MARIO BIONDI: SUN (Sony/Columbia)


At last, the album that everyone’s been talking about for many, many months gets an official release. Of course, preview copies and leaked tracks have been out there for some time and everyone who’s had early access to the music is unanimous. ‘Sun’ is set fair to become one of THE albums of 2013.

If you’re out of this Mario Biondi loop let’s backtrack a little. Biondi was born Mario Ranno in Catania, Italy in 1971. His father was an Italian pop star and young Mario quickly got involved in music – singing in choirs and local bands before he felt the pull of soul and jazz. He finally emerged from a jazz combo called Wasabee to make his solo debut with Schema Records in 2006. One of his songs the bassy, percussive, Latin-jazz tinged ‘This Is What You Are’ slowly but surely became a modern soul room staple and Biondi became an underground cult hero. The song’s attractions are many – a sophisticated mix of soul and jazz, its rhythms and changes are perfect for modern room connoisseurs. More, Biondi possess a wonderful, emotive voice. Comparisons have been made with Barry White, Jon Lucien and Cunnie Williams… I can hear traces of 60s blues and soul singer Long John Baldry; but the Biondi voice is unique and that song (in its original format and in all kinds of remixes) is still hugely popular, hence the demand for any new material. Since 2006, Biondi has released a number of albums (including an excellent live set) but nothing’s really fired the imagination like that aforementioned ‘This Is What You Are’…. till now. ‘Sun’ you see has a number of cuts that rival his early meister work.

First off there’s the wonderful ‘Shine On’. Like most of the album it’s co-produced by Bluey Maunick and Jan Kincaid of the Brand New Heavies was involved in the writing. And that gives clue to the soundscape; obviously, think Incognito meets the BNHs. This has the potential to become ‘This Is What You Are’ part 2. Then the stepping ‘What Have You Done To Me’ is every bit as good while a cover of Boz Scaggs’ ‘Lowdown’ has huge potential too.

That one features Chaka Khan and the whole Incognito crew and such is Biondi’s status that he can call on many big name guests. Elsewhere the album features Al Jarreau, Omar, Leon Ware and organ man James Taylor. The Jarreau collaboration is ‘Light To The World’ and on it Jarreau’s gentle, lithe tones are a perfect foil to Biondi’s robust baritone. With Italian lyrics ‘La Voglia La Pazzia L’Idea’ is excellent too. Haven’t got a clue what it means but the created atmosphere is intoxicating… the next best thing to a Mediterranean holiday without actually being there. Yes, great stuff… but hit any track and if you like your soul sophisticated and jazz-flavoured and if you’re a sucker for a soulful baritone you just can’t go wrong! Catch the ‘Sun’!

(BB) 5/5