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Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical

by compiled by David Byrne

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devy thumbnail
devy usually don't feel good about regional compilations (especially when the region is in the global south!). but this comp is crafted with care, in a way that demonstrates David's understanding of a very special moment in the development of mbp.
lxydis thumbnail
lxydis My third time buying this landmark album (my CD, and then files keep getting lost, esp between computer changes) Wow, what an introduction to Brazilian Tropicalia, by the always eclectic David Byrne! At the time it came out (no internet, youtube etc, I had just started learning Brazilian music from some Brazilian friends, and this album absolutely cemented my lifelong love of this music.
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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    This is a limited edition, newly remastered version of Beleza Tropical, and it's the first time the entire album has been available on vinyl—2 LPs (wouldn’t fit on one) in blue and orange, to match the late Tibor Kalman’s trompe l'oeil cover. Nice, right?

    Includes unlimited streaming of Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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    edition of 750 
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      $32.99 USD or more 




Wow when did this first come out? 1989? Over 30 years ago! I listened to some of the songs yesterday and, well, they hold up, they’re truly timeless songs.

In my notes at the time I wrote about the way this music joined musical sophistication with memorable pop melodies and often social and political commentary. Like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On this music mixed sensuality with pointed social engagement. I learned that though we often feel like screaming we can also couch our awareness and frustrations in beauty and rhythm—which often makes a more seductive and effective argument than a scream—though a scream can be pretty damn cathartic for sure. But as beautiful as the songs sound their message was pointed enough that some of these artists were jailed and forced into exile.

Beauty can be pointed.

This kind of writing, like Gaye’s and many others, invites us to rise above, to be the change we can imagine. The music says that—while the words might describe the situation as it is, in all it’s pain and suffering. I saw that songwriting can do this—speak brutally and honestly and at the same time provide a hint of a way out.

I also learned that musical sophistication like that heard in these songs is not antithetical to acceptance by a popular audience (many of these artists and their songs were hugely popular) and to the work being approachable and accessible.

This was one of our most popular compilations. For a while I got used to hearing this record in cool restaurants and clothing boutiques. The label I was signed to at the time must have not expected it to sell well, because they made a horrible licensing deal such that they lost money on every record sold! Beat that Amazon and Spotify! We were losing money to spread the reach of this music 30 years ago, way before internet businesses learned to lose money in hopes of gaining market share before their investors walked away.

When this collection came out I realized that although many Europeans and Jazz fans were already followers of Brazilian music, many of the fans of Talking Heads and what was called New Wave music had never heard of these songs or these artists. Like me, many who bought this collection soon became fans of specific artists. I suspected that maybe here was a solution to the marketing that lumped the music under the exotic banner of “world music”—Northern folks were actually beginning to pick out artists they liked and were following them the same way they would their local rock and RnB groups. I began to see more non Brazilian faces at the live shows in NY that I attended.

Though this collection represents a special era in Brazilian popular music these artists have not stood still. They’ve continued to explore and expand what they do—some of their recent albums are some of their best. Meanwhile, this music has served as an inspiration for newer generations of composers and performers.

By the way—the record cover is an optical illusion thought up by the late Tibor Kalman and his studio. If you flip the record upside down you can see that the young woman’s hair is not falling straight down—so she’s not in fact leaning back or swooning quite as much as it appears. She was just leaning back ever so slightly while standing on a slanted wedge. When the wedge edge was tipped in layout to be parallel with the bottom of the record cover it appeared that she was in an extreme ecstatic swoon. Very smart—to visually represent what the music FEELS like.

-David Byrne, 2022


released February 4, 2022


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Luaka Bop New York, New York

Luaka Bop is a record label established by David Byrne in 1989.

Luaka Bop has released compilations as full-length albums, EPs, cassettes, and singles from individual artists like William Onyeabor, Floating Points, Doug Hream Blunt, Tim Maia, and Os Mutantes. ... more

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