A Book of Surprises
After his successful releases Fina Estampa and Fina Estampa en Vivo, featuring classic songs from the Latin American songbook, Caetano Veloso followed up with a studio album with Brazilian songs. Highly anticipated, Livro also had a live album companion. The show toured Brazil and other markets, including Uruguay, Argentina, Italy, the U.S. and Portugal. One unique feature of the show is that Caetano Veloso incorporates readings of his book about the Tropicália movement in Brazil. The book is entitled Verdade Tropical.
Livro is captivating from beginning to end. The jewel box design opens up like a book, and Luiz Zerbini’s art work is a psychedelic mixture of colors done with superb taste, very much like Jacques Morelenbaum’s impeccable production. If you have heard and enjoyed Caetano’s soundtrack to the movie Tieta do Agreste, in which he featured Banda Didá Feminina, you will undoubtedly like Livro. Though Banda Didá is not featured here, the sound is just the same. Marcelo Costa’s percussion arrangements are the common thread in many of the songs. Livro is very much an album with lots of the current sound originating in Bahia, where Caetano Veloso comes from.
To write about the quality of each individual song would seem redundant for an album like Livro. Though most songs are written by Caetano Veloso, he took time to include one track written by his son, Moreno Veloso, as well as the Brazilian classic “Na Baixa do Sapateiro” (known outside Brazil as “Bahia”). There is also a phenomenal arrangement of Castro Alves’s poem “Navio Negreiro.” With percussion by Carlinhos Brown and guest starring Caetano’s sister, Maria Bethânia, “Navio Negreiro” sounds like a contemporary song. It is a masterpiece poem recreated in music. In “Onde o Rio É Mais Baiano,” Caetano thanks the Samba School of Mangueira for its tribute to him, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa and Maria Bethânia. A few years ago, Mangueira chose these four stars as its Carnaval theme. Moving a little away from the percussion sound and bringing in the lyric Caetano Veloso, “Você É Minha” plays along the same melodic lines of a previous Caetano song that he had written to his wife, Paulinha Lavigne. The old song is “Você É Linda,” which was recorded by other artists, such as Lee Ritenour. Caetano himself said the introduction to “Você É Minha” is the same as “Você É Linda,” except that it is played backwards. In “Na Baixa do Sapateiro,” Luiz Brasil uses woodwinds to imitate João Gilberto’s guitar. Caetano does not hide his adoration for João Gilberto, clearly the strongest influence in Caetano’s career. The closing track lists an array of Brazilian artists and songs performed by them. Though the songs are classics, Caetano closes by putting his greatest idol, João Gilberto, on a pedestal and above it all. Caetano states that better than those songs, there can only be silence, and better than silence only João.
Song after song, Livro will delight your ears and keep you listening to it over and over.
Mercury PolyGram 536 584-2 (1997)
Tracks (all tracks written by Caetano Veloso except where noted):
- Os Passistas
- Onde o Rio É Mais Baiano
- Você É Minha
- Um Tom
- How Beautiful Could a Being Be (Moreno Veloso)
- O Navio Negreiro (excerpt) (Antonio de Castro Alves)
- Não Enche
- Minha Voz, Minha Vida
- Na Baixa do Sapateiro (Ary Barroso)
- Pra Ninguém
A modified version of this review first appeared in Luna Kafé, June 1998.