Mike Patton

Mondo Cane

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AllMusic Review by

Mike Patton’s previous work scoring a Morricone-esque soundtrack (A Perfect Place), covering themes from movie soundtracks (The Directors Cut), embracing the language and music of other cultures (Anonymous), and crooning (Lovage), all invariably had a deeper purpose: preparation for his most elaborate endeavor to date (which is saying a lot.) Inspired by time spent in Italy visiting his in-laws and listening to the oldies station there a decade prior, for this project the vocalist extraordinaire performs renditions of cinematic Italian pop songs of the '50s and '60s, all while backed by a 40-piece orchestra, a choir, and a 15-piece band. To add to the grandeur, the recordings are taken from live shows, with the best bits pasted together from a slew of European performances using studio magic. Most of the parts are taken from the tour’s first intimate performances in Italy, which is fitting. Mondo Cane sounds authentically Italian. Patton’s time in his second home in Bologna was apparently well spent. His grasp of the language is exceptional; he sings naturally with the comfort of a true native (and a flair for rolling “r”s) throughout the bulk of the release. “Deep Down” lapses into English, only because the original does, in a masterfully embellished version of Ennio Morricone’s theme from Danger Diabolik. Because the original soundtrack masters are M.I.A., this little slice of magic brings a previously unavailable piece of history back to life, and it’s a totally worthy substitution. It’s not surprising that Patton would pay tribute to his hero Morricone, whose material Ipecac reissued in the Crime and Dissonance set, but the big surprise and reward is when he takes risks with deep Italian cuts by Fred Bongusto, the Blackmen, Luigi Tenco, and Gino Paoli. All of these, while taken from a variety of styles, from Frank Sinatra pop to psychedelic garage rock, are covered as they should be: with proper respect to the original, while showing off the unique personality of Patton. Sure, he’s showing restraint, and singing ballads, mostly, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to go from an Operaman impression to a maniacal wail on a whim. Dynamic bombast is his specialty, and amazingly, it all fits perfectly within the confines of Italian pop. As outlandish as Mondo Cane is, it all somehow amounts to the most easily digestible thing in Patton's scattered discography. Weird, considering Peeping Tom was his so-called “pop project.”

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