Various ‘A tribute to Caetano Veloso’ (Universal) 4/5

Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso occupies a unique position in the Brazilian music scene comparable only perhaps to the great master himself, Joao Gilberto. This tribute compilation, then, is a fitting way to celebrate Veloso’s wordsmith genius and the combination of English, Portugese and even Spanish language interpreters lends a distinctly cosmopolitan edge to proceedings. A major triumph is the interpretation by Chryssie Hynde of ‘The empty boat’ with Moreno Veloso and Kassin on hand to provide sympathetic instrumental accompaniment. Perhaps this collaboration could be extended into an entire album for it works extremely well. Equally impressive is the gentle lilting take on ‘You don’t know me’ by the Magic Numbers. Of the Brazilian acts, there is a folk-infused offering from group Momo on ‘Alguem cantado’, but best of all is the funky version of an early 1980s classic ‘Qualquer coisas’ by Qinho featuring some lovely fender rhodes. For a completely different take on a Veloso classic, look no further than the fado version of ‘Janelas abertas no.2′ by major new Portugese talent Ana Moura. It is important to recognise that initially Brazilian music was influenced by the culture of its motherland, Portugal, even if in the last half decade the tables have been turned. Fado artists would be well served exploiting more of the Brazilian songbook repertoire in future. From across the Iberian border, Spaniard Miguel offers a pared down piano plus vocal take on Força estranha’ and a Spanish voice performing in Portugese adds a lovely touch while Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler (now resident in Madrid) offers his own take on ‘Fora de ordem’. A few interpretations do not quite come off here and surprisingly they are both Brazilian artists. Céu delivered two supremely crafted albums of roots-inflected electronica, but seems stuck in a rock rut at present and an edgy ‘Eclipso oculto’ is not the best vehicle in which to hear her soft-toned voice. She could learn in fact from young Brazilian songer Luisa Maita who offers a twenty-first century take on ‘Trilhos urbanos’ with upfront drumming that sounds amazing and including a choppy rhythm guitar. A contemporary of Veloso’s, the Mutantes, were pioneers of the psychadelic Brazilian sound, but rather than being retro-chic, their take on ‘London, London’ simply sounds dated. Otherwise a fine overview of Veloso’s illustrious career and it will have any self-respecting music lover heading for the original versions for comparison. Tim Stenhouse

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