It would be nearly impossible to succinctly describe what Vinicio Capossela does musically on his album Ovunque Proteggi. It starts out intensely, almost menacingly so, and ends with a gentle, pretty love song, but the path to it -- Eastern-influenced chants to patriotic marches to waltzes to sad jazzy piano numbers to bolero -- somehow seems to follow a natural progression, or at least trick listeners into believing that's the case. Perhaps this is because Capossela is such a gifted lyricist, and consistently so, that it's easy to focus on his words (or the sound of his voice) instead of the music behind it. Not that the instruments aren't important: Capossela and his crew (which includes Tom Waits -- to whom comparisons can certainly be made -- associate Marc Ribot and former Area bassist Ares Tavolazzi) play purposeful and interesting notes and rhythms, but they are used to accent and augment the power of the singer instead of stand out on their own. The lyrics, which are intricate and detailed, often allude to Biblical scripture, but also to Greek myth, Italian, British, and American literature, Russian historical figures, and jazz standards; he's willing to explore almost any Western cultural tradition. "Brucia Troia" (brucia translating to "burn," while Troia refers to ancient Troy but also is a vulgar synonym for "whore") is one of the most aggressive songs on the album, the tale of a city and a man betrayed ("burn," Capossela growls, "like I burn for you"), but "Medusa Cha Cha Cha" is sung from the perspective of the goddess, who, perhaps a bit duplicitously, wishes for someone who won't turn to stone under her gaze. Ovunque Proteggi is part love and hate and anger and lust, imparting the wisdom of the immortals (Melville, Pasolini, and Homer, besides the array of gods and God) to all the rest of us. Hardly an easy task, but Capossela keeps the album accessible through his great sense of arrangement and lyrical phrasing, making it a challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown