Rarely has a musician chosen such an apt stage name than Zucchero, whose name means “sugar” in Italian. This is pop balladry of the most sugary kind, and individual mileage will vary depending on your personal tolerance for developing aural diabetes.
Don’t let the major-label hype trick you; his handlers would like us to bite at the hook that Zucchero’s Chocabeck is to Italian rock what Bruce Springsteen represents in America. It’s a weak comparison, and no matter how much work Don Was and Brendan O’Brien put into beefing up the production, strip it all away and you’re left with mere second-rate stadium bombast.
Perhaps the bulk of its appeal lost in trans-Atlantic translation. Some of the best songs are the ones are the ones Zucchero doesn’t even bother translating: “Otre Le Rive” does manage to echo the essence of Springsteen, though it fails to develop that sound into anything uniquely his. This is stadium rock for the same people who idolize David Foster, and who think Josh Groban produces operatic pop at the same level as Pavarotti. Chocabeck is chock full of melodies that fail to resonate coupled with vocals that fail to define Zucchero as anything but an Italian-rock curiosity. There’s certainly nothing on this album that suggests this mediocre dreck is going to be the breakthrough in America his previous twenty albums weren’t.