The Lollipop of Science (O Pirulito da Ciência): A Defective Guide to Tom Zé (Um guia com defeito para Tom Zé)

Fabrication Defect: Com defeito de fabricação

A guide to the music of Tom Zé.  His professional musical career spanned half a century (and counting), though today many of his recordings are out of print — even in his native Brazil.  What is available in the United States tends to skew toward his later recordings, which has the unfortunate effect of placing some of his finest material out of reach.  His solo recordings are listed below divided into two time periods.  His collaborations are listed separately — some being mere guest appearances while other are more extensive.  Pursuant to the legend below, ratings are assigned to each, though Zé hardly has any bad releases so bear in mind these are just relative assessments.  Links to other resources, including books and films, are provided at the end.

This is still under construction.


Sung and Spoken Journalism (Imprensa cantada e falada): A Brief Introduction

 

Birth Name: Antonio José Santana Martins

Born: October 11, 1936, Irará, Bahia, Brazil

 

Antonio José Santana Martins, who adopted the stage name Tom Zé, was born in the dry interior region of the Brazilian state of Bahia.  He has described his hometown of Irará as “pre-Gutenbergian” (in reference to the inventor of the movable type printing press).  His father won the lottery, which allowed his family to live comfortably in an otherwise poor and arid rural region.  He moved to Salvador, the largest city in Bahia located along the Atlantic coast, to attend the University of Bahia.  He studied music.  He had an interest in composers like John Cage and Charles Ives.  Although Brazil had a troubled legacy as a former Portuguese colony (and briefly was the seat of the Portuguese capital), and was the last country in the western hemisphere to ban slavery, social democratic president João Goulart made some modest reforms and the Brazilian universities recruited professors from Europe to bolster their musical (and other) programs.  A military coup in 1964, supported by the United States, overthrew Goulart and installed a series of military “presidents” who ruled until 1985.  Zé relocated to São Paulo, was associated with a collection of leftist intellectuals in the 1960s, and became part of the tropicália (A/K/A tropicalismo) movement, the most prominent members (tropicalistas) of which were mostly Bahian too.  The (AI5) “coup within a coup” in 1968 brought harsher treatment of leftists and some of the tropicalistas.  While considered a key part of tropicália, he also seemed outside it at the same time, never contained by its key precepts despite his obvious sympathies and contributions.  His career faltered as the 1970s wore on.  By the 1990s he was considering working at a gas station when he was approached by the U.S. musician David Byrne (of Talking Heads), who had come across a Zé record and later sought him out (with the help of Brazilian-raised musician Arto Lindsay) to sign him to a new label.  Byrne was largely responsible for reviving Zé’s commercial career and introducing him to international audiences.  Though in many respects, Zé’s albums on Bryne’s Luaka Bop label are somewhat over-represented in English-speaking countries.

Caetano Veloso has described Zé’s tenaciously archaic yet inventive approach to music as “bizarrely elegant” and his attitude (reflected in his music too) as having an “ironic, distant sense of humor” that is “at once intimate and estranged[.]”  An incident on a plane that Veloso recounts is a fitting summary of a common effect of Zé’s music, when Zé made an absurd request for a particular drink (cachaça) on the plane, then, when it was not available, demanded the stewardess to stop the “caravel” (mid-flight) so he could leave, noting, “we were unnerved by the determination with which [the demand] was made, the sheer imposition of his will.”  Veloso was impressed with how “the sincerity of [Zé’s] defiance exposed the absurd pretense of refinement” around him.  This was in so many ways a fitting metanymn for the entire tropicália movement.  Recurring themes in Zé’s music involve tilting against colonial legacies (in the sense of Frantz Fanon) and making demands that emerge from leftist ideologies deemed impossible in his own time.  Zé considers himself a performer of limited means.  He has referred to at least some of what he does as sung and spoken journalism.  In the 1970s he experimented with what can be called a homemade sampler, and has long utilized homemade instruments (like Harry Partch, or Tom Waits in the mid-1980s and early 90s).

After his comeback in the early 1990s, the influence of animated Brazilian folk dance musics from northern regions, like the forró and coco of Luiz Gonzaga and especially Jackson do Pandeiro, were more apparent in his own recordings.  He continued working long after others would consider retirement.  There is a tenacious sense of experimentation that is constant throughout Tom Zé’s career.  He has toured internationally, though availability of his albums outside Brazil can be limited, even his most famous recordings.



Solo, Part I: Bahia to São Paulo


Tom Zé

Tom Zé (1968)


Release Notes: available on CD, vinyl and digitally as Grande Liquidação

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s): João Araújo

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “São São Paulo”

Review:  Zé’s debut album placed him squarely within the tropicália movement.  It is unique among his albums — he never really returned to this style again.  It features ornate chamber pop of the kind Andrew Loog Oldham made with The Rolling Stones (Metamorphosis), a satirical take on commercial culture like The Who‘s The Who Sell Out, protest folk like Bob Dylan, bossa nova, Brazilian folk of many stripes, and avant-garde classical/jazz.  Yet this can sound a bit precious.  The record is also recorded rather poorly, with Zé’s vocals off in the distance and flat dynamics that crunch most of the instruments together, except for the organ.  Because of the similarities to 1960s British Invasion rock, this tends to attract some listeners attuned to that kind of music, though really he improved as a recording artist in later albums.


Tom Zé

Tom Zé (1970)


Release Notes: available on CD, vinyl and digitally

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s): João Araújo

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “Jymmy, renda-se,” “Guindaste a rigor,” “Escolinha de robô”

Review: Zé has described this album as reflecting a time of personal crisis in his life, when his career and future were uncertain.  In spite of that — or perhaps because of that — this ends up being (yet another) solid album.  Though this may be Zé at his most melancholic.  The “British Invasion” influences of the début are completely gone.  But his singing has matured wonderfully.  He features rock, singer-songwriter folk, and Brazilian pop.  This is not too far off the sound of, say, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso of the era.  Zé hadn’t yet found his own unique voice, but he is still remarkably effective delivering a precociously eclectic batch of songs.  This one is only just behind his very best, and one well worth exploring and returning to regularly.


Tom Zé

Tom Zé (1972)


Release Notes: Available on Anos 70; AKA Se o Caso É Chorar

Recorded:

Personnel: GC

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s):

Review:  This was the album on which Tom Zé started to establish his own unique sound.  It was still very much a product of the same guy who made his last album — “Dor e Dor” here even recycles the music from “Jimi, Renda-Se.”  There is also a fair amount of 1960s pop/rock influence lingering, particularly with a kind of student protest vibe.  But there is now a rather spritely, upbeat attitude behind these laid-back tunes that seems almost like a throwback to some kind of earlier (and less fashionable) kind of music.  And folk forms gain a more prominent role, while at the same time avant garde classical music influences manage to creep in.  If anything distinguishes the sound of this album from Zé’s others, on the whole, it is the persistent use of a chorus of singers, arranged in the style of Quincy Jones.  This third self-titled album is situated at an excellent inflection point between earlier recordings that seemed to primarily engage the contemporary and later ones that seemed to cut across notions like old/new, urban/rural and such.  There is a kind of unsteady charm to it all.


Todos os olhos

Todos os olhos (1973)


Release Notes: Available on Anos 70

Recorded:

Personnel: GC

Producer(s): Milton José

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s):

Review: Most of Zé’s early albums featured different backing musicians from one to the next.  But here Grupo Capote returns to help him deliver his most abstract and experimental offering to date.  The reinvented folk anachronisms that were toyed with on his last album now consistently occupy the spotlight. In hindsight, there are a number of good songs here but this album is definitely overshadowed by what came next.  Also, this album tends to garner attention for its cover photo, a prank on the Brazilian military dictatorship’s censors.


Estudando o samba

Estudando o samba (1976)


Release Notes: Available on Anos 70

Recorded:

Personnel: VB

Producer(s): Heraldo do Monte

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s): “Toc,” “Mã,” “Ui! (Você inventa),” “Tô,” “Hein?,” ” Vai (Menina amanhã de manhã),” “Só (Solidão)”

Review: Arguably Zé’s best album.  He was at the peak of his powers here, experimenting in his own unique and idiosyncratic way with a primitive homemade sampler, improvised/found “instruments” (like an electric blender), and a thoroughly irreverent take on samba music.  This was the first of his “studies” albums.  Each of them is less about faithfully explaining or recreating established genres than about rethinking them.  He did that in a kind of irreverent way that avoided any claim to power and prestige, drawing from a tradition that runs through Diogenes of Sinope, Till Eulenspiegel, dadaism, and modern bands like The Red Krayola.  An illustrative analogy is the story of Diogenes being sold as a slave.  When asked what talents he possessed Diogenes answered, “Ruling men.”  Then he pointed to the wealthy Xeniades and said, “Sell me to this man, he needs a master.”  Anyway, this album found Zé drawing heavily from Brazilian folk music and further diminishing the influence of “Western” pop music, which is something that would characterize much of his later career.


Correio da Estação do Brás

Correio da Estação do Brás (1978)


Release Notes: Available on Anos 70

Recorded:

Personnel: VB

Producer(s): Cesare Benvenuti

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s): “Pecado original,” “Morena,” “Pecado, rifa e revista,” “A volta de Xanduzinha (Maria Mariô)”

Review:  If Zé’s albums from the mid to late 1970s seemed to progressively increase the abstraction and weirdness of the music, Correio da Estação do Brás is a surprise because it returns to contemporary pop/rock.  He sings in a conventionally pretty way here.  The backing music includes electric keyboard and is not too far from mellow MOR rock.  He even sings in Spanish.  But it is now considerably harder to decipher his irony.  This is a good album, just in a completely different way than the last few albums.


Nave Maria

Nave Maria (1984)


Release Notes: Out of print

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Producer(s):

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “Nave Maria,” “Conto de fraldas”

Review: His career had commercially faltered by this point, but Nave Maria is still a good effort.  Often overlooked between his 1970s and 90s work, this is Zé adapting to the times without sacrificing his integrity.  This would be his only album released in the 1980s.


No Jardim Da Política

No jardim da política (1998)


Release Notes: Out of print

Recorded: Teatro Lira Paulistana, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, 1984

Personnel:

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Classe Operária”

Review: In 1984 the Brazilian military dictatorship that had ruled the country for two decades began to release its powerful grip.  Tom Zé took the opportunity to perform a series of shows at the Teatro Lira Paulistana with an explicitly political theme — the sort of music the military dictatorship would not have tolerated previously.  A Saturday show was recorded, but was not released as an album until 1998.  Zé deploys a kind of kynical reductio ad absurdam approach to mock the conservative forces that ruled the country for so long.  For instance, lyrics present him as a friend of the working class, but in a way so over the top that it was clear he was merely posing as a friend of the working class for his own benefit, like an unreliable narrator.  This is sort of a cathartic work, but one that on purely musical terms probably won’t have particular appeal to international audiences.



Solo, Part II: São Paulo to the World


Brazil 5: The Hips of Tradition: The Return of Tom Zé

The Hips of Tradition: Brazil 5 – The Return of Tom Zé (1992)


Release Notes: Available on CD, vinyl and digitally

Recorded: In Sonoris Causa Studios, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; Shelter Island Sound, New York, NY, USA

Personnel: LL, JM, DB

Producer(s): Roberto Lazzarine, Arto Lindsay

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “Ogodô, Ano 2000,” “Fliperama”

Review: David Byrne of the band Talking Heads came across a copy of Estudando o samba in a record shop on a trip to Brazil and was taken in by its contrarian appearance.  He ended up signing Zé to a record deal on his new American label Luaka Bop.  There are definitely some good songs here, though on the other hand Zé seems a bit rusty in the studio.  This album nonetheless set the tone for much of Zé’s later career, with animated, upbeat, and humorous songs carrying the day.


Fabrication Defect: Com defeito de fabricação

Fabrication Defect: Com defeito de fabricação (1998)


Release Notes: Available on CD and digitally

Recorded: Job Studio, Brazil; Estudio Rosa Celeste, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; Excello Studios, New York, NY, USA

Personnel: GA, JM, LL, CC, L_, NM, ZW, DB

Producer(s): Bryan Martin, André Abujamra, Gilberto Assis

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s): “Defect 2: Curiosidade,” “Defect 4: Emerê,” “Defect 14: Xiquexique”

Review:  Probably his most widely available album, in the USA at least.  Zé is back to peak form here, although his style is evolving and is hardly a repeat of the past.  This is something of a concept album, about the people of the post-colonial Global South (Third World) being “androids” in the eyes of former colonizers and having a catalog of “defects” and the effrontery to “think, dance and dream.”  Of course, Zé is celebrating these “defects”.  This music takes its philosophy straight from the likes of the French writer Jean Genet, a lifelong thief who celebrated that role precisely because it was seen as a perversion by an immoral and corrupt social order.  Zé is part prankster, part eccentric visionary, part musical historian.  He was now in his 60s and yet he was more sharply cutting and irreverent than pop musicians much younger.  The rhythms are as quirky as ever, the songs pretty catchy, and Zé makes the most of more elaborate studio production.  On “Defect 14: Xiquexique,” for instance, some of the rhythm appears to be the sound of someone brushing his or her teeth.  Caustic humor is used expertly here to put across intelligent political critique.  This ranks as one of the best albums of Zé’s later, post-comeback years.


Jogos De Armar (Faça Você Mesmo)

Jogos de armar (Faça você mesmo) (2000)


Release Notes: Available on CD and digitally

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “Chamegá,” “Passagem de Som,” “Desafio,” “Pisa na Fulô”

Review:  This is the first studio album of the comeback years not on the Luaka Bop label.  The results are very much in line with other recordings of the era, but a bit more streamlined and high contrast, with fewer layers and little textural details.  Actually this comes closer in a way to a studio version of Zé’s late period live performances.  The original release came with a second disc of audio snippets used to make the album.  The idea was that people could use the same raw materials to construct their own music.  The second disc has little listening value and it seems unclear how many people took up the challenge to reassemble the sonic odds and ends into…anything at all.  But the concept is certainly typical Tom Zé.


Bootleg: Live at Barbican Centre, with Tortoise, April 9, 2001, Barbican Centre, London United Kingdom


Imprensa Cantada

Imprensa Cantada (2003)


Release Notes: Available on CD and digitally

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Companheiro Bush,” “Urgente Pela Paz”

Review:  Zé released this album of topical political commentary set to music (sung journalism) without the intention that it succeed on the international music market.  It was thought to be too context-specific.  So naturally this album has a limited appeal. That is especially so for non-Portuguese speakers, who get less purely musical content to latch onto here.  “Companheiro Bush” nonetheless worked its way in the live repertoire.


Estudando o Pagode (Na Opereta Segregamulher e Amor)

Estudando o pagode (na opereta Segregamulher e Amor) (2005)


Release Notes: Available on CD and digitally

Recorded:

Personnel: LL, SC, JM, CC, DM, GA

Producer(s): Jair Oliveira

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s): “Ave Dor Maria,” “O Amor É um Rock,” “A Volta do Trem das Onze (8,5 Milhões de Km²),” “Duas Opiniões”

Review:


Danç-Êh-Sá: Dança dos herdeiros do sacrifício

Danç-êh-sá (Dança dos herdeiros do sacrifício) (2006)


Release Notes: Available digitally

Recorded:

Personnel: LL, SC, JM, CC, DM, L_

Producer(s): Paulo Lepetit

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Atchim – Revolta Paiaiá 1673,” “Triú-triii… – Revolta Malê 1835,” “Acum-mahá – Revolta Jege-Mina-Fon 1834”

Review:  An EP that delves into hip-hop influences, with songs that pay tribute to failed revolutions.  Bits of this feel a bit forced, though a later live version of basically the entire album is superior.  When touring in support of this album, Zé wore a costume that made him look like a turntable with his left arm a tone arm, just like the drawing on the album cover.


Danç-Êh-Sá (Dança dos Herdeiros do Sacrifício) - O Fim da Canção: Ao Vivo

Danç-Êh-Sá (Dança dos Herdeiros do Sacrifício) – O Fim da Canção: Ao Vivo (2008)


Release Notes: Out of print; also released in video form.

Recorded: September 13, 2007, Trama Studios, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Personnel: LL, SC, DM, CC, JM, L_

Producer(s): Tom Zé, João Marcelo Bôscoli, André Szajman, Cláudio Szajman

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “Acum-Maha – Revolta Jegê-Mina-Fon 1834,” “Atchim – Revolta Paiaiá 1673”

Review:  The album title translates roughly to “Dance-eh-Sa (Dance of the Heirs of Sacrifice) – The End of Song: Live.”  The songs use many onomatopoeic sounds, like “Atchim” (for sneezing) and “Uai” (for amazement). The performances are meant to have levity and playful humor.  This live recording is arguably better than the studio counterpart.  The drums and guitar are a little harder and further forward in the mix.  There are also fewer electronics and hip-hop references.  Also, the best songs are sequenced first here.  This perhaps is more of a second-tier Tom Zé album, but it’s still a good one.


Estudando a bossa: Nordeste plaza

Estudando a bossa: Nordeste Plaza (2008)


Release Notes: Available on CD

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻♻♻

Key Track(s):

Review:  The third of Zé’s “estudando” (“studies”) albums tackles bossa nova.  He summons his irreverent wit and the results are as impressive as ever.  It might help to have some familiarity with the bossa nova genre — characterized by slow tempos, rhythmic nuance and a kind of sunny, casual introversion, it was a genre developed primarily by middle-class student leftists in 1950s Brazil — to understand Zé’s engagement with (and departures from) genre norms.  This sort of an album wouldn’t have made sense in his early career, but the elder Zé is able to pull off this rethinking of the most internationally well-known Brazilian pop music superbly.


O Pirulito da Ciência: Tom Zé & Banda ao Vivo

O Pirulito da Ciência: Tom Zé & Banda ao Vivo (2009)


Release Notes: Out of print; also released in video form

Recorded: August 5-6, 2009, Teatro de fecap, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Personnel: LL, JM, CC, L_, DM, RL

Producer(s): Charles Gavin

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Hein?,”  “Fliperama”

Review: A decent live album that offers little over studio recordings of these songs.  Fans may enjoy it but this is nothing essential.


Tropicália lixo lógico

Tropicália lixo lógico (2012)


Release Notes: Available digitally

Recorded:

Personnel: VB

Producer(s): Daniel Maia

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “O Motobói e Maria Clara,” “Capitais e Tais,” “Tropicália lixo lógico,” “Tropicalea Jacta Est”

Review:  Tropicália lixo lógico (crude English translation: “Tropicália Logical Waste”) is a kind of self-questioning album that looks back to the tropicália movement not with self-serving nostalgia but with a sense of continuing the unfinished project.  He is ironically using bits of popular music, some old, some newer. What is different here is that unlike recent efforts his appropriations are in a way more crude, less nuanced. This unvarnished, unsentimental attitude is kind of the point!  What made Zé’s misadventures in tropicália decades ago so unique is that they dissolved many of the contradictions of straight-up cynicism. When he appropriated bits of mass culture he didn’t do so just to cheaply trade on a kind of guilty-pleasure enjoyment in kitsch but to elevate the appropriation in relation to the content, honoring the sources without becoming beholden to them.  He is certainly doing that again here.  On the whole, these songs are mellow and often quite lovely.  Yet Zé is at the same time doing things like cutting off songs mid chord-progression, defying resolution.  This unassuming late career album actually packs much interest for the committed fan.  This is the best of his albums from 2010 onward.


Tribunal do Feicebuqui

Tribunal do Feicebuqui (2013)


Release Notes: Out of print

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s):

Review:  After recording the narration for a “Coca-Cola” soft drink TV commercial that aired while Brazil hosted the World Cup, Zé was blasted on social media sites for being a sellout.  This fit with what comedian Bill Hicks said in a bit about anyone who does a commercial being taken off the artistic roll-call.  Zé’s response — while saying that he welcomed the criticism — was to record this EP, which draws from responses people posted online (the EP’s title translates as “Court of Facebook”).  It was initially released for free on his web site, then re-released in physical format.  While this might seem like a complete throwaway, it actually is way better than it would appear.  This returned Zé to an imperiled setting much like his early days under the Brazilian military dictatorship.  He could not count on a positive reaction from fans.  In some ways this is more satisfying than the full-length album that followed it.


Vira lata na via láctea

Vira lata na via láctea (2014)


Release Notes:

Recorded:

Personnel:

Producer(s):

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s): “Retrato na praça da sé,” “A quantas anda você?”

Review:  This album kind of reflects a minimalist rock element that was circulating in the São Paulo underground rock scene.  Zé also was finding ways to self-release music in the Internet download era.  The result is a kind of lower-budget independent release that still manages to get across his unique artistic vision.  A number of these songs are old ones never before published.  Some are songs found on an old 1972 tape, and “Pour Elis” was written in 1982.  Vira lata na via láctea (translation: A Whore in the Milky Way) is another solid second-tier entry in his catalog.


Cançoes Eróticas De Ninar: Para Dançar O Sobe Ni Mim

Canções eróticas para ninar: Para dançar o sobe ni mim (2016)


Release Notes: Available on CD, vinyl and digitally

Recorded:

Personnel: DL

Producer(s): Paulo Lepetit

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s):

Review:  This album might be seen as an artistic Kinsey Report.  This is a slightly more streamlined rock sound that still retains some idiosyncratic Zé-isms.  For instance, there are more prominent bass lines.  This sneaks into the very bottom of the second tier of Zé albums.



Collaborations:


Tropicália ou panis et circencis

Various Artists – Tropicália ou panis et circencis (1968)


Release Notes:

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Key Track(s): “Parque industrial”

Review: Considered the “manifesto” of tropicália, the title of this collaborative album references the Latin phrase panem et circenses (“bread and circuses”) from Satire X (c. 100 AD) by the Roman poet Juvenal — a phrase that Mary Beard has described as “a brilliant dismissal of the limited horizons of the urban rabble . . . [who] cared for nothing but chariot racing and food handouts . . .” but “also a cynical misrepresentation of the Roman tradition of providing staple food for the people at state expense, which originated with  . . . Gaius Sempronius Gracchus . . . .”   It is an appropriately ironic invocation of the phrase here, displaying the “left of the Left” sentiments of a movement that pursued radical over-identification with kitsch and popular fare in a simultaneously earnest and mocking way to try to undermine colonial oppression, cultural marginalization, and social domination.  In the photo on the album cover, Tom Zé is standing on a chair in the back right.  Arranger Rogério Duprat is at the left holding a chamber pot as if it were a tea cup.  Zé contributes one of his songs, “Parque industrial,” on which he also performs with Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, and Os Mutantes.


"Conto de fraldas" / "Teu coração bate, o meu apanha"

Tiago Araripe e Tom Zé – “Conto de fraldas” / “Teu coração bate, o meu apanha” (1974) [Single]


Release Notes:

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Key Track(s): “Teu coração bate, o meu apanha”

Review:


Cantando Com A Platéia

Tom Zé e GerebaCantando com a platéia (1990)


Release Notes: Out of print

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Producer(s):

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s):

Review:


Itamar Assumpção – Bicho de 7 Cabeças, Vol. II (1993)


Guest appearance

Recorded:

Tier:

Key Track(s): “É Tanta Água”

Review:


Os Paralamas do Sucesso – Severino (1994)


Guest appearance

Recorded:

Tier:

Key Track(s): “Navegar impreciso”

Review:


Various Artists – O Triângulo Sem Bermudas – Uma Homenagem à Trois (1996)


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Key Track(s): “2001”

Review:


Parabelo

Tom Zé e Zé Miguel WisnikParabelo (1997)


Release Notes:  Created in conjunction with the dance theater company Grupo Corpo.  Information about the stage production (with photos, video and streaming audio of the album in its entirety) is available here: http://grupocorpo.com.br/en/pieces/parabelo

Recorded: January and March 1997, Studio Rosa Celeste, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Personnel: ZW, GA, L_, NM, LL, JM

Producer(s): Paulo Tatit, Alê Siqueira

Tier: ♻♻

Key Track(s):

Review:


Postmodern Platos

Postmodern Platos (1998)


Release Notes: Available digitally

Recorded:

Personnel: LL, L_, NM, JM, ZW, GA

Producer(s): Bryan A. Martin, André Abujamra, Gilberto Assis

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Defect 2: Curiosidade [The High Llamas Remix]”

Review:


Santagustin

Tom Zé / Gilberto AssisSantagustin (2003)


Release Notes:  Created in conjunction with the dance theater company Grupo Corpo.  Information about the stage production (with photos, video and streaming audio of the album in its entirety) is available here: http://www.grupocorpo.com.br/en/pieces/santagustin

Recorded: March 2001 to March 2002, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

Personnel: GA, CC, SC, JM

Producer(s): Paulo Lepetit, Gilberto Assis

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Nogueira da Monte”

Review:  Another collaboration for the dance  organization Grupo Corpo.  This time around, the music doesn’t really hold up on its own. While not terrible, this is definitely one of the weakest efforts in Zé’s catalog.


Ecos FalsosDescartável Longa Vida (2007)


Guest appearance

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Tier:

Key Track(s): “A Revolta da Musa”

Review:


Os MutantesHaih… or Amortecedor… (2009)


Guest appearance

Recorded:

Tier:

Key Track(s): “Anagrama”

Review:


Thaís GulinôÔÔôôÔôÔ (2011)


Guest appearance

Recorded:

Tier:

Key Track(s): “Ali sim, Alice”

Review:


Various Artists – Red Hot + Rio 2 (2011)


Release Notes:

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Personnel:

Producer(s): Béco Dranoff, John Carlin, Paul Heck

Tier: ♻

Key Track(s): “Ogodô, ano 2000”

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Zeca Baleiro[Bichos Esquisitos] (2014)


Guest appearance

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Key Track(s): “Dona Libélula”

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Sem você nâo A: Uma fabula alfabética de Tom Zé e Elifas Andreato

Sem você nâo A: Uma fabula alfabética de Tom Zé e Elifas Andreato (2017)

 

Release Notes: Available on CD and digitally

Recorded:

Personnel: DM, PL, JM, L_

Producer(s): Paulo Lepetit, Daniel Maia

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Non-Album Singles/B-Sides:


“São Benedito” / “Maria do colégio da Bahia” (1965)


Release Notes: included on Canto Aberto

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“Você gosta?” / “Feitiço” (1969)

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“Jimmy, Renda-se” / “Irene” (1971)


Release Notes: “Jymmy, renda-se” available on Tom Zé and the soundtrack The Man From U.N.C.L.E., “Irene” was included on Canto Aberto

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“Augusta, Angélica, Consolação” / “Quem Não Pode se Tschaikovsky” (1973)

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Vaia de Bêbado Não Vale (1999)

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Volume 1 (2012)

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Best-of Compilations:

Anos 70 (2017) – A collection of four of his best albums from the 1970s.

Studies Of Tom Zé (Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You) (2010) – Limited edition box set containing two albums from Luaka Bop, the Brazil Classics 4 compilation, plus a new interview and two unreleased live tracks with Zé backed by Tortoise (from a concert available in bootleg form).

Warner 30 Anos (2006)

20 Preferidas (2002)

Brazil Classics 4: The Best Of Tom Zé (1990) – Great music from a handful of his 1970s and 80s albums, but not a career-spanning overview.



Legend:

♻♻♻ = top-tier; an essential
♻♻ = second-tier; highly enjoyable but more for the confirmed fan; worthwhile after you’ve explored the essentials and still want more
♻ = third-tier; a less significant album, for completists, with perhaps more limited appeal

Personnel (a non-exhaustive list of frequent musical associates):
GC = Grupo Capote
VB = Vicente Barreto
LL = Lauro Léllis
NM = Nilza Maria
SC = Sérgio Caetano
JM = Jarbas Mariz
CC = Cristina Carneiro
L_ = Luanda [Silva]
DM = Daniel Maia
RL = Renato Léllis
PL = Paulo Lepetit
DB = David Byrne
ZW = José (“Zé”) Miguel Wisnik
GA = Gilberto Assis



Build More Trains (Construir mais trens): Other Resources:

Web:

Official Site (English Machine Translation)

Blog (English Machine Translation) – no longer updated

Twitter Page

Facebook Page

Instagram Page

Wikipedia Entry

Musicbrainz Page

Brief Biography

Luaka Bop Record Label Artist Page (with an extended biographical essay by Christopher Dunn)


Other Guides:

Slipcue Guide to Brazilian Music: Tom Zé

Songlines Magazine Beginner’s Guide: Tom Zé


Film:

Fabricando Tom Zé (2006)

Danç-Êh-Sá (Dança dos Herdeiros do Sacrifício) – O Fim da Canção: Ao Vivo (2008)

Tom Zé astronauta libertado (2009)

Tom Zé: Dada Brasil (2010)

O Pirulito da Ciência: Tom Zé & Banda ao Vivo (2010)

Tropicália (2012)


Books:

Brutality Garden: Tropicália and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture by Christopher Dunn (University of North Carolina Press, 2000) – An excellent academic book about the tropicália movement in general.  This is the go-to resource in English for reading about the backdrop to Tom Zé’s emergence as a professional musician.

Tropicalista, lenta, luta by Tom Zé (2003) – A four-part book (only available in Portuguese) with an autobiographical section, a section with selected short texts by Zé, a section reproducing lyrics, and lastly a section with miscellaneous resources including a transcription of an interview with Arthur Nestrovski.

Qual sertão: Euclides ca Cunha e Tom Zé by Demétrio Panarotto (2009)

Cidade cantada: educação e experiência estética: canções de Tom Zé e Racionais MC’s sobre São Paulo by Julia Pinheiro Andrade (2010)

Tom Zé by Heyk Pimenta (2011)

Tom Zé: estudando o samba by Bernardo de Oliveira (2014)

Estudando o samba (1976): entrevistas a Charles Gavin (2016)