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Five Great Mario LPs To
Be Released In Boxed Set
More Exciting CD News From Sony Masterworks

By Derek Mannering
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 $40.
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 compilation.
"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 were:
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
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."
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 (LM-2607)
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!
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.
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