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Various Artists: Italian Cafe

Woodrow Wilkins By

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To an English-only American, foreign words and phrases can be most daunting. However, when put to music, the picture can be quite different. Fred Buscaglione demonstrates that on "Juke Box, the opening track to Putumayo's Italian Café, a charming, delightful collection of twelve songs that blend Italian heritage with some American musical styles, such as jazz and swing. These songs cover a variety of moods from romance to party, and they seem right at home in a number of venues, from coffee shops to nightclubs and concert halls. Buscaglione's contribution, recorded in 1958, is a playful tribute to the device that bears its name, the jukebox, as told from the point of view of a man who's taken his lover into a café where they listen alone to this "newfangled invention.

The third track, "Cannelloni, one of two tracks performed by Giorgio Conte, is more spoken than sung. It's an amusing blend of jazz with French chanson. Translated to English, the lyrics tease a lover who's so concerned about her weight that she can't enjoy a good meal. Conte sounds like the Frenchman of old films as he tries to smooth talk his sweetie. He enjoys his cannelloni while suggesting that his sweetheart suffer with a carrot and white rice.

Vinicio Capossela's delivery of "Che Cosse L'Amor injects some Latin jazz into the mix. Backed by a nice horn section and percussive instruments, this song is an upbeat musing in which the singer asks (both people and objects), "What is the meaning of love? The question is punctuated by a salsa-esque rhythm that seems to come straight from Ricky Ricardo's fictional nightclub.

The only instrumental on the album is "Tu Vuo' Fa' L'Americano, performed by the Austrian quartet Quadro Nuevo. The original song, whose title translates to "You Want to Play the American, was sung by Sophia Loren in the film It Started in Naples and more recently covered by Matt Damon and Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley. The lyrical version tells the story of an Italian man who desperately wants to become an American. The instrumental presented here features some clarinet, accordion, guitar, and bass, interchangeably taking the point and providing background for the other soloists. It's one of the best songs on the album.

All the songs feature some skillful—thought not always impressive—musicianship. The vocalists are backed by varying configurations acoustic and electric guitars, upright basses, drummers, keyboards, and horns. Some of the recordings are decades old, but they still have their original charm. Although titled Italian Café to reflect the strong influences of Italy among the musicians, this collection would be right at home in almost any café—or restaurant, for that matter—that has a jukebox. The songs are danceable for the most part, and always pleasant.


Track Listing: Juke Box; Un Bacio a Mezzanotte; Cannelloni; Che Cosse L

Personnel: Fred Buscaglione; Quartetto Cetra; Giorgio Conte; Vinicio Capossela; Maria Pierantoni Guia; Renato Carosone; Gianmaria Testa; Daniele Silvestri; Quadro Nuevo; Nicola Arigliano.

Title: Italian Cafe | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Putumayo World Music


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