Caetano Veloso Livros

Caetano Veloso is one of the greatest of rarities in popular music — an artist who is one of the principal innovators in his genre and who is also actually popular. Veloso is a kingpin of tropicalia, the Brazilian pop heir of bossa nova; he’s a legitimate star in his homeland, as well as a star maker, being instrumental in shaping the career of the latest Brazilian sensation, Virginia Rodrigues. David Byrne was perhaps the first to bring Veloso to North American notice, giving his recordings from the ‘70s and ‘80s prominent billing on the Beleza Tropical series, and Veloso has since been a staple of just about any bossa-themed compilation since. Availability of Veloso albums has been a different matter altogether, a situation happily rectified by the release of Livros, a remarkably diverse album that showcases the range of tropicalia. It’s as eccentric, in its own way, as Tom Waits, with its of placing of simple, affecting ballads next to lurching, off-kilter rhythms. Veloso’s name, though, has been made by his songwriting and arranging genius. Warm, languid breezes of melody float on his easy vocal delivery through songs as bittersweet as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s, but with little of bossa nova’s melancholy. Removing that delicious kind of brooding might make Veloso’s tropicalia seem a tad lightweight initially, but burbling under this easy listening veneer are the residual frenetic rhythms of batucada, the root of so much Brazilian music that keeps the unreserved joyousness of Carnaval ever within reach of Veloso’s sophisticated, very grown-up pop. (Nonesuch)