With a career spanning over 30 years, Helmut Lotti has sung almost everything that anyone can sing: Dutch variety and rock, classical music, African, Latin American and Russian music, Elvis songs, pop classics, swing, soul and American standards. And all of this with his Golden Symphonic Orchestra. About everything that Helmut sang changed to gold or platina, both at home and abroad. At the moment, the counter is on more or less 14 million sold albums.
And now, Lotti’s newest album,Italian Songbook, has been released. This masterpiece fits Helmut’s rich oeuvre like a glove. Italian Songbook consists of a collection of Italian hits that Helmut interprets in his own romantic way, as ever arranged for a large orchestra. And as ever, the musical choices are very diverse and surprising. Still, there is a clear thread running through the album: melody. Helmut excels in searching for, finding and singing rich melodies, and Italy gave the world the richest melodies of all.
Italian songbook breathes romance and warmth from start to finish. In almost every song, the perfect balance between warm intimacy and an orchestral grandeur is striking. It turns this record into an old-school charming and touching listening experience. Moreover, the repertoire is very recognizable, but because of its personal approach of vocals and orchestrations, it remains crispy at all times.
Helmut reverts to what he himself loves to hear. Io Che Non Vivo, for example, is the original version of You Don’t Have to Say you Love Me, which Helmut sang along to as a child with Elvis Presley. Similarly, you will get to hear sixties and seventies hits by Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, like I Who Have Nothing (Uno Dei Tanti), This is My Life(La Vita) and Never Never Never (Grande Grande Grande) in their original language, Italian, with arrangements that really bring out their contents.
In 1964, Bobby Solo, the Italian answer to Elvis Presley, made musical history by singing Una Lacrima Sul Viso. Together with orchestrator Walter De Loose, Helmut turned it into a one tile slow, sensual and intimate. Because of his love of Golden Oldies and frivolous crooner songs, Helmut decided to also record a dual language version of the fifties hit Piccolissima Serenata. And in the mesmerizing Al Di Là, the warm crooner Helmut Lotti is omnipresent: here Helmut sounds like a cross-over between Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, but in Italian.
Obviously, traditional music couldn’t be absent from the album. Helmut sings Torna A Sorriento, ‘O Marenariello and La Spagnola, three famous classic songs, using guitar, accordeon and mandoline in a very romantic arrangement. Yet, the songs do not lose their power. Less well known, but certainly equally beautiful is a Tiroler Waltz from the North Italian Alps: La Villanella. Helmut turned this into a romantic slow.
Also a traditional, but completely different in character, is Bella Ciao. A controversial, renowned, frequently used and often abused beautiful Italian folk song with obscure roots dating from the eighteenth century. In all the different textual versions the song has known there is, however, one consistency: people sing it when they battle injustice, no matter what form that injustice takes. And that’s why Lotti’s version sounds solemn, dramatic and glorious.
As always Helmut makes his mark on the album by writing some of his own lyrics and complete songs. Inspired by Italian gaiety, the Italian folklore and Dean Martin, Lotti composed and wrote the swinging and funny Tarantella, influenced by the Italian folk dance often present at weddings. Check The Godfather!
The finale of Italian Songbook has that typical Lotti touch as well: Helmut wrote English lyrics to the beautiful Neapolitan traditional Te Voglio Bene Assaie: a bittersweet tale of an unforgettable but short-lived holiday romance. Helmut croons the song the way Elvis would have done so, only the sentence ‘io te voglio bene assaie’, stayed Italian. This sentence, that basically means ‘I love you’, is also the first sentence of Lucio Dalla’s refrain of Caruso, the world wide hit that started Lotti’s classical international success in 1995. And with that, we have come full circle.