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The Return Of A Master,
This review is from: A Foreign Sound (Audio CD)
Caetano Veloso has returned to us with an album of American popular music, and what may appear, at least to the cynics among us, as his attempt to cash on the recent fad of reviving old classics -like Rod Stewart or Cindy Lauper, or even Boz Scaggs with more felicitous results- it's another strong statement from one of the world's seminal artists in contemporary music.
For those who may know little about Veloso, think of a composer on par with Stevie Wonder or Jimmy Webb, or of a poet of the stature of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Think of an icon of popular music who happened to have been born in Brazil, rather than Liverpool or New York, and suffered from the massive disinterest that seems to fall on so many great ones who, by and large do not sing in English, in the English-speaking world.
For the ones among us who already worship Caetano, this is the kind of "return to form" which you can easily compare with Dylan's "Love & Theft." Another work from a mature artist hitting the stride of his bottomless talent.
What Caetano has done here is to dedicate a whole album from the canon of popular music, the majority of which are revered American gems like "Love Me Tender" or "Body and Soul," or even Cole Porter's gorgeous "Love For Sale," and chiseled them anew, back to their essences, taking away and revealing new edges until they can be solely themselves and, yet, completely his.
Caetano Veloso may be a romantic, but never a sentimental man, and where others would have settled for the comfort of counting on so many willing listeners who would gladly indulge him and be satisfied with any version that his voice could grace, he has pushed these songs to say all that they can say, stepping into them carefully, audaciously, but never intruding.
Listen to often derided "Feelings" which in the included version is nothing less than redeemed, or "The Man I Love" offering a sensitivity that many would argue a male singer could never attain. Of course, Veloso tribute to great American music cannot be expected to neglect Gershwin, Rogers or Berlin, but for Caetano it must also include Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. It must be mentioned that Dylan's words -"It's Alright Ma' (I'm Only Bleeding)" is Veloso's choice- sound dark and just as relevant here as they did almost thirty years ago and, in Caetano's version, eerily accurate to describe these very times, almost prophetic. Even Kobain's "Come As You Are" is treated with the same deep respect and, ironically, it sounds utterly American sung -an understated gem- by the Brazilian master.
Veloso's back, amorous and adventurous, faithful to these classics and unafraid of experimenting. As he sings so urgently in Dylan' song, "So don't fear if you hear / A foreign sound to your ear / It's alright, Ma, / I'm only sighing."