The Perthshire based, Italian born, double bassist and arch humorist, Roberto Cassini, has certainly tickled our ribs over the years. Aside from being spectacularly funny on stage, he has penned numerous songs which manage to achieve what many “novelty” songs fail to do, that is, they are humorous and also listenable, to the extent that you can actually enjoy the musicianship involved. Cassani is usually accompanied by some fine musicians, in particular he has forged a fine relationship with the maverick Scots guitarist Owen Nicholson, but on Oh!…L’Amore! he plays all the instruments himself on an album which, in the main, eschews the humour as he delves into autobiography. The album does contain its fair share of Cassani’s impish words and light-footed playing but he does address some serious issues which have impacted on him including illness, migration and bereavements. He says that while he was somewhat reluctant to bare so much of his soul, he was encouraged to go for it by the legendary Danny Thompson whom Cassani worked with for some time last year.
So, Oh!…L’Amore is Cassani’s voyage from childhood in Milan to reflections on his current state of mind having buried his father. He opens with The Moon (La Luna) which includes some doo wop harmonies (alluding to the Marcels perhaps?), the silvery night time disc something of a talisman, comforting this “quite weird” child as it has accompanied him throughout his travels. He then drops in some cod reggae on Milano, Estate 1998, singing here in Italian much of the time on an effervescent little number before the downbeat Goodbye To Mamma allows Cassani to inject some pathos into his story. Over fractured guitar and a booming double bass, Cassani bids farewell to his adolescence and to his mother as he takes off for a new life in the UK which is represented initially by the brisk variété styled Kyer, 70 Maybank, set in Birmingham. It’s in Birmingham where he meets his wife to be and he recounts their romance on And I’m In Love, the one song here where Cassani’s tendency to joke overcomes the song.
With only nine songs on the disc, it’s obvious that Cassani can’t give us a blow by blow account of his years so he fast forwards somewhat for the remaining four numbers. I Found My Eyebrows On My Pillow addresses a cancer diagnosis he received and here his humour is perfectly placed. Dark, obviously, but pugnacious, as he rages against the illness and finds an upside as his family gather round radiating love. He celebrates his daughter on Lullaby For Ruby, a lovely song which manages the difficult job of sounding as if it came from a Disney film without any of the associated mawkishness (a whole album of songs such as this would surely be a great kids album). As the album grows in stature with these latter songs, Cassani delivers a wonderful salute to his late father on Ale’ Marino which seesaws between grief and joy. There’s the solemn description of the funeral (although Cassani still slips in some one liners) accompanied by a lively knees up as he imagines dad having a party in heaven boasting to St. Peter of his family as he opens bottles of prosecco. Cassani keeps the best for last as he delivers a summary of sorts on the title song. Here, he’s straightforward, no jokes, just an honest ode to life and love. If Cassani had a grittier voice, one could imagine this was a song by Paulo Conte.
Bravely personal, played with some brio and, at times, quite affecting, Oh!…L’Amore! deserves to be heard beyond the confines of the novelty songs Cassani is best known for.