Although it's not likely to change many minds about Andrea Bocelli, this is one of the more intriguing items in the Italian crossover tenor's catalog. In a way it's surprising that he hasn't taken on this project until now, for the Neapolitan and Italian mid-century pop songs he performs here were in many ways the original "crossover" items from the European continent. On the other hand, the performers, like Caruso, who made these songs famous (or the earlier ones among them, at least), did so as opera singers who were offering an exaggerated, slightly camp version of their normal musical language. That's not what happens here. Incanto is billed as an evocation of Italy in the 1950s, as experienced through the romantic classics of cinema from Hollywood and from Italy itself. The CD and accompanying DVD are presented in a hardback booklet with artwork featuring Bocelli walking away from a parked Vespa motor scooter (you have to wonder whether product placement was involved). The arrangements are lush, pure mid-century pop with strings, much heavier than the ones you would hear with Caruso or even the contemporary operatic singers who have recorded discs like this, and conductor Steven Mercurio, leading the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, plays them to the hilt. And the thing with Bocelli himself is that his voice resides easily in the ranges and moves of these songs. He's not forcing his voice into operatic brilliance, but simply doing what comes naturally. The result is that the inherent humor in some of these songs, like Funiculì Funiculà, is diminished, but that those that rely on pure sentiment, like the Mexican chestnut Granada, are given a lightness and warmth that fits perfectly with what Bocelli is all about. After coming to international stardom, Bocelli attempted in various ways to tease new things out of his voice, which was probably beneficial in the end inasmuch as it kept the spotlight on his career: when he showed up in middle-sized cities around the world to sing opera, the press went with him. Here, he returns to his comfort zone -- paradoxically in music that wasn't always quite about a comfort zone, but the singer's fans who can pick his voice out from across a crowded shopping mall are going to love this.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim