Vitamia (Le Chant du Monde/Harmonia Mundi, 2011)
In 2009, Gianmaria Testa’s live CD Solo dal vivo oozed charm. The Italian singer-songwriter shared a collection of songs about Italian life in his gruff voice, accompanied by electric, acoustic guitars, bass, saxophone and an Indian harmonium. Testa now returns with a studio album, Vitamia with bigger, sometimes grittier arrangements thanks to triple electric guitars on a few of the tracks. The gamut of emotions takes on a wider spectrum too and this time, the musician includes interpretations to all of his Italian text (which wasn’t present with the live CD).
‘Lele’ with it’s with its strings, piano, guitar, accordion wades in lush melancholy in which the singer honors a beautiful and strong woman. A similar instrumental arrangement accompanies the uplifting romantic song, ‘Love’s Familiarities,’ which reminds me of Italian romantic comic movies. This is easily my favorite song on the recording, and I wish that all the songs were lush acoustic. My least favorite is the cynical ‘Kind Regards’ with its crunchy power guitars.
In turn, ’18 Thousand Days’ recalls a Tom Wait’s ballad sung with aching vocals. ‘Aquadub,’ depending on the listener’s mood could sound like a childhood rhyme or spooky, with Testa’s whispers floating over a glockenspiel. ‘Half of Nothing’ features jazz drums and piano; despite the text, Testa sings with tenderness and irony. The trombone adds an elegant touch.
Overall, I prefer Gianmaria Testa’s 2009 live recording which hung together better than the new studio album. I feel that the musicians experimented too much and added more guitar power than was necessary on Vitamia. Not everyone will agree with me, and especially not guitar lovers or people seeking grittier singer-songwriter material. But for me, with my fried nervous system, I prefer something lush such as the song ‘Love’s Familiarities.’ And that’s a song I could listen to all day. I prefer that music uplifts my soul and not take me to darker places of the soul or jar my nerves with edgy guitars.
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.