Sunday, August 07, 2016

Brasileiro Plane

It's Sunday and time to continue the busy August doings with another birthday post, this one concerning one of my all-time favorites.
Today's birthday guy has had quite the life and quite the story. If you recall last month we did MPB legend Gilberto Gil's 75th, and he and today's honoree are inextricably linked by more than just the fact that they are currently on tour together.
There aren't too many musicians who can say that their music was at one time so dangerous that the government came to their door and took them away, but this is one of them here. Fewer still can say they were deported for making Art, and forced to live in a foreign country to which they had never been before, on almost no notice.
Yet fewer still can claim to have made arguably their best record -- and maybe the best record in the history of MPB -- while in that exile. In fact, no one can claim all these things, save perhaps the aforementioned Mr. Gil... and Caetano Veloso, who was born this day in 1942 and has been starting shit ever since.
If you had to pick who the global Ambassador of Brazilian music is, it'd also likely be down to those two guys, and the nod might go to Mr. V here. Notoriously bad Beatles cover tunes on his albums aside, Caetano Veloso has made some of the most enduring LPs in all music, not just that indigenous to his homeland. His output during the heady period from 1968 to 1976 stands alongside any songwriter of any genre, IMO.
When they came and got him, I'm sure he thought the generals' coup included his execution. But instead of killing him and risking total revolt of the youth of Brazil, they just "suggested" he split for awhile. He (and Gil) ended up in London in the winter, having never even seen snow before. Completely lost and alone, the two of them each made brilliant records while away, with Veloso's -- titled, variably, Caetano Veloso, or London, London, or A Little More Blue -- a collection of some of his very best songs concerning the situation.
I think the authorities were so deathly afraid of him back then because his songs work the most vitriolically political content into themselves whilst still retaining a lightness and innocence about them. He uses humor to illustrate the oppression he sees better than almost any writer you can name, with tracks like Maria Bethânia -- she's his sister, also a major MPB star, and that song is him writing a letter home to see if things are getting better -- that get into your unconscious with their wit and melodic flavor. 
Of course, it all blew over and the generals let him (and his compatriot Gil) come home in 1971... he immediately made arguably his finest record -- my personal favorite of his, called Transa -- which details the whole exile trip almost better than the previous platter in London did. Fast forward to today and he has never stopped making music, with a couple dozen albums to his credit and status as one of the most revered musicians Brazil will ever produce.
Years and years ago I made a compilation tape of my favorite songs of his... it started as a cassette in the 1990s and became a CD around 2004. I have modified it a few times since -- most recently to include his very rare version of his most covered track, Cinema Olympia, which he never put on any album -- and I bring it to you today in honor of this most splendid singer/songwriter.
Caetano Veloso

01 It's a Long Way
02 Maria Bethânia
03 The Empty Boat
04 A Little More Blue
05 Alfômega
06 Nine Out of Ten
07 Não Identificado
08 Sugar Cane Fields Forever
09 Cinema Olympia
10 Let It Bleed
11 Irene
12 London, London
13 You Don't Know Me
14 Guá
15 Lost In the Paradise
16 If You Hold a Stone

Total time: 1:19:10

compilation from the "67/74" and "75/82" box sets
I hope you enjoy my little mixtape, over 20 years old and still jamming in my phone, which has taken the place of the cassette deck as my go-to music device of choice. And remember to appreciate Caetano Veloso, 74 years young today and still at it at a high level... he knows that when The Man comes to remove you from the set, that means you're probably singing the right songs.--J.
if you hold a stone
hold it in your hand
if you feel the weight
you'll never be late
to understand

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