The songs on this disc don't really lend themselves to traditional critical scrutiny. And, as tempting as it is to take a series of shots at the open goal of Bocelli's musical style, it would probably be more useful to the millions out there who will no doubt buy this album to simply highlight a few pros and cons in the approaches taken.
Yes, most of the arrangements on Vivere would prove mildly offensive to many even if heard spilling from the long bar at the back of a cross-channel ferry. But there are some engaging, even captivating techniques in their arrangements which demonstrate distinct skill: textures are built up slowly and with patience, the harmonic variations verse-to-verse are sometimes imaginative, and the orchestrations - from the string writing to the Bond-esque glissando bass guitar - are occasionally classy.
What might prove disappointing, then, is that even in his 'best of' album, the singer himself frequently fails to match these effects. Despite some vocal 'moments' in 'Time to Say Goodbye' and 'Vivo per Lei', Bocelli demonstrates a general inability to deliver vocal lines with any sense of drama, colour or direction. The communicative talents of his guests Sarah Brightman, Céline Dion and pianist Lang Lang only serve to highlight this. For vocal contrast he resorts to a more closely-miked gravel-toned delivery, which in a crude edit at 2'26 in 'Il Mare Calmo Della Serra' is shunted jarringly up against his standard light vibrato mezzo-forte.
Despite this, the one or two pieces in which the basic musical texture is left to its own devices are the least troublesome. 'Besame Mucho', for example: a simple song in the Spanish guitar style which seems sublimely uncluttered and honest against the key-changes, jingly-janglies and beat machines that permeate the rest of the disc. But when decent musicianship is on show, as from the sensitive guitarist in 'Besame Mucho' and the evocative flautist in 'La Voce Del Silenzo', it's Bocelli who's shown up. Sadly though, those instrumentalists aren't credited - not even in the booklet's small print. --Andrew Mellor
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