Caetano Veloso
Qualquer Coisa
(PolyGram 838 558)

A smooth mid-70s release from Caetano Veloso, who manages to sound eccentric and subversive even when he's doing pretty much straight-up EZ bossa. Qualquer Coisa is notable for being another in the long list of South American pop albums with an uncontrollable Beatles fixation; note the Let It Be-ripoff cover art and the presence of three consecutive McCartney tracks ("Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," and "Lady Madonna").

Therein lies Caetano's quirky genius, that he can follow his muse wherever it takes him, and do it with consistent flair. By 1975 he'd mellowed considerably from his more far-out Tropicalia-era sound (as had most of the Tropicalists). This CD finds him primarily singing to his own acoustic guitar accompaniment, with some light strings, flutes, and cocktail piano here and there. It's something like an "unplugged" album long before that was a conscious thing anybody did.

Standout tracks are "Samba e Amor" (a moody Chico Buarque composition), "A Tua Presença Morena" (a Caetano composition that sounds sort of like his UK exile period, and with a double-tracked vocal no less). Side 2 is incredibly stellar, kicking off with "Jorge de Capadócia" (by Jorge Ben) which is dark and very much "classic Caetano," followed by the trio of Beatles tunes. These he does make his own, singing in English, with his unique approach making them very fresh indeed.

"Eleanor Rigby" in particular is made more heartfelt and depressing, quite the way it ought to have been in the first place. A magnificent performance, sung beautifully, with some harp and percussion in there as well. "For No One" and "Lady Madonna" have a bit more of a hotel-bar style, but still very classy.

That's what I love about the MPB-era Brazilian pop stuff, it's cheesy and classy at the same time – you can't judge it, you have to just enjoy it. And it's not cheesy to the level of, like, José Feliciano. This album hovers right near the cheese line, but always comes back before reaching it, much like The Monkees running toward the rushing tide, then away from it, in their 1920s era swimsuits.

The 45-second closer, "Nicinha," brings things back to the slightly haunting melancholy that tinges the album from the inside. This isn't Caetano's finest 40 minutes, per se, but it's better than your best 40 minutes, no question. You suck, Caetano rules.

Review by Reepa Dinnerolle