Warning: Avoid Caetano remixes at all cost!!

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..

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7 Comments

  1. Absolutely no reaction to your comments. What's up with that. Seriously your comments gave me a lot of pause. I used to own most of the classic Caetano on LP in Brazil, then before I came to the States in the 1990s I dumped everything onto cassettes. Then slowly, over the years I have been grabbing CDs to replace my terrible sounding collection. My 1992 CD version of Transa sounds fine. Muito sounds… well, muito ruim (sounds nothing like the LP or the cassette I made of the LP). So now you have my afraid of adding to my collection. Is the Charles Gavin catastrophe really as bad as you say? And are his 2002 remixes really as hard to avoid as you say?

  2. I agree that the album "Bicho" is the best example of bad remixing in the recently remastered Caetano records. I never understood why the new mixers added so much reverb to the opening drum fill in "Olha o Menino". Nevertheless, the 1990 catalog had a lot of mistakes, specially the album "Muito", which was remastered at a very low volume and with no dynamics. Other detail is the ending of the tracks "Terra". The LP version had a short epilogue to the track. This was cut out since the 1990 version. I must add that not all the records were remixed, but it's true the 1969 "white album" was altered somehow, which is strange considering it was recorded in 4 track recorders.

  3. What about the series of boxsets called "40 Anos de Caetano"? They include the same remixes from the Charles Gavin "Todo Caetano" boxset, or do they use the original mixes? I'm also wondering about the quality of the new Djanvan boxset and also the Nara Leão boxsets. Cheers.

    • To be best of my knowledge the 40 Anos boxes use the original mixes, but I could be wrong. I have a friend who gave me secure rips of all of them but I confess I haven't listened to it all. The Nara Lão box is pretty good, I have been planning on sharing it here for years. I'm not a big Djavan fan so I can't help you there.

  4. Does anybody know which albums of the "Todo Caetano" boxset were remixed? Cheers.

  5. I noticed the same thing especially in Olha O Menino (the album is worth it just for that song!), the drums at the start sound too loud and reverb-y and the strings too loud. What cd version would you recommend?

    I’ve been thinking about going for a japanese version but they’re all sold out so I’d have to pay a bit to get my hands on one. I’ve listened to samples of two japanese versions on cd japan and they sound better than the mp3 I found online, which has the drums and strings too loud. Could you upload one of those sonically pleasing versions you have 🙏. It’s not available in my country’samazon mp3 store

    • The original Phillips CD pressing (late 80s/ early 90s?) is a more or less flat-transfer of the vinyl mix and sounds great to my ears. I ought to post it, it is an important and classic record.

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