A Foreign Sound

Oct 6, 2004 at 12:00 am

As the United States endures criticism from all corners of the world, it’s refreshing to find a celebration of one of our greatest cultural exports: the American songwriter. When this honor is bestowed upon us by one of Brazil’s most enduring (and endearing) musicians, the sentiment speaks further still — it lessens the blow on our collective insecurity complex. But what’s best about A Foreign Sound is its song treatment. The record runs the gamut of songwriter classicists, from Cole Porter and the Gershwins to Bob Dylan, David Byrne and Stevie Wonder.

Byrne’s “(Nothing But) Flowers” is given a new, more minimal approach while keeping its shrewd outsider perspective on the landscape of urban sprawl. Porter’s orchestra-backed “So in Love” has been done thousands of different ways, yet Veloso makes it his Brazilian own. And so the story goes for the 20 other selections here.

Veloso was at the forefront of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement (which, perhaps, we can call that country’s version of the rock ’n’ roll revolution) and was willing to face even the persecution of exile from his own country. Perhaps the timing of this, his first all-English language album, has those same political underpinnings, but what comes through in the end is another solid effort from a man who sees no borders to music yet manages to fly the flag for his own roots. This record is breathtaking at times; it’s the furthest thing from your average covers album.

Liz Copeland writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].