Caetano Veloso Singles

Rita Lee Hoje E O Primeiro Dia Do Resto Da Sua Vida Os Mutantes Technicolor (Philips)

In 1967, after 60 years of samba, a decade of bossa nova, and 36 months of military dictatorship, Brazilian pop culture erupted with its first burst of psychedelic rock 'n' roll. A key event came when young singer Caetano Veloso performed an electric set at one of the country's most prestigious songwriting competitions. As heard on his new rarities collection, Singles, Veloso got booed off the stage just as Bob Dylan had been at the '65 Newport Folk Festival. The angry crowd had come to hear thoughtful poetry and subtle bossa nova rhythms, not that rock 'n' roll crap from North America. Backing Veloso onstage was a band of teenage freaks known as Os Mutantes, who soon became the house band for the new style known as "tropicalia."

One of the first bands to break away from the cutesy, '50s-based teeny-bopper rock heard on the popular Jovem Guarda television show, Os Mutantes recorded wild Beatles/Byrds/Arthur Brown acid rock imbued with a peculiar South American twist. Eventually Os Mutantes fragmented and morphed into a boogie-blues band with off-kilter, folkie leanings, then further degenerated into a mildly horrific, prog-based stadium rock act. Their best record may have been a solo release by singer Rita Lee, who was the first member to leave the band and seek greater commercial success. Recorded in 1972 along with fellow Mutantes Sergio Dias and Arnaldo Baptista, the meticulously produced Hoje E O Primeiro Dia Do Resto Da Sua Vida showcases the Mutantes' most avant-garde leanings while avoiding the relentless jokiness of their other efforts. Phased vocals, musique concrète tape loops, funky bass lines, and soaring guitars lace through this remarkably eclectic record, which ranges from spacey art rock and free-jazz skronkiness to prescient parodies of lounge music. On "Teimosa," Rita Lee's Minnie Mouse vocals sound uncannily like Cibo Matto's, while other tracks highlight the group's Kinks-like devotion to music hall camp.

Another piece in the Mutantes puzzle is their recently unearthed English-language album, Technicolor,which was recorded during a trip to Paris in 1970. Although it falters toward the end, Technicolor is a treat and a revelation, particularly the delicious translation of Caetano Veloso's surrealistic (and slightly psychotic) "Panis et Circenses." Like Hoje, Technicolor is smoother and more stylistically consistent than other Mutantes albums, and it's a must for fans who have always wondered what the hell those Brazilian hippie weirdoes were singing about.

 
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