Italians, I think, take Paolo Conte for granted. His raspy voice, playful melodies, and knowing lyrics have been part of the musical landscape in Italy for years, and many local fans have come of age listening to his music. But when a mature listener tunes in to Mr. Conte's music for the first time, that is when the magic happens.
I have seen Mr. Conte play live twice -- once here in Rome, once in Paris -- and his on-stage persona does nothing to district from the cosmopolitan musical image his recordings convey. With a dozen supporting musicians, Mr. Conte sits behind his piano in a tuxedo, surrounded by a cloud of unfiltered cigarette smoke, a stiff drink (grappa?) at his side, on the stage of a dark auditorium filled by his coarse singing voice and intriguing music. He doesn't play to the audience but rather for himself, and that is also part of the charm.
Much of that comes through with his recorded music, as well, and this "Best of" CD is, of course, the best place to start. There is a variety of musical styles on this CD, ranging from his version of tango, to jazz, to songs designed for street musicians, to tunes that at times seem to be aimed at children (I am thinking of Happy Feet). But my favorites are when he mixes those influences with his sophisticated signature cabaret style, as with Sparring Partner, Hemingway, and Sotto le Stelle del Jazz.
One side note: though I am a big fan of Mr. Conte's, and I think that anyone who buys this CD will eventually want to hear more of this man's works, I will caution against buying much of what Mr. Conte recorded before the early to mid-1990s, when he came into his prime (none of the songs here fall into that category). If you do, you will surely miss much of the roundness and polished nonchalance that makes Mr. Conte's music so appealing, though you will be reminded that even someone who makes it seem as easy as Mr. Conte does had to evolve from somewhere."
A Haunting, Mesmerizing Voice with a Beat to Go With It
Eric J. Lyman | 12/18/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having first encountered the haunting voice of Paolo Conte this past summer on one of the Greek Islands, I have found his voice, songs, rythms and arrangements VERY difficult to get out of my head! "The Best of Paolo Conte" is just that! I feel that once the listener hears this album it's only a matter of days (if that long) that he/she orders Mr. Conte's full discography!Mr. Conte's haunting voice and the words (you don't have to understand Italian to enjoy them)and music keep returning to both your conscious and sleep (unconscious?) states. I defy you to ignore his spell!Although there are those that have said Mr. Conte is comparable to other singer/song writers throughout the world (Montand? Cohen? Brel?) I feel he is in a realm of his own as far as memorability of tune and beat. . . ."The Best of. . ." will ONLY lore/entice you to call amazon.com and order "Aquaplano", "Paolo Conte", "900", etc. Paolo Conte is a master 'spell caster' and will, I am sure, DEFINITELY cast his spell on YOU!"
For Mostly Martha Fans
R. I. Berkman | Rochester NY | 03/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just a tip--if you loved the music from the German flick Mostly Martha--there's no soundtrack, BUT the first song on this album is the delightful jazz tune played several times during the movie ('swonderful..'swonderful)"
Kelly Dillman | Pittsburgh, PA | 03/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not being a fan of scat, I only enjoyed about half of this CD the first few times I listened to it. But, if you give it a few chances, I dare say every song will grow on you. Now, I even scat along to COME DI!This CD has it all for the jazz lover! Great traditional swing-y jazz (ELISIR, BOOGIE, HAPPY FEET), easy listening jazz (SPARRING PARTNER, MAX), and some fabulous experimental stuff (GLI IMPERMEABILI, DRAGON). The musicians are incredibly talented at their craft, and Conte's singing - I use that term very loosely; it's more a rythmic speaking - is gritty, playful, and fun! I did agree with another reviewer, when they stated they liked the songs better when they didn't know what Paolo was saying. I felt the same exact way after I read the English translations. But, I just had to change outlook. Now, Conte just reminds of that great eccentric uncle every family has. Extremely entertaining, greatly talented, does his own thing, just a bit off-kilter. What's that? Uncle Paolo's singing about Lemon Ice Cream in the den again? Let's go listen, everyone!One additional note, from the Brief Glossary of Paolo Conte in the CD insert:"From his bar stool, he observes a romantic underworld ... where he is attracted to women whose 'pungent smells [beckon] him like an old-fashioned grocery, its doors flung open to the spring outside.'"Now THAT is priceless. How can you not listen to the works of a man who thought that line up?? Go get this CD and enjoy!"
Via con Pablo!
Michael J Edelman | Huntington Woods, MI USA | 11/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paolo Conte is enjoying a recent burst of near-popularity in this country, mostly carried by word of mouth as you won't hear him on many radio stations. He's the very model of a cabaret singer- a style still popular in the clubs of Europe, and in the clubs of New York, where performers like Blossom Dearie still can pack a club, but seldom heard on TV or radio in this country since Jimmy Durante had his TV show.Not to say that Conte has much in common with Durante. Well, there is that rough, whisky and cigarette voice, and the half sung, half spoken lyrics. But Conte is more lyrical. I'd compare him to great performers like Maurice Chevalier or Yves Montand. The music is very much in that European cabaret mold- think the Jazz Manouche stylings of Django Reinhard, with a tired, world weary voice. When he sings "Via con Me" you think yes, maybe, perhaps. It's a hypnotic, compelling combination."