In the end, there can only be one. In the highlands of tenorship, that someone is Luciano Pavarotti. Having for decades refused to accommodate his label's requests for a first crossover album, Ti Adoro is Pavarotti's final bow to this commercially reasonable beleagerment, at the hands no less of "some very beautiful songs" which he apparently couldn't resist despite surprising prior and long-lived abstinence.
Unlike certain parallel efforts by his colleagues both tenor and soprano, Ti Adoro with nary a misstep deftly maneuvers that precarious tightrope which always stretches out at dizzying heights whenever a voice and public figure so famous you could trademark it is transplanted outside the very arena where such fame and fortune were built and established. More often than not, classics going mainstream doesn't work. More often than not, having an operatic superstar of the highest caliber doing Jazz, Lennon or other popular material fails. The reverse holds true as well - Benny Goodman doing Mozart's Clarinet Concerto was not one of the brighter concept briefs by his handlers though exceptions like Daniels and Marsalis do exists who can cross over back and forth without compromise or apparent effort.
Ti Adoro is exactly such an exception, too. Though there are issues, they are few and far between. They are completely overshadowed by the sheer magnificence of Luciano's fabled pipes which adapt their stylistic delivery to the material at hand with rare poise. Unlike José Carreras' Pure Passion [Erato 3984-27305-2] which was let down by an unfortunate clash between operatic affectations and unsuitable material, Luciano and producer Michele Centonze chose their material wisely. Most of it is quasi-operatic to begin with and hence expertly matched to Luciano's bigger-than-life persona. In Hans Zimmer's Gladiator theme, it turns in one of this record's highlights, becoming a true classic that seems taken from an actual opera though it's merely a supremely clever symphonic adaptation that takes a popular modern archetype and solidifies its resonance in our collective psyche even further.
The biggest surprise of Ti Adore comes at the very end in the form of "Caruso" for which Pavarotti magically slims down his voice and effortlessly navigates through his top register in lyrical rather than heroic fashion while Jeff Beck interjects subdued e-guitar solos. Completely ridiculous on paper, it works brilliantly on the record - true hypnotized-rabbit-in-the-headlights stuff that will endear the operatic superstars to the kind of audiences who wouldn't be caught dead inside an opera house.
Adoro's 13 tracks include Neopolitan waltzes with street-corner accordion intros; the title-track big-band swinger with its boogie-woogie walking bass, finger snap crowd, brass jives and harmonica slurs; the romantic "Notte" apparently straight out of a voluptuous Venetian love story; the oceanic swells of "A giochi addio" which need to be enjoyed at goosed volumes; the deluxe pizzaria delivery waltz "Buongiorno a te" and a bevy of other treats. While critics might decry Ti Adoro as classics-lite for the ignorant masses, I call it one of the rare and superior examples of a working crossover - and I shall spring "Il Gladiatore" on the unsuspecting masses at HE2004 next month and delight in answering questions about "what the hell was that, where can I get it?" with "Check out your local record store under Pavarotti, right between the Rap and Country-Western section. Luciano - he's the man. Let's roll, dog!"