Sun Spin: Caetano Veloso


One day I had to leave my country, calm beach and palm tree
That day I couldn't even cry
And I forgot that outside there would be other men
But today, but today, but today I don't why
I feel a little more blue than then

A cover shot of an implacably sad Caetano Veloso graces this 1971 marvel of lilting melancholy, a work touched by warm but far away Brazilian breezes even as its creator huddles inside fleece. Without a note heard, the picture is enough to send a small shiver up your spine. Like a tiger removed from his natural clime and plopped in a European zoo, Veloso found himself in political exile in England, which he found none too jolly based on the thousand yard stares and bittersweet poetry here. One of Veloso's only albums sung primarily in English, his third self-titled release distills the agitated ache that settles into one's bones when home, hearth, family and friends are far away and one's return to them seems at best uncertain. If parting is such sweet sorrow, Caetano shows it can also be exquisite fuel for dented outcries and impenetrable ruminations.

With flying saucers overhead and a bluesman's weariness, Veloso scats and warbles as if wounded, and mayhap he was. Chased out of his beloved Brazil and tagged a subversive by his government, he produced a song cycle that cradles survival magic in his cupped hands like a flickering candle. As hopeless as this gets, there's always a tiny flame to cut the chilly bite. This is the rare set that honors gray day thinking while quietly inching us towards bluer skies. That is does so acknowledging the despondency such times stir up makes its luminescence that much more genuine and resilient. Death and violence litter the landscape but he hops past the bodies with aplomb, a different sort of Dance of the Dead that helps the living on their way.

For those not fluent in Portuguese who've been hesitant to explore Caetano Veloso's work this album provides a perfect entry point, perhaps followed by 2004's A Foreign Sound cover tune collection. As Allmusic's Veloso bio states, the man is a "true heavyweight," and his incredible, massively influential music contains pleasures beyond the concrete fixture of language. Veloso produces a sound that cuts past nationalities and genres to speak directly to the heart and spirit with bold imagination and overflowing talent matched by few others. While one of the saddest chapters in his life, this record also encapsulates many of his virtues in a way accessible to anyone who's ever been taken away from what they love.

Track Listing

1. A Little More Blue
2. London, London
3. Maria Bethânia
4. If You Hold a Stone
5. Shoot Me Dead
6. In the Hot Sun of a Christmas Day" (Gilberto Gil/Veloso)
7. Asa Branca" (Luiz Gonzaga, Humberto Teixeira)

All songs written by Caetano Veloso except where noted

"London, London" live in 2007.

The video for Cibelle and Devendra Banhart cover of "London, London."

A song of "migration and home sickness" captured at a 1973 festival. Clearly, the of Montreal gang has been raiding Veloso's closet.

[Published on: 4/26/09]

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