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The Best of Paolo Conte

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Album Review

The Best of Paolo Conte is currently the only collection of the Italian singer/songwriter's music that is readily available in America. Fortunately for those with a soft spot for quirky romantics, it is a fine representation of his life's work. Conte is often compared to Tom Waits, presumably because both men have gravelly voices and write from a skewed, sometimes surreal perspective. Like Waits, Conte is a jazz aficionado, but despite these shared characteristics, the two sound nothing alike. Where Waits is aggressively avant-garde, Conte tends to be smooth, urbane, conversational. He arranges his songs (with the exception of a few synthetic-sounding tracks from the '80s) for small combos, with his own rolling piano lines and kazoo (yes, kazoo) at the center. Most striking is his eccentric singing style, which includes frequent detours through broken English and madcap scatting. For listeners who do not understand Italian, the 20 selections here may begin to blur together, but the handy translations in the liner notes reveal that Conte is a perceptive, poetic lyricist, whether he is commenting on lemon ice cream, neglected colleagues, Ernest Hemingway, or a passionate affair. His rollicking cocktail of lounge jazz, ragtime, cabaret, polka, and South American rhythms makes for a wry, soothing alternative to strident rockers and wimpy troubadours alike.


Born: 1937 in Asti, Piedmont, Italy

Genre: Pop

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

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...
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The Best of Paolo Conte, Paolo Conte
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