The Best of Caetano Veloso (Nonesuch 79808 2, 2003)
I’m usually very skeptical of “Best of…” recordings, but this collection by Caetano Veloso, one of Brazil’s greatest songwriters, is full of gems. The Best of Caetano Veloso contains material from Veloso’s recent career,
dating back to 1989. One of the precious findings on this splendid CD is “Manhatã,” from the 1999 album Livro.
Along with the sensuous vocals, there is a great set of Brazilian percussion,
along with brass, strings and an excellent West African jembe solo.
Another favorite is “Haiti,” from the 1994 album Tropicália 2
. In this case,
we find Caetano Veloso rapping and whistling, accompanied by a bluesy-funky band, and the
sounds of a Brazilian drum corps. Percussion plays an important role in Veloso’s
arrangements. A good example is “Un Tom,” which features percussive vocals and an entire orchestra of
acoustic percussion that includes chimes, xylophone, berimbaus, kalimba,
clapping and drums.
In addition to singing in his native Portuguese, Veloso also sings poetically
in other Latin languages, such as Spanish and Italian. There are three songs in
Spanish and one in Italian on The Best of Caetano Veloso. “Michelangelo Antonioni,” sung in Italian, is
a beautiful song with vocals accompanied by vibraphone and strings.
Veloso pays tribute to fellow South American songwriters, such as Argentine
Fito Páez, by singing “Un vestido y un amor,” sung in Spanish, from the 1994
album Fina Estampa. The list of superb songs is long and varied, with styles
ranging from bossa nova to MPB (popular Brazilian music).
The CD booklet includes the original lyrics in Portuguese, Spanish and
Italian and its English translations. This opens a door to Veloso’s world.
There are love stories and melancholy, but there is also social commitment.