On this double-disc CD are a pair of Joni James' folk long-players. The first title Italianissime! (1964) features a dozen traditional Italian sides contrasting the Americana connection on Folks Songs By (1961) . As James had done on Ti Voglio Bene (1958) -- her first full-length disc of Italian music -- Italianissime! includes a mix of traditional and popular Italian melodies. In the artist's pursuit for exhaustive authenticity, James studied various vocal inflections and dialects with Dr. Charles Speroni, the head of UCLA's Foreign Languages Department. His efforts were also manifest in the album's only original composition, "Un Caffé." James is joined by the Jack Halloran Choir under the musical arrangement and orchestration of another frequent constituent, Chuck Sagle. Stylistically, the material runs the gamut from the emotive "Mama (Mamma!)" and "You're Breaking My Heart," to the quaint "Trecchi Biondo (Golden Tresses)." The more familiar pieces, such as " Quando, Quando, Quando," and "Volare" are known via the numerous reworkings from a variety of pop vocalists. However, James' interpretations are infinitely more authentic compared to the lounge acts that have primarily covered them. Her expressive vocal talents again defy a defining genre on Folk Songs By (1961). James' instincts to trace the rich heritage of the music paid off by producing one of the most enduring entries. The reworkings of "The Riddle Song," "Down in the Valley," "Scarlet Ribbons," "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," and "I Know Where I'm Goin'," as well as James' fourth distinct version of "Danny Boy," sit comfortably beside the cozy readings of "I Lost My True Love" aka "On Top of Old Smokey," the bluesy "Love Oh Love" -- which is also notable for the lazy and laid-back electric guitar accompaniment -- and even the groovy "Go Away." Although it is an original composition, the aforementioned "Blue Eyes" is an appropriate inclusion as it complements the spirit and balladry of the great American folk song.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer