Vinicio Capossela has long been revered in his native Italy as a visionary and talented performer, a kind Tom Waits-meets-Paolo Conte figure who has also, throughout the trajectory of his now 20-year musical career, brought together elements of Italian film composers and cantautori, Gypsy, Eastern, American, and traditional Mediterranean music, as well as more biblical, literary, and mythical references than the average listener has time to comprehend. It was only in 2010, however, that Capossela released an album in North America, in the form of The Story-Faced Man, a collection of 17 of the artist's best songs, and which serves as his official welcome into the English-speaking world (even though, with the exception of a couple of phrases, the songs are all in Italian). While an understanding of the language certainly adds an inevitable level of comprehension, it's anything but necessary. Capossela's songs are stories, his songs are journeys, Old World tradition and New World mystique (or, perhaps, Old World mystique and New World tradition), and this comes as much in structure, in the timbre and delivery of his voice, of musical elements and interludes, as it does in the lyrics themselves. It's a performance, it's a spectacle, it's a show, and Capossela happily plays the court jester, the fool juggling alone on the side with his balls and his hat, spouting what sounds like nonsense initially, but what an astute audience realizes to be more honest and real than any of the other proffered truth. This ability to mix farce with profound observation is even more developed in his later work, specifically 2006's Ovunque Proteggi, from which a large part of The Story-Faced Man draws, like in "Brucia Troia" or the powerful "SS. dei Naufragati" ("naufragati" means "shipwrecked"), an exploration of sin and destiny, most of which Capossela delivers in an ominous, menacing whisper, counterbalanced with a lonely cello and the Angels of St. Maurice's Chapel choir. At heart, however, Capossela's a songwriter, and an appreciator of good songs, and so his cover of Adriano Celentano's 1962 hit, "Si è Spento il Sole," previously only available on the best-of collection L'Indispensabile, is a perfect example. Here, Capossela ties together the eternal Italian fascination with the American West with the equally satisfying elements of 1960s Italian pop. It is, to say the least, a successful pairing, representative of the album, and hopefully will help to enamor the English-speaking world to him as much as Europe already is.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
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