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Album Review

As compilation packages go, this new release by the great Paolo Conte is rather hard to figure out. Allegedly, selections were handpicked by Conte, who thought nothing of choosing as many as five songs from his personal favorite, Una Faccia in Prestito (1995), a fine effort on its own right but nowhere near masterpieces such as the double album Aguaplano or his first two self-titled records, all conspicuously absent here. In fact, none of Conte's '70s albums made the cut, even if many of his career-defining songs are to be found there. Perhaps this was done in order to avoid overlapping Conte's previous compilation, the international big-seller The Best of Paolo Conte (1996). Even so, Gong-Oh repeats seven tracks from that compilation; tellingly, the only four tracks from his '80s albums included here were already present in The Best of Paolo Conte. In short, this compilation features next to nothing from Conte's classic '70s and '80s output, so there is no way it can be considered a comprehensive overview of his career. One suspects that the initial concept behind Gong-Oh was to offer a collection of Conte's best work in the '90s and 2000s — which would have been a fine idea, indeed, and a perfect complement to the previous compilation — but that fear of not including any of the big hits crept in, concessions were made, and in the end Gong-Oh included almost half of The Best of Paolo Conte, plus an unbalanced selection from Conte's most recent work. In order to sweeten the pot, the CD is bookended by two previously unreleased recordings: the new song "La Musica è Pagana," which recalls the electronic touches of 2008's Psiche, and a new arrangement of Conte's signature song, "Via con Me," made for a TV advert. There is of course nothing wrong with any of the dazzling 19 tracks on Gong-Oh, as Conte's consistency in terms of style and excellence has been awe-inspiring, titanium-solid through the years. Yet, as it lacks validity as a compilation, it cannot be recommended over any of his typically fine latter-day releases, such as the wonderfully minimalist Elegia (2004), not to mention his superb live albums.


Born: 1937 in Asti, Piedmont, Italy

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most idiosyncratic, charismatic, and internationally successful Italian singer/songwriters of the past four decades, Paolo Conte created his own unique style, combining a love for jazz and music hall together with a weary yet sympathetic and humorous understanding of human foibles. Born to a well-to-do Asti (Piedmont, Italy) family in 1937, Conte began to learn the piano at an early age, together with his younger brother Giorgio Conte -- who would also become a famous songwriter in his...
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Gong-Oh, Paolo Conte
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