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1.4 Conte the songwriter

So in the early 60's Paolo Conte is still absorbing a number of diverse musical sensibilities and as a jazzman he has to his name some memorable performances and a few recordings. It is at this point that he begins to collaborate with his brother Giorgio on his first songs, songs intended for the Italian music market, to be performed by recording artists. The strength of these early compositions, which did not include any lyrics, was enough to land the two brothers a small publishing deal, and in 1964 they duly began a series of concerted efforts with other composers.

At first the results were promising but not completely reassuring, until in 1967 working on his own, Paolo came up with La Coppia piu' bella del mondo, an instant success and number one hit for none other than Adriano Celentano. From then on, with a new found confidence in his abilities, and a legal career fully launched, a second profession as a popular songwriter was gradually coming together. In fact the follow-up, again for Celentano, Azzurro, to which he also wrote the words, was not only a further success but actually destined for all-time classic status, having since then been put to use time and time again by countless performers.

The years to follow proved Conte able to compose with regularity, adding up to an impressive series of tunes, mostly collaborations with a well established lyricist by the name of Pallavicini, but also a few more with his own words. Equally impressive was the spectrum of artists making use of his talents from Patty Pravo and Enzo Jannacci through to Johnny Hallyday and Shirley Bassey. The musicality of these early pieces was quite straightforward as the intricacies of jazz were put aside in favour of the melodic and harmonic simplicity required by the new calling. The more he progressed, however, the more he would allow himself to introduce a little complexity, particularly in structure and chordal variety, using the sound theoretical knowledge at his disposal.

1.5 First Recordings

It is in 1972 that the composer suddenly disappears from the scene and for a couple of years nothing much is heard from him. Then in 1974, surprisingly enough, he resurfaces on an LP entitled noneother than Paolo Conte. He figures not just as the composer and lyricist of all tracks but as the actual performer as well. The story goes that having given a tape of rough pieces to a trusted producer (Lilly Greco) in order that the right singer might be found, the composer was persuaded to record them himself.

The album was made on the spur of the moment using the barest minimum in production and the most basic instrumentation: nothing more than a piano with the occasional addition of an accordion or perhaps a lone violin or guitar. Conte's characteristically gritty vocal line is still a bit shaky but an admirable candour always seems to carry him through in the end. This also adds to the coarse "folky" flavour of the album, as do the lyrics with their confined provincial tales set in bars and restaurants. They are also nicely counterbalanced by a few lighter, more airy, seaside settings that include already two of the lawyer's now most famous songs: Una giornata al mare and Onda su onda.