- In my recent announcement about the new Lanza product
from Sony Masterworks, I mentioned that 2009 would be a banner year for
Mario Lanza on Compact Disc. I am delighted to inform you now that on November
10, Sony Masterworks will add to their burgeoning Lanza catalogue with
the release of 5 wonderful Mario Lanza LPs on CD, this as part of their
"Original Album Classics" series. Each album in the box-set will
have its own disc in a mini-sleeve that replicates the original LP and
its artwork. The retail price for the 5-disc Lanza set will be approximately
- Sony and I briefly discussed this project during our
meeting in New York last year and the idea was subsequently developed while
we were working on the great new SERENADE SONGBOOK CD. The goal was
to compile a 5-album set that would showcase Mario's marvelous crossover
range: operetta, love songs, operatic arias, Neapolitan songs, and Christmas
Carols. Mario's RCA album catalogue offered a wide selection to choose
from but it was clear that some LPs would not be a good fit for the new
- "Serenade" (movie soundtrack) and "A Cavalcade
of Show Tunes" would have been ideal for the set, but both are currently
available on CD along with their original artwork and I saw no point in
duplicating them here. Likewise, the two Neapolitan collections, "Mario!"
and "Lanza Sings Caruso Favorites" are each available on several
CDs, as are the Christmas Carols collections. "For the First Time"
also falls into that same multi-disc category. I also passed on "Lanza
on Broadway" and the 1959 "Student Prince" albums. The reasons
for omitting the former should be obvious. Those who like it (and there
are some) would claim it was reproduced at the wrong speed/pitch (which
it is not), while most everyone else would have something critical to say
about it; a no-win situation if ever there was one. Much of that same thinking
can be applied to the 1959 "Student Prince" album, though if
it does surface on a future "Living Stereo" CD, watch for those
'wrong pitch' complaints to surface again (and once again, they'll be wrong).
- In the end, the 5 Lanza albums we selected for the series
- Disc 1: THE STUDENT PRINCE
and Other Great Musical Comedies (LM-1837)
- Yes, I realize this soundtrack recording is currently
available on a BMG CD, but I have never cared for its slight stereo-enhanced
sound, and the operetta on the accompanying album, "The Desert Song,"
is really dated. This is the original million-selling, reverb-free mono
LP with a much better supporting selection of classic love songs. It remains
the gold standard of Mario Lanza albums great cover, great singing,
great songs, great everything and the perfect introduction to Lanza's
artistry. This LP was a particular favorite of Elvis Presley, as was
- Disc 2: THE TOUCH OF YOUR
- We considered four LPs here to represent Lanza's great
recordings of romantic ballads: "The Magic Mario," "A Kiss
and other love songs," "If You Are But A Dream" and "The
Touch of Your Hand". All are terrific albums but most of the selections
on the first three LPs are widely available on disc, so the clear winner
was TTOYH. Five tracks debut here on CD, including one of my own personal
favorites, the joyous "Day In, Day Out."
- Disc 3: SEVEN HILLS OF ROME
- This was probably the only chance I would get to have
this album released on Compact Disc and it adds a nice "Italian"
touch to the set. Five tracks here also appear for the first time on an
official Lanza CD, including the movie's title song, the amusing "Imitation
Sequence" and the RCA "Earthbound," which I know a lot of
fans really like. Great LP artwork, too!
- Disc 4: I'LL WALK WITH GOD
- In the absence of a Christmas Carols LP, I recommended
this popular collection of songs of faith and inspiration. No "new"
tracks on this one, but it's an impeccable compilation and another of Elvis'
favorite Lanza albums. (Priscilla Presley commented on this during a 2007
TV interview with Larry King.) Perhaps we should alert Elvis fans to this
fact and help boost sales!
- Disc 5: MARIO LANZA SINGS
HIS FAVORITE ARIAS (LM-2932)
- Maria Cocozza and Terry Robinson went on the road with
RCA in 1967 to promote this album of operatic favorites drawn from the
Coke Show series. Seven of the tracks featured here are new to CD, including
outstanding performances of arias from "Andrea Chenier" and "La
Gioconda." Mario never did record an operatic album proper and this
was the obvious choice to complete the new collection.
- All in all, this has been a truly remarkable, one-of-a-kind
year for Mario Lanza's legacy on Compact Disc. Between March and November,
when this new collection reaches the stores, a total of seven Lanza CDs
will have been issued by Sony Masterworks. That is an abundance of riches
and our thanks to Sony should be expressed in the best way possible: by
buying and vigorously promoting this wonderful new product at every opportunity.
- DEREK MANNERING