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Il Volo Sings Morricone
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone

There have been various vocal compilations of Ennio Morricone songs over the years from a vast range of vocalists; the pick of them, inevitably, is when the Maestro himself was involved and my favourite of all was Focus, a collection sung by the great Portuguese singer Dulce Pontes. In tribute to the late genius is this collection from the trio of Italian tenors known as Il Volo, featuring involvement from the composer’s son Andrea. Eleven of the fourteen songs are based on film themes, mostly with lyrics added after the fact; many of these have been released in different form previously, often with the involvement of Ennio, though a couple are new. You know the type of sound here: the “crossover” classical variety (if you close your eyes while listening you will see Simon Cowell’s face imprinted inside your eyelids) and you get big, big arrangements featuring the trio’s huge voices on top of a gigantic-sounding orchestra. It all begins with “The Ecstasy of Gold”, featuring lyrics by Andrea – and any scepticism about the album is likely to be exacerbated as soon as you hear it. Andrea Morricone is a wonderful composer but it would seem that writing lyrics is not his strong suit (the opening couplet of “I will love you / From now until the end of time” does not inspire confidence that we are about to experience much poetic depth). While there is unlikely to ever come a time when I don’t enjoy listening to any version of one of cinema’s most extraordinary melodies, for a while as I was planning writing these words I couldn’t help but think there was something slightly vulgar about this one.

But… but… I’ve listened and listened to this thing. It didn’t just grow on me, it sprouted up like a giant beanstalk and I kept coming back for more. While I’m not sure Ennio Morricone would have been a particular fan of the glitz and schmaltz that’s over the thing from start to finish, it’s actually all arranged quite respectfully to give maximum exposure to the real key ingredient – his exceptional melodies. And really, there’s no doubt these boys can sing, and how. From Once Upon a Time in the West (“Your Love”), both main themes from Cinema Paradiso (“Se” and “Would He Even Know Me Now?”), and the “Nella Fantasie” variant on the oft-lyricised “Gabriel’s Oboe”, you hear million-dollar production values applied to these amazing tunes. My favourite pieces are the sublime “La Califfa” (again blighted by English lyrics – without fail these are better when they’re in Italian, probably because I don’t understand how banal the words are in that case – and oddly, this one sees the lyrics in full in English and then again in Italian – but goodness me, one of Morricone’s most belief-defyingly beautiful themes gets such a good performance, with a gorgeous violin solo played by David Garrett) and one originally written for Andrea Bocelli, “Conradiana”, based on the theme from Nostromo and “E più ti penso” which somehow blends together themes from both Once Upon a Time in America and Malèna (which was actually written specifically for Il Volo in 2011 by Morricone, and performed live by them with him conducting the orchestra at the time); and there’s a daring, chest-beating arrangement of the Europop classic “Se Telefenando” which brings a smile to my face every time. It is very much a “commercial product” than a “piece of art” but it’s a very entertaining one, even though it will not dislodge the Pontes or indeed Hayley Westenra albums from the top of the Morricone vocal album tree. It doesn’t all work (reframing “Here’s to You” as an epic romantic ballad was never likely to; “Amalia por amor”, written for the Pontes album, is so tailored to her voice it doesn’t really work without it); but when it does, it really does.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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