In Cieli di Toscana, tenor Andrea Bocelli pays tribute to his Tuscan heritage through performances of a number of romantic Italian-language songs, old and new, that relate to the Northern Italian region associated with high quality olive oil and unspoiled, pristine coastline. As such, Cieli di Toscana serves as a sort of Tuscan counterpart to Bocelli's album of Neapolitan standards, Sentimento. While powerhouse producer Caterina Caselli Sugar's arrangements are dated -- they smack of the Europop sound of the 1980s -- Bocelli's voice has such a warm and loveable personality that it is impossible for him to rub the listener the wrong way. In these relatively simple songs, Bocelli draws on his operatic skills as a singer only very sparingly, applying vibrato to notes when he is in need of more power or a more secure sense of pitch. Most of Cieli di Toscana is done in a pure, "pop" voice that's as clear and unpretentious as the olive oil produced by the region of which he is singing, and it is a joy to hear.
Cieli di Toscana (in English, Skies of Tuscany) was a sales blockbuster in the EU upon its release in 2001, moving millions of units in only a few weeks and occupying the top spot on charts worldwide. The album is not a natural fit for American audiences, but it got a boost nonetheless in the United States through the appearance of the song "Mille Lune Mille Onde" in the background of a television commercial. While the opulent booklet provides complete texts and English translations, it would've been nice to have a little background on the music itself -- not present here. Of the popular albums that Bocelli has recorded, this one is probably the best so far, and certainly the one that is most accessible to American listeners.