Music

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Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Ze

Genre: World, Reissues; Lead Performer: Tom Ze; Producer (group): Luaka Bop, Warner Bros.

Tom Zé was one of the most serenely conceptual of the Tropicalistas, a loose gaggle of singers and art-hippies that formed in Brazil in the ’60s. The group ticked off everybody from established bossa nova musicians to the military dictatorship because they treated songs like cut-and-paste ransom notes, playfully jamming together musical styles that had always been kept apart. In Zé’s case, that meant coupling an upbeat rock tune with morbid lyrics (”Dôi,” which translates as ”It Aches”), or deconstructing a sweet love song into murmured vowels (”Vai”), or writing an instrumental for guitar, horn section, typewriter, and food blender (”Toc”). Zé’s 1970’s work, all sung in his native Portuguese, has been compiled as the fourth in David Byrne’s Brazil Classics series: With almost the sensibility of a Luis Buñuel film, it offers songs that are both delicately haunting and bracingly intelligent. A lyric from ”Tô” could double as Zé’s motto: ”I’m making it clear to confuse you/I’m confusing you to make things clear.” With this album of baffling, provocative delights, he hits his mark. A

Originally posted December 21 1990 — 12:00 AM EST

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