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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

*** 1/2 CAETANO VELOSO "Noites do Notre," Nonesuch

April 22, 2001|DON HECKMAN

Veteran Brazilian singer-composer Veloso's stunning new album ('Nights of the North") was inspired by the writings of the 19th century Brazilian abolitionist Joaquim Nabuco-notably so in the subtle interface of words and music in the title track and the pieces "13 De Maio" and "Zumbi" (the latter written by Jorge Ben). As a group, the songs are delivered in characteristic Veloso style, using his sweetly lyrical voice and a turbulent undercurrent of accompaniment to survey the complexities of race in the New World.

But Veloso's interests are too eclectic to settle upon a single frame of reference. Often, he doesn't quite manage to do so even in the framework of a single piece. Songs such as "Ia," 'Meu Rio" and "Sou Seu Sabia" (previously recorded by Marisa Monte) touch on various kinds of love, intensifying their impact by mixing the subtlety of the bossa nova style with driving, rock guitar and turbulent trip-hop rhythms.

In "Michelangelo Antonioni" (inspired by the legendary filmmaker), Veloso sings one of the album's musical highlights, a soaring melody accompanied by an intensely repetitious but enormously impactful orchestral arrangement. Like the balance of the album, it is Veloso at his best.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are due in stores Tuesday.

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