuguese, "I want to see Irene laughing", it's rumored that the "Irene", he was referring to was the name of the machine gun of Tenario Calvacanti, a robber famously celebrated in leftist circles. While "Os Argonautas" is based on the belief that all oppressive dictatorships are fated to be temporary (Let's hold on tight to that belief!). The penultimate track "Acrilirico" is Veloso's response to the Beatles' "Revolution #9", a track very fitting to be on Veloso's own white album. Like most Tropicalia albums, the urgently emotional song writing is tempered by a need to unite multiple populist musical forms together. So there are bits of Fado, Tango, Carnival music, psychedelic rock, with lyrics sung in English, Spanish as well as Portuguese. Veloso through the Tropicalia movement understood that the politics of freedom are best communicated through the musical language of the people. This record is more prescient than ever!
[From [ aquarius records new arrivals list #282 ]]

Click through for more goodies, including MP3 samples.


Caetano is 65 (b. 7 Aug 1942). I saw his show in Santa Cruz and, then the next night, saw his show in San Francisco. Both were sublime; the Santa Cruz show was a little better, with a somewhat more attuned audience. How could the SF audience have been shocked by his band or his performance?? The album, çê, was released in Brazil about Oct 2006 and in the US in Jan 2007, the Nonesuch website has had videos of Caetano talking about the music and the band, and they'd already been touring for over a year. He says in his book that the song, "Irene," was about missing his sister Irene.

Hello, Seth:

I saw your blog in a Google Alert about Os Mutantes. The info you gave out about the circumstances surrounding the recording of Caetano 's white album were a total surprise to me. I had it as an LP at the time, any of the details you provided unsuspected until today. I thought he had recorded it in Bahia before leaving for London.

Cê is a great comeback by Cae after his break-up with Paula, his second wife. All power to him and Gil, who are the victims of ageism and racism in their native Brazil, where so many Brazilians consider themselves "white." Go figure.

Next time you see me I will be using Vista. I need voice-recognition software. Apple wasn't kidding when they took the Computers out of Apple and became Apple, Inc. That's the way the "apple bounces;" crummy, but true.

Once more we must thank the Carioca maestro Rogério Duprat for providing us with one more gem of Tropicalismo. I am glad I stopped by.

Take care,

¡Hasta la Vista! (I am glad you won't shoot me for crummy jokes.)

Is this real? Never heard of it before...

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on December 28, 2007 10:20 PM.

Circuit City Sucks was the previous entry in this blog.

Inside The Wire is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.37