Paolo Conte ‘Snob’ (Platinum/Universal) 4/5

paolo-conteItalian singer-songwriter and pianist Paolo Conte is something of a household phenomenon in his native Italy as well as in various parts of Europe and the United States, and represents a bye-gone era of classic music in the same way that Woody Allen symbolizes the cinema of another era. For his latest album project, the subject matter has a more tropical feel which allows his deeply creative mind to run riot and as a result the listener is in for a treat from start to finish. Those new to the experience may take a little time to grow accustomed to the gruff sounding voice, but this is music that is at once engaging and accessible and well worth repeated listens. An atmospheric modern sounding song, ‘L’Uomo Specchio’ (Mirror Man) is a prime candidate for single release and features the subtle use of drum effect while accordion and brassy ensemble ensure the marriage of the new with the more traditional is a wholly successful hybrid. A delightful Latin shuffle is the order of the day on ‘Tropical’ which sounds to this writer like another possible hit and is sure to a bring a smile to the face of any listener. The feel of summer is evoked in all its glory here. For a more reflective jazz-inflective piece, ‘Argentina’, features some lovely piano and strummed guitar and the song portrays the emigration to Buenos Aires of migrants from the south of Italy who form the main basis of the modern-day Argentine population. Influences are inevitably numerous on any Paolo Conte album and include blues, cabaret, honky-tonk piano, tango and traditional jazz. Little wonder, then, that parallels have been made between Conte and Tom Waits and not simply because of the distinctive approach of their voices. The old-world ambience permeates ‘Incontro (Encounter)’ with a brass accompaniment that is straight out of swing jazz. On the austere sounding love ballad ‘Fandango’, we finally have the opportunity to hear what a gifted pianist Conte can be and here the sound is pared down to piano and vocals only. This is above all else a musical journey into nostalgia and one that cannot fail to impress the listener, be they first-time or seasoned, and that is just part of the greatness of Paolo Conte’s creative craft.

Tim Stenhouse