Andrea Cassese , born and bred in Naples, releases his debut album ‘Oltre Gli specchi’ on the SeltzRedordz label and a worthwhile effort it is too.

Singer-songwriters make up the mainstream of Italian popular music as opposed to bands in the Uk or Stateside so there is fierce competition to get anything recorded for vinyl or cd never mind released, but by due to a series of local competitions won, perseverance and help from local musicians, even though at 29 he is no spring chicken, finally his dream has come through.

Sometimes too much is thrown into these 10 songs as would be understandable for a debut, usually lyrically but also musically with maybe too many classical guitar flourishes, overcomplicating matters, making things too serious when looseness works better. Yet too little attention is paid to the basic rhythm section,(bass and drums as nearly every Italian artist seems to underestimate I might add) , a direct route to the heart and soul of the first time listener.

Especially lyrically, even though all is very poetic, as is the want of Italian singer songwriters, it can be a bit too clever for its own good distancing the listener when it gets too introverted; sometimes as in ‘Le dite nei bar’ being even a bit embarrassing whilst at other times, the words are enchanting and intelligent as in ‘Oltre gli Specchi’ and ‘L’Ombra Del Muro’.

Andrea has a light, delicate voice like Fabio Concato, very clear if maybe too one dimensional at times. In the title track there is double tracking raising the bar somewhat and even if this gives the song a Franco Battiato feel(the whole song in general, different in execution and style(bass to the fore in the mix) is an ode to Battiato), it’s very pleasant and would suggest that more experimentation with vocal sounds and effects would benefit future recordings.

What I find very positive on this album is the general high standard of the music, the arrangements in general, and many wonderful individual instrumental performances on nearly every song. There are interesting chord changes and structures unusual for many Italian singer songwriters who have a more pedestrian even bland approach to such things. Andrea also, as in the style of the late great Lucio Dalla, likes to add a musical riff or link in the song that might not be part of the basic chord structure, but is what the listener will be humming at the song’s end such as in ‘Gli Alberi Fanno Il Vento’, ’Tapis Roulant and the excellent ‘Ritratto’ .

To sum up the noteworthy instrumental moments I would say the excellent trumpet by Gianfranco Campagnoli in ‘Ritratto’ played à la Chet Baker, almost restrained but full of intensity. The use of the ‘manouche’ guitar by Oscar Montalbano on ‘La Goia Del Improvisto’ is fabulous and again the trumpet on the track with a sublime hook adds just the right texture. Delicate and captivating piano by Elisabetta Serio on ‘Tapis Roulant’. Also some very nice pedal steel guitar touches on ‘Lombra Del Muro’ by Ferdinando Ghidelli.

All in all a promising debut; Andrea Cassese can easily cut himself a place in the Italian popular music world but I think he may have a wider appeal too. It’s time to go ‘”oltre gli specchi” ,”beyond the( bedroom) mirrors” and hit the streets.

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