Various Artists

Tropicalia: A Revolutionary Movement in Sound

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Although it had long been a hotbed of musical activity, Brazil wasn't known widely for much more than Carmen Miranda and the bossa nova before a certain group of youngsters began recording in the mid-'60s. Initially inspired by British and American psychedelia, their music often went much farther out and saw them manipulating tape, indulging in all manner of effects, and writing and performing songs that made "Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds" sound like "Winchester Cathedral." The 2007 Universal compilation Tropicalia collects 12 of the best tracks from tropicalia mainstays Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, and Gal Costa, although its lack of liner notes (which would have given perspective and context) definitely counts against it. The music, however brief and noncontextual, is magnificent. Veloso kicks it off with "Soy Loco por Ti, América" from his self-titled 1967 album, and Gil's contribution, "Domingo No Parque," is one of the zaniest and zingiest that tropicalia ever produced -- thanks, in part, to the backing help of Os Mutantes. That group appears all over this disc, including three top-billed tracks and featuring their best moment, "Panis et Circenses." Each of these artists deserves to be heard in a full-length context, and the original compilation Tropicália: Ou Panis et Circenses is a landmark of '60s music, but this set delivers pretty well indeed.

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