(5 / 5)
World music. What does it mean? To some; they’d expect music played and/or sung by musicians and artists from the African continent, under that banner.
But for me; it means what it says on the tin. Music from around the world. I remember talking to radio and TV broadcaster Andy Kershaw about this very topic, and he gets the right hump with the term. His view is; all music is world music, because it’s music from our world.
So, on that basis, an album from an Italian superstar has got to count as World Music, right? The gorgeous country I would retire to in a heartbeat, if I ever win big on the the Lottery, may well have the best food and drink, spectacular views and amazing fashion; it also boasts some fabulous musicians and artists. Across many genres too.
With Paolo Conte, we are talking about music Royalty in Italy. A legend. Singer, pianist and composer. For those of you reading this who do not yet know who he is; you have probably heard his unique gravelly voice on a Coca Cola TV advert, as of last year and shown in cinemas. That song and that voice will have indelibly etched itself into your memory bank. Sure of it.
That infectious track and that grainy, “a life lived”voice, may have prompted a good few of you to Shazam or Google the advert to find out what music they played on it. I can tell you. It is Paulo Conte, and the song is “Via con me”, which pops up as the opener on the second of four discs in this fabulously quirky Deluxe Edition box set, mainly sung in Italian.
There’s a bumper 60 cuts here across four CDs; 15 on each disc, and the title translates to “Zazzarazàz – A varied art show”. A project that covers over 40 years of Paolo’s career, and which collects together the best from studio albums and a selection of live tracks.
Plus, a disc with the interpretations of his songs by an array of Italian stars; including Roberto Benigni, Enzo Jannacci, Francesco De Gregori and Lucio Dalla- plus International icons Miriam Makeba and Dizzy Gillespie.
Disc one kicks off with the previously unreleased “Per te”, or “For Tea” in English. That Cocoa Cola TV advert’ song, “Via con me” launches the second of the four discs. You’ll be pressing “repeat” on that one often.
Even if you do not speak or understand any or much Italian, there is still huge enjoyment to be had within these 60 cuts. The set comes complete with a booklet that shows many rare photographs, taken at concerts and backstage, some unpublished portraits of private moments, set lists and some drawings.
Paolo has won many awards in his long career, and been given the highest honours by the Italian and French Governments for his artistic achievements. His fame and success has crossed borders and given him global stardom.
The 80-year-old veteran entertainer is a trained and qualified lawyer, and is known for his colourful and dreamy musical compositions. His music has distinctive Italian and Medditarrean flavours, jazz and South American vibes. He is in the same territory and class as French legends Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens, and trades on wistful and often melancholic lyrics and approach.
Born in Asti, Piedmont, he graduated in Law. During the mid-fifties he learned to play the trombone, then the vibraphone, beginning his music career as a vibraphone player in local jazz bands. He progressed to writing songs with his brother, guitarist Giorgio Conte and then on his own.
He is an accomplished poet, painter, musician and lawyer and had his first success from the late ’60s and early ’70s, behind hits from Adriano Celentano and Patty Pravo. His solo career began with a 1974 self-titled LP, and in the 80s and 90s he had major success throughout Europe. 1998’s Paolo Conte, a greatest-hits collection, was his first U.S. release.
His music is popular for movie soundtracks, such as “Come Di” in I Am David (2003), and Mickey Blue Eyes (1999), starring Hugh Grant “Via con me” in French Kiss (1995), Mostly Martha (2001), Welcome to Collinwood (2002), and the “Fritz” Coca-Cola commercial.
As well as in No Reservations (2007), “Sparring Partner” in 5×2 (2004) and in In the movie “Carnage”, directed by Roman Polanski, husband and wife call each other “doodle”, (“toutou” in French) as a reference to Via Con Me from Paolo Conte “tu tu tu”, one of their favourite songs.
In March 1999, Paolo Conte was awarded with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, by President Giorgio Napolitano for his “outstanding cultural achievements”. On 15 May 2001, France ordered Paolo Conte Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
He has released 17 studio albums, six live albums, and at least nine compilations. A man whose voice and performances could be described in equal parts as mesmerising, charming, mischievous, commanding, enticing, affectionate, endearing, delightful and very special. Bello, bella, eccellente!
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’