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Live At Carnegie Hall-1938 Complete - Original Columbia Jazz Classics
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Caetano Veloso and David Byrne - Live At Carnegie Hall is an essential disc for fans of both artists as well as for anyone interested in the cross currents of alternative pop and world music. Informal and fun in spirit, the concert feels like a lively conversation between two extraordinary friends that we have been privileged to overhear. In their liner notes, the artists admit to a similar sense of awe. As Byrne confesses, "I was incredibly nervous, and I remember having flubbed on a chord or two (some of those remain on this recording, I'm afraid)...but of course it was Caetano, and Carnegie Hall, so I was also incredibly thrilled and flattered."
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The set opens with an amazing set of six songs by Veloso. The crowd goes nuts after the first few bars of every song and Veloso nails each one with a finesse tantamount to his very deserved reputation. The backing musicians get introduced one by one throughout this first section. Then, almost shockingly, Veloso breaks into "The Revolution" from Byrne's "Look Into The Eyeball." Half way through the crowd freaks out again and Byrne joins Veloso for the last part of the song. Then Byrne takes over, with a mostly familar set. "Life During Wartime" surprisingly works in a stripped down acoustic arrangement. "God's Child," a song Byrne wrote and performed with the late Selena, stands out here as it does on his other recent released-way-too-late live recording from Austin City Limits.
Both performers come together for the last section of the set. They duet on a song they co-wrote, "Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses" and interestingly on "(Nothing But) Flowers," and "Heaven." Byrne even sings in Portugese on the stunning "Um Canto de Afoxe para o Bloco de Ile," returning the favor for Veloso's English vocals. The set closes with two amazing songs: Veloso's "Terra" and Byrne's (Talking Heads') "Heaven." The backing instrumentation provides great texture throughout, including various percussion and cello. Overall, a great set that runs over an hour and ten minutes. Both Veloso and Byrne fans will fall over with joy.
Those who have signed up for Byrne's e-mailing list will have heard of this release already. In that message he said that "Record business nonsense" kept this album under wraps for almost a decade. He also claimed that he was very nervous that night and that "flubs" occur "here and there." Well, that's true, but none of them detract from the show as a whole. In the end, Veloso and Byrne come together and meld in ways many will not expect. The only complaint remains the incomprehensible time it took to finally release this great concert. May life throw more equally wonderful surprises our way.
Veloso's songs start in the ether; there's no thrust, no urgency. He's in the transportation business; his songs don't come to you, you come to them. And when you arrive, you're wrapped in his thoughts and moods.
Byrne's trickier. When he was the kingpin of Talking Heads, he wrote his share of off-kilter hits; he can, at will, get you dancing. But he's shy, maybe aloof, and diffident --- no one's more self-consciously cool than a New York art rocker.
My wife and I saw the 2004 Veloso-Byrne concert from about the tenth row. It was magic, spectacular right from the from start --- I think pretty much everyone there got that, and felt privileged, and went nuts with pleasure and gratitude after each song. A while back, we ran into Byrne at a gallery and asked about a CD. "Soon," he said. "Maybe." Well, what's eight years --- half as long as it takes for single malt to be drinkable.
Veloso begins the show. If you're new to him, you might not immediately grasp that Brazilians rank him in the Bob Dylan zone. Then the sweetness and sensitivity seduce you. Byrne's presence comes almost as a shock. But not really, because there's no band here, just cello and percussion --- the Talking Heads songs you know and love do rock, just more intimately. Byrne and Veloso do some duets. Byrne sings in Portuguese. The words really don't matter; this evening was really about an exploration of sound. Namely, about how many different ways you can achieve gorgeousness.
We live in the land of reality TV competitions; we can't help ourselves from asking who won. These guys are way beyond that. Serve this music with wine at dinner. And don't fail to savor it again, late in the evening; in the dark, it is the wine.
Fast forward, and it was time to complete another amazon order, and I decided to add it. After all, I have been following both artists for several decades now, and after giving the CD just one spin, any cynicism I may have had got wiped away. Instead, I found myself at several points with goosebumps on my arms, something that has happened with each of them individually over the years.
Some might comment that this isn't a very likely collaboration, but it is. Byrne began his exploration of world and African diaspora music way back in the late 70s. Veloso, for his part, is one of the principal architects behind the Tropicalia movement, which, of course, started from the African diaspora perspective, but looked to American and British rock and roll, and blended it all together in a wonderful and thoroughly addictive (or as David Byrne says in the liner notes, "down the rabbit hole of Brazilian music") psychedelic mix.
If you have some familiarity with either or both of these musicians, but may not be aware that they've collaborated together or played each other's songs live over the years, the record will give you new insight into how they complement one another. For those of us who are more than familiar with both, it's another gem to add to the collection.
"Live at Carnegie Hall" (18 tracks; 71 min.) consists of three separate and distinct parts. In the first section, Veloso brings 6 songs mostly just himself and acoustic guitar. Check out the opener "Desde Que o Samba é Samba", which is representative of the overall sound of this album. In the second part, Byrne brings 7 tracks, again mostly just himself and acoustic guitar, and mostly Talking Heads classics like "And She Was" and "Life During Wartime", which of course elicit gread applause. But beware Heads fans, this sounds NOTHING like the original songs, these are just acoustic arrangements. I personally think they sound quite good. Check out "And She Was". a great acoustic reinterpretation by Byrne.
But the real reason to buy this album is the third and final section, when Veloso and Byrne perform together, and simply creat magic. The first of those 5 songs is "Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses", co-written by Veloso and Byrne. Even better is "Ilê Aiyê", which Veloso comments he co-wrote with his son Moreno when Moreno was only 8 yrs. Veloso starts off the song, but then Byrne joins in, in Portuguese no less, and the crowd goes nuts. Next comes the Talking Heads cover "(Nothing But) Flowers", which they brings wiht just a great touch of humor and tongue-in-cheek. Next comes the Veloso classic "Terra" (at 6 min. the longest track here), with Byrne just providing guitar support. The album closes with the Talking Heads classic "Heaven", with Veloso providing background support. Not that the earlier part of the album is not enjoyable, but what a fabulous final section of this album! I only wish there was more than these 5 songs. Meanwhile, this release is a beautiful time capsule of a great live show.