Bonbons from Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli

"Amore" (Sugar/Decca)

* * *

Just in time for Valentine's Day, the Italian tenor turns his gossamer vocal cords to uber-romantic songs delivered mostly in the Romance languages, with a couple in English tossed in for good measure.

Unlike a lot of classically minded singers who hope to broaden their audience -- and their bank balances -- Bocelli has a good feel for pop material. He won't supplant Elvis with his reading of "Can't Help Falling in Love," but his easy handling of syncopated rhythms and the occasional delayed phrasing a la Sinatra show he's not merely reciting notes on a page.

He's squarely in Josh Groban territory on "Amore" (due in stores Tuesday), no coincidence given the help he gets from Groban's mentor, superstar producer-arranger David Foster. "Amapola" is as ideal a romantic bonbon as anyone could hope for, Bocelli's delicate tone and dreamy delivery perfectly conveying the sense of longing.

Sometimes the orchestral backing slathers on too much syrupy sweetness; he's most effective in simpler arrangements with acoustic guitar and percussion with a subtle Latin jazz-pop slant.

A couple of big-name guests -- Christina Aguilera and Stevie Wonder (pretty much evident only for his harmonica work) -- bring more marquee value than musical enhancement, but it's really Bocelli's show, and in the woefully thin field of adult pop, he finds himself solidly at home.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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