Maybe there has already been some nasty press about these reissues, since they were apparently released in 2006. But I only noticed them last year in a shop in the US, and I was immediately suspicious. The entire Caetano Veloso back-catalog has been subjected to REMIXING. Not just remastering, which when done by Charles Gavin is probably a bad idea anyway, but actually REMixED. The first question that sprung to my mind was: what the hell was wrong with the original mixes? They all sound beautiful. Caetano’s 1971 “white album” is not only one of the most fantastic albums of the Tropicalia movement, but also one of the most interesting and engaging MIXES of popular music in general. They were really trying out a lot of innovative techniques, in part due to the piece-meal way it was recorded under less-than-ideal conditions, and the auditory results are absolutely part of the aesthetic and artistic statement. To fuck with this ought to be illegal. Charles Gavin, who has a drummer’s ears (you know what I mean, at least if you’re not a drummer), has mangled most of the Som Livre catalog with his ham-fisted mastering, and for some reason that earned him the “honor” of destroying Caetano’s classic recordings by leading the remixing and overall production on this ill-conceived project.
I should perhaps mention that I have only heard one of these, and in fact it was so awful I could not even make it through it. There is a chain store where I am now located, that offers a lot of CD’s at the bargain price of $5. Some of these are fantastic MPB records that most MPB fans already have, like Elis Regina’s discography. But the fact that pretty much all of these Caetano hack-jobs, released only a few years ago, are always in these ‘bargain bins’ should be evidence in itself of their artistic merit. But I figured, what the hell, it’s five dollars, might as well see if they are any good. I bought “Bicho,” his excellent 1977 album, possibly the last REALLY great album of his career. I have always found that record to have an odd quality to it — I love the mixes, but somehow everything sounds as if there were blankets thrown on top of all the microphones, like I am hearing it with cotton stuffed in my ears. This is a record that could have used a decent REMASTERING, but not necessarily a remix. In any case, I figured if any title could have used some cleaning up, it would probably be that one. How wrong I was. I would give my right arm to see the original mix back in stores again. What Gavin has done is an absolute travesty. The songs have none of their original character. It practically sounds re-recorded. Any half-conscious listener will notice that all of the SNAP has gone out of the opening cut, “Odara,” due in no small part to Gavin and Co. mixing Vinicius Cantuaria (and amazing drummer) as if his kit was tuned for a stadium-rock show in 1989. It’s total bullshit, and it ruins the song. Ditto for the few others I made it through.
Sometime later, maybe when I need to get mad at the world, I will try making it through the next 3/4 of the album. But I think, honestly I really do, that I have heard enough. AVOID THESE. In fact, any stores selling them (are you out there DGA?) should be putting a warning label on them, and lobbying for the original releases to come back in print. I consider myself lucky that I own most if not all of his catalog on CD in its original form, as well as a bunch of vinyl. If I was a new listener who did not know these records, these mixes would be unlikely to make me a fan..