Songwriter and rapper Lorenzo "Jovanotti" Cherubini is a certified pop star in his homeland of Italy and pretty much throughout Western Europe. The first rapper in Italy, his record sales are in the millions (five) and counting, and his concerts fill soccer stadiums. On North American shores, however, the Tuscan born artist is all but a completely ...Read MoreSongwriter and rapper Lorenzo "Jovanotti" Cherubini is a certified pop star in his homeland of Italy and pretty much throughout Western Europe. The first rapper in Italy, his record sales are in the millions (five) and counting, and his concerts fill soccer stadiums. On North American shores, however, the Tuscan born artist is all but a completely unknown quantity, outside of small clubs in New York where he performs semi-regularly. Based on those club appearances, Jovanotti was given the opportunity to perform at the 2011 Bonnaroo Festival. Record producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, the Good Ones, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Peter Case) caught his act and was knocked out. The two put together a thoroughly re-imagined, re-recorded and/or remixed collection of Cherubini songs exclusively for North America, Italia 1988-2012, which covers tracks from the origins of his career to four brand new cuts. These 14 cuts don't even constitute a greatest-hits set; they were handpicked by Brennan and Jovanotti as a way to introduce him to American audiences. Compiling the hits as recorded wouldn't really translate in the States: Italian pop music has a much brighter, slicker production style. By contrast these selections focus on Jovanotti's talents as a songwriter -- even if you can't understand Italian, his melodies are infectious -- and his dynamic performances. The songs he recorded early on are interpreted here through the lens of a grown man and a world view gained after hard-lived experience. That said, there is plenty of upbeat pleasure here, given the wide array beats, textures, and settings: check the remix of "Sulla Frontiera," 2006's "Penelope," or the 1989 remix of "Scappa con Me." But there are so many other avenues Jovanotti explores here: the new, live-in-studio acoustic versions of "Mezzogiorno," and "La Porta e Aperta" (with no post-production), and the near-Baroque textures of "La Linea D'ombra," based on Joseph Conrad's short novel The Shadow Line (appropriately included as a "special ghost track.") Opener "Con la Luce Negli Occhi," is based on a Tinariwen groove that Jovanotti laid a melodic rap over. Also included are the Spanish-language version of "Sálvame," which showcases his bass-driven rock & roll attack, and the anthemic remix of 2011's "Il Piů Grande Spettacolo Dopo Il Big Bang." There's also the lush side of Jovanotti, with the romantic chamber orchestrations in "Una Storia D'amore," a cut that Paolo Conte could cover without blinking. Italia 1988-2012 accomplishes what the rapper and Brennan set out to in spades, further whetting the appetite for a future collaboration containing all -new material. ~ Thom Jurek, RoviRead Less
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