Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Paolo Conte – Psiche – Platinum/Decca

The thoroughly gravelly voice of Italian singer-songwriter Paolo Conte has been compared to Tom Waits.

Published on November 12, 2009

Paolo Conte – Psiche – Platinum/Decca

Paolo Conte – Psiche – Platinum/Decca 1781900 *****:

(Paolo Conte – vocals, piano, kazoo; plus a tentet including accordion, bandoneon, woodwinds, synth, bass tuba, French horn, violin, acoustic and electric guitars, doublebass, and backup vocals)

The thoroughly gravelly voice of Italian singer-songwriter Paolo Conte has been compared to Tom Waits (though Conte has a much more lived-in looking face) and the content of his songs to Leonard Cohen, but there are a number of major differences.  For one, Conte normally sings only in Italian or French, with just a few English words thrown in sometimes for fun – such as “chip chip.” His new album has only one song in English – Silvery Fox – and that appear to have been a last-minute decision to ensure better sales in North America, because the English lyrics sheet supplied to us by Universal with the CD has another tune sung in Italian on Track 6 instead of the English one. While the words of all 15 songs are printed in the CD note booklet, they are all in the languages Conte sings them in.  One is directed to his web site to see the English translations.

However, even though I’m not a big fan of world music (except for Brazilian) I don’t mind not knowing what Conte is singing about most of the time; it’s not like I’m not understanding. He seems to communicate a world of meaning beyond the translations. Even when you have the translations you may be little further ahead than without them.  For example, take this one stanza from Big Bill (which is sung in Italian):

Big Bill, the god-sailing ship northwards
passing back and forth, trendsetter
Big Bill, about the sound
knew everything by then…red

He chose Psyche as his album title this time because she is of this earth and has tales to tell – as does Conte. His songs are about dreams, nostalgia, bits of various images and fantasies.  He loves jazz and often veers into some swinging grooves, as well as tango-influenced bar-room music. His band is an integral part of his seductive charm; it’s a very European sort of jazz-cabaret sound, not the Northern European/ECM-type sound but having a very gutsy nature. Many of his fans and critics are saying this is the finest album of his career.


Il Quadrato E Il Cerchio
Big Bill
L’Amore Che
Silvery Fox
Bella Di Giorno
Velocita Silenziosa
Leggenda E Popolo
Danza Della Vanita
Coup De Theatre
Cosi O Non Cosi

 – John Henry

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