Image via Arthur Verocai/Discogs

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This post originally ran on the LA Times’ Pop & Hiss blog in 2009. Because it’s no longer available online, I’m re-posting it here for the sake of posterity. You can catch Arthur Verocai on his first-ever American tour in New York (8/11), Chicago (8/15), and Berkeley (8/19).

Ask your average music fan about Arthur Verocai, and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare. Even among those well-versed in Tropicalia, Verocai lacks the name recognition of Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes or Jorge Ben. And in the ultimate sign of contemporary anonymity, Verocai has no Wikipedia page (ed. note – as of ’09). But while unsung in his prime, the songs of the Rio de Janeiro-raised composer-crooner have been recently rediscovered, and cited as a touchstone for younger generations of musicians — making him akin to the Tropicalia version of Shuggie Otis, Vashti Bunyan or Son House.

In particular, the former civil engineer’s self-titled masterpiece has rightfully received lavish acclaim, with DJ/production maestro Madlib, MF Doom and Ludacris all sampling his samba and sunshine-soaked soul. Recorded partially in response to the repressive military junta then running Brazil, “Arthur Verocai” synthesizes soul, classical, funk, folk, samba, rock and jazz, occupying a psychedelic middle ground between Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and Frank Zappa’s “Hot Rats.”

Verocai’s self-titled opus received little fanfare upon its release in 1972; weak sales persuaded him to pursue more commercial opportunities (he spent much of the ensuing two decades working as a music advertising executive). But Sunday night, backed by a 36-piece orchestra, Verocai will receive the long-overdue living legend treatment. Beforehand, all-world DJs Madlib and DJ Nuts (Brazil’s most prominent turntablist) will spin, in this third installment of Mochilla and Art Don’t Sleep’s “Timeless Series.” Verocai chatted with me about the details of making his seminal album.

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