Caetano Veloso continues his free-thinking explorations of tropicalismo on this ambitiously arranged, elaborately packaged suite of songs devoted to whatever happens to cross his mind. Veloso says that he was listening a lot to the collaborations of Miles Davis and Gil Evans around this time, and Jaques Morelenbaum's charts often reflect their darkly urbane ethos. Yet for Morelenbaum's yin there is also the yang of the battering Bahian percussion that dominates many of the rhythm tracks. "Livros" in Portuguese means "books," so Veloso gives you a sample of his book Verdade Tropical in the booklet notes and pays eloquent tribute to them on the title track: "Books are transcendental things/But we can love them with our hands." He is alternately awestruck and appalled by the ambiguities of New York City on "Manhata"; here, the arrangement definitely contains haunting echoes of Evans. He can venture into atonality on "Doideca" (12-tone, but pointedly translated in the booklet as "loony"), recite the horrors of a slave ship voyage, tell someone off ("Nao Enche," which means "Piss Off"), or simply sing "How beautiful could a being be" over and over, presumably to a child, in falsetto to a hot groove. One of the most amazing songs is an epic about the life of Alexander the Great; it comes off like a great saga song. Finally, he runs down a long list of all his favorite Brazilian singers, seemingly leaving out no one, only to close with "Better than this there's only silence/And better than silence, only Joao." Can't add anything to that, except don't miss this CD if you love Brazilian music.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell