Joni James

Italianissime

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This is Joni James' second foreign language long-player and, like her first, Ti Voglio Bene (1958), Italianissime! (1964) focuses in on her distinct Italian folk heritage. The vocalist considered these recordings with considerably more importance. She even went as far as to study individual dialects with Dr. Charles Speroni, who was the concurrent head of UCLA's Foreign Languages Department. The good doctor even collaborated with James on the sole original "Un Caffé" -- which was catchy and kitschy enough to become the single extracted from the album. Incorporating much of the same easygoing and unaffected style and delivery that she had perfected on her dozens of English speaking pop platters. As she had done on her most successful sides, James is once again accompanied vocally by the Jack Halloran Choir. The musical scores were arranged and orchestra conducted by another longtime constituent, Chuck Sagle. The dozen sides reveal a wide spectrum of styles from the gentle and heartfelt "Mama (Mamma!)" and achingly tender "You're Breaking My Heart," to the lighter "Trecchi Biondo (Golden Tresses)" and the previously mentioned "Un Caffé." Tracks such as " Quando, Quando, Quando" and "Volare" would become huge international hits thanks to the numerous reworkings from a variety of pop vocalists. However, James' interpretations are infinitely more authentic when compared to the lounge lizard parodies that they are remembered as. The brief spoken introduction to "Tango Of Roses" lends a charming intimacy as James' and the Choir phonetically respond to each other as she teaches listeners "a little Italian love song." In 2003 Italianissime! was coupled with Folks Songs By... (1962) on a double-play compact disc from Collectors' Choice Music as part of their digital restoration of James classic MGM Records catalogue.

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