Paolo Conte

Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina

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After the intimate approach of the superb Aguaplano, Paolo Conte returns with the musically exuberant Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina. In a career defined by consistency of style rather than innovation, Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina stands as one of Conte's most inventive projects. While keeping Renzo Fantini as producer, Conte disbanded the backing band that accompanied him for most of the '80s, choosing instead to work with a new group of session musicians. A few changes become immediately apparent. There is no longer a drummer, yet the songs keep a vibrant swing beat thanks to Conte's percussive piano, Mauritian new bassist Jino Touche, three guitars, and unobtrusive sequencer patterns. Still, the most instantly striking characteristic of this album is the predominant role assigned to female vocalists in almost half the tracks. Conte had employed background vocals in the past, but seldom in such a deliberate way. Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina features no less than seven different singers, often in groups of three, that give this record its particular sense of ebullience, from the buoyant opener "Dragon" to the even more rollicking closer "Happy Feet." Furthermore, no effort is made to conceal the fact that none of these vocalists are Italian. In fact, the very opposite is true: the foreignness of accents and pronunciation is explicitly set up against Conte's own Italian accent, deep voice, and lyrics. This odd vocal contrast gives these songs an exotic, even faux, sound that works wonders to render Conte's jaded cosmopolitan world palpable. Nowhere is this more evident than in the stunning "Il Maestro," one of Conte's most amazing pieces of music. A weird a cappella intro in perfectly horrendous anglicized Italian is followed by the sublime melody, first pitch-perfectly hummed by Julie Brannen, Maria Short, and Sharon May Linn, then reinstated by Conte's ironic gruff voice, this paean to music conductors is indeed serious orchestral music. While the vocalist-led, fast tempo numbers are the first to attract the listener's attention, the other half of Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina, mostly comprised of reflective piano ballads, is equally impressive. Among these, the extraordinary divorce song title track deserves full quoting. A man, (most likely late at night and after a few drinks, as in any self-respecting Paolo Conte song) rambles on over his newly arrived divorce papers: "memorable: words of love on a typewriter, our entire story in four pages...your lawyer is truly an ass, certain things shouldn't be written down, it'll only give the judges a hard time...ha, ha, I'm laughing because, if it weren't for your legal adviser's dry prose, these are love letters from you, typewritten." A master in the art of exquisite self-deprecation, Conte's spoken voice, backed only by his sparse piano, has seldom sounded more devastating, genuinely moving and funny at the same time. If the music in Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina shows Conte at the peak of its creative powers, the booklet including lyrics in Spanish, German, French, and English attest to his established international status. Fittingly elegant cover art by legendary comic book artist (and Conte's friend) Hugo Pratt adds the finishing touch. The most impeccable album of an artist defined, precisely, by impeccable taste.

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