Yes, it’s time once again to review a Putamayo production, the Italian Musical Odyssey. I guess some people must really enjoy these compilations, because otherwise they wouldn’t release so many of them. I’ve listened to them enough to realize that they’re not really my cup of tea. You know those compilations titled Classical Music For a Rainy Day or Mozart for Dummies, well, Putamayo releases could be called World Music For Dummies.
That’s not to say that the whole compilation is pointless. Just as Mozart for Dummies will obviously have some great works on it, so does Italian Musical Odyssey. I guess it’s more the idea of it than anything. Maybe I’m just falling for the cliche that a real music fanatic would do enough research to find the best Italian musicians and then go find each artist’s full length albums. Of course, many people in the United States don’t have much of any exposure to Italian folk music, so perhaps this compilation is a good place to start.
My favorite song on the album features a mezzo voice with acoustic guitar. The title of the piece is “Quante Stelle Nel Cielo Con La Luna” and it is performed by Lucilla Galeazzi. Not only can she sing, she’s also a musicologist. She blends a cosmopolitan style with rustic folk sounds. This is definitely the highlight of the recording.
Another notable song, “Il Battagliero”, is performed by Riccardo Tesi, who has been versed in the folk tradition of Tuscany as well as in Scandinavian, French, Basque, African and Indian music. He crosses genres by also playing jazz and classical. “Il Battagliero” is a popular dance called Ballo Liscio, which is a hit with older crowds in Italy. This dance was influenced by Strauss waltzes and helped popularize ballroom dancing there.
A final highlight of the compilation is a song called “Franziska” by the band by the name of Taken. They are from Northern Italy and blend contemporary sounds with traditional ones to create their own style. They are said to create songs with modern rhythms with Mediterranean, Latin, reggae and dub influences. But, “Franziska” has more of a Celtic flavor. And it features a fun accordion part that will make you feel as if you’re skipping down a narrow cobblestone road.
Overall this compilation is fine, I guess I just don’t agree with the idea of it. I suppose for world music dabblers, Putamayo compilations are perfect. They allow you to listen to many different bands through one CD. But, hopefully it will inspire you to go buy single artists’ releases too. That way you can be an official world music fanatic instead of just one of dabblers.