Listen to this album and get used to grandiosity
a review on 'The Best of Paolo Conte'

In spite of a common sense of rubbish prevailing all over Latin Europe and Latin America where Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti and Tiziano Ferro seem to be the more appreciated and distributed italian artists (thanks also to the testosterone-filled labels' marketing methods), Paolo Conte's art is probably the best 'universal product' the italian music industry has known in the last 25 years.
The reason behind this consideration, that could sound absurd to many, stands in two main reasons:
- a pop-jazz musical formulation that steps over any regional border and any virtual timeline;
- a melody based composition where tunes, instruments synergy, and great playing and composing ability prevail over (o move independently from) a very shy, enchanting and tortuous-extravagant lyric content.
Paolo Conte, from Asti, comes from a jazz tradition where he quite typically practised purely instrumental forms and spent a large part of his early career composing purely for the lyrics of others: 'La coppia pi?la del mondo' (sung by Adriano Celentano), 'Insieme a te non ci sto pi?aterina Caselli), 'Tripoli '69' (Patty Pravo), 'Messico e nuvole' (Enzo Jannacci), 'Genova per noi' and 'Onda su onda' (Bruno Lauzi), and many others.
His first steps in a solo career were taken in 1974, when Paolo Conte realized his first album, PAOLO CONTE: the songs included in that first act recalled the same mood of the ones previously written for the others, with that rude and stepped voice, narrating poetic fragments of brief stories, sudden enthusiasms, nostalgic recollection. A year later, a second LP, also called PAOLO CONTE, came to light with another collection of songs in the same way. And this was the first Paolo Conte, a strange animal, a curious thing: any sensitive listener would have sensed that something special, something moving, something weird was close to explode...
And so a great series of masterpieces came in the following years, flowing from 'Un gelato al limon' (1979) to the breathtaking 'Aguaplano' (1987) and 'Paolo Conte Live' (1988), bringing his artistic image from the one of a sophisticated and captious songwriter to the one an universal and marvellous pop-jazz icon.
The subsequent albums ('RazMataz' the latest) follow the same musical vein, a modern jazz and instrumental songwriting...
Moreover, in order to explain both the two above mentioned considerations, whenever asked to comment on the relationship between words and music in his compositions, Paolo Conte has always given to his music a more crucial role than the one attributed to lyrics ('music is the first thing people get moved and used to' i remember he quote in a recent TV interview), without fail considering the lyrics somewhat as adjuncts or qualifiers. This could seem to be in contrast with the final results, where apart from the natural prominence of the often onomatopoeic vocalises - as "grut-grut-grut,pot-pot-pot,cling-cling-cling:/ e' un traffico africano" (?its an African bustle) from Ratafi?(1987) or "Ma i tuoi piedi: tap-tap-ta-ta-tap"(but your feet:? ) from Happy feet (1990) - music and words appear strangely interdependent; but unlike some singer-songwriters his first and foremost interests have never been other than musical.
His lyrics are so evocative that any regional border line (i state again) will result ridiculous in describing this art...and such as a French or an English, an Italian either is often obliged to use a dictionay (or at least pay great attention) while listening...
I consider 'The Best Of Paolo Conte' a significant collection of the artist's opera.
The album contains 20 songs truly representative of the path covered by Paolo Conte in the last 25 years.
From the first peculiar pieces...
- 'Via Con Me', one of his first international hits;
- Azzurro', launched by A. Celentano and probably one of the best known italian song ever;
- 'Bartali', dedicated to the great italian cyclist (1914-2000);
- 'Genova Per Noi', covered also by Lauzi and Iannacci and revitalized by the Astigian jazz man;
- 'Boogie' and 'Come di', brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant
- 'Sparring Partner', one of his greatest song ever, one of the first to reveal to the public his pop vein;
...passing through the beginning of the pure and direct revealation of the artist jazz' soul...
- 'Sotto Le Stelle Del Jazz', truly an hit, truly one of those pieces you can't move away from your mind for a while, with its perfect melt of a pop and jazz culture;
- 'Max' and 'Gli Impermeabili', from his best album Aguaplano (a true art explosion!), mostly instrumental dreamy masterpieces; the latest clearly declared swing pieces...
- 'Elisir', 'Dragon', 'Colleghi Trascurati', 'Ho Ballato Di Tutto', 'Happy Feet' and others mosly taken from the albums 'Parole d'amore scritte a macchina' and '900', where the artist leaves behind himself any inhibition and gives all his internal musical mood to the listeners, whose ears by this time finally opened and used to this greatness.
No lacks I can find in this collection but this one: if they'd have asked to me to choose the pieces for a Paolo Conte best of I'd probably have given more emphasis to his first pearls... infatuated mind as mine can't get used to think to Paolo without refering to songs like 'La fisarmonica di Stradella', 'Wanda, stai seria con la faccia...', 'Una giornata al mare', 'La giarrettiera rosa' and others concerning his first period, but i honestly understand how this songs are more anchored to an italian '70 culture than the universal tit-bits collected in 'The Best Of Paolo Conte'.
So...listen to this album and get used to grandiosity.