- In November 2008, Mario's daughter Ellisa and I met with
Sony Masterworks in New York to discuss future additions to her father's
CD catalogue. The meeting was long and very fruitful and we came away secure
in the knowledge that 2009 would indeed be a banner year for Mario Lanza
on Compact Disc.
- We were advised on arrival that Sony was planning a new
"Lanza Greatest Hits" CD for release in March 2009. I offered
some suggestions for the track listing and as most of you know, the CD
is now available online and in stores. The really great news came next
when we were informed that one of my CD proposals had also been approved
for development by the company. Sony was excited at the prospect of a new
Lanza compilation featuring a number of rare and previously-unreleased
recordings, and a release date was scheduled for September 29, 2009.
- With CD sales in a staggering decline over the past decade
40-50% by some estimates it has become more and more difficult
to persuade record companies to devote time and money to specialized projects
like this. I am delighted to report that Sony has done Lanza's recorded
legacy proud with this wonderful new compilation.
- The title chosen by Sony for the new CD is SERENADE
A MARIO LANZA SONGBOOK and it features 22 glorious performances, recorded
(with one exception) between 1949 and 1952 when Mario's voice was at it
its absolute best. 7 previously unreleased recordings are included here
along with several first-time-on-CD selections. All of the tracks, including
the previously issued material, have been reproduced from the original
master tapes (or closest available source) in some of the best audio quality
I have heard on a Lanza CD. Terry Robinson provided the record company
with photos from his private collection and as you can see from the beautiful
album cover, this will be a standout package in every way.
- The following are the songs featured on the new CD; selections
marked with an asterisk (*) indicate recordings previously unreleased by
the record company. I usually let the track listing speak for itself, but
this exceptional compilation warrants some comments:
- 1. MARECHIARE (RCA):
- This is Mario's terrific one-take recording for RCA,
making its debut here on a major Lanza CD. It's a classic recording in
every way and the perfect opener to the collection.
- 2. Toselli's SERENADE (*) (Coke Show):
- The immediacy of Mario's voice is the first thing that
hits you here and it's lovely to have this "new" recording included
on the compilation; exciting stuff indeed.
- 3. 'A VUCCHELLA (RCA):
- Was there ever a more sublime recording by Mario than
this? The Coke Show version is not too shabby either, but this is the stand-alone
classic, finally receiving a worldwide release on CD.
- 4. O SOLE MIO (RCA):
- This is Mario's first great performance of the song for
RCA recorded in 1949 and an appropriate selection for the new album.
- 5. DICITENCELLO VUIE (*) (Coke Show):
- Lanza fans have been waiting patiently for this to show
up on disc and here it is at last. Comparisons will undoubtedly be made
between this passionate performance and the more sedate version on the
great MARIO! CD, but at least we now have both recordings to choose from.
- 6. VALENCIA (Coke Show):
- I chose this in part because I wanted to highlight the
warmth and charm of Mario's spoken introductions. His famous "smile-in-the-voice"
is on full display here and for someone coming to the Lanza magic for the
first time (a goal of this new release) this brings an added appreciation
of the singer's many gifts. It's a fun track, too, sounding even better
than the cut on the "When Day Is Done" CD.
- 7. FENESTA CHE LUCIVE (*) (Coke Show):
- See comments for 5 above another rare treat for
the new CD and another one to draw comparison with the version of the song
on the MARIO! album.
- 8. LA SPAGNOLA (Coke Show):
- One more "most wanted" track, here receiving
its official release on CD; a great and joyous recording, with the singer
at the top of his game
- 9. SANTA LUCIA LUNTANA (*) (Coke Show):
- This is the radio show broadcast performance and is far
superior to the faster-paced alternate take included on the "Don't
Forget Me" collection. Lanza's singing is quite lovely here.
- 10. SIBONEY (Coke Show):
- This has a delightful spoken introduction by Mario, different
to the one he did on the radio broadcast of 12/31/51. It's great to have
it on a major release at last and again: presented in the best sound you've
- 11. NON TI SCORDAR DI ME (Coke Show):
- As I mentioned in the liner notes, Lanza really breaks
your heart with this performance. It sounds even better than earlier pressings,
- 12. GRANADA (RCA):
- I had hoped to present Take 2 of this recording here,
but the one pulled from the archives turned out to be identical to the
original version. It's a small mystery that I hope yet to resolve, but
no apologies necessary for including it on the list; this is the definition
of a Lanza classic and the most exciting performance ever of this great
- 13. PARLAMI D'AMORE MARIU (Coke Show):
- The swoon factor continues with this utterly romantic
recording, a perfect companion to the other tracks on the collection.
- 14. MUSICA PROIBITA (Coke Show):
- First heard on Jeff's great compilation, "I'll See
You In My Dreams," this lovely recording is now part of Sony's official
Lanza CD catalogue.
- 15. BESAME MUCHO (Coke Show):
- The warmth and immediacy in his singing here is striking
and it also features a charming (if rather goofy) introduction by Mario.
- 16. OH, NIGHTS OF SPLENDOR (*) (Coke Show):
- Another "new" track, this one taken from the
actual Coke Show broadcast; it's light and pleasant and offers the listener
a chance to cool down from all the vocal thrills that have come before.
- 17. MATTINATA (RCA):
- This is another stunning one-take Lanza classic, here
receiving a major label release for the first time.
- 18. SENZA NISCIUNO (*) (Coke Show):
- One more "new" recording to delight the fans
and one that will surely prompt spirited debate as to which recording of
the song ('52 or '59) is the better version.
- 19. AY-AY-AY (Coke Show):
- Sheer joy from start to finish, it's impossible to think
of it sung better than this.
- 20. NEAPOLITAN LOVE SONG (Coke Show):
- A Neapolitan song written by an Irishman how could
I not include this? This is Lanza at his romantic best and the pristine
remastering is glorious.
- 21. BECAUSE (*) (RCA):
- Here's one you probably weren't expecting to see on the
list, Mario's 1950 recording of this classic ballad with Ray Sinatra conducting
and (presumably) arranging. Mario re-recorded this song several months
later with Costa Callinicos on the podium and a completely different arrangement.
This release marks its official debut on record.
- And finally drum roll please
- 22. ARRIVEDERCI ROMA (RCA):
- One of the most requested of all hard-to-find Lanza recordings
finally finds its way to Compact Disc. This is the complete Italian/English
version of the popular song recorded in Rome in 1957 and it sounds exquisite.
Even the tenor's slight vocal wobble on that last note is barely noticeable.
One interesting bit of information did come to light while we were working
on this track. When the researcher pulled the master tape and accompanying
documents, the conductor for the session was revealed as Constantine Callinicos
and not George Stoll, who had previously been credited on a 45 single of
the song released back in the 1960s. Stoll had conducted the orchestra
on the movie version of the song a few months before, so it's easy to see
how the mistake was made. It's nice to finally give credit to Costa for
his excellent conducting on this recording, albeit a half-century later.
- So there you have it: 22 fabulous Lanza performances
on one marvelous new CD. I have been involved with many official Mario
Lanza compilations over the years, including two THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION
and THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION that topped the classical charts in
the U.K., but this wonderful new album from Sony Masterworks is in a class
of its own.
- SERENADE A MARIO LANZA SONGBOOK will be released
on September 29, 2009. So, in the words of another great Italian-American
singer, start spreading the news!
- DEREK MANNERING