Musings on the Caruso Favorites Album by Mike McAdam
In these particular selections Mario does sound tired, ill and even a little strained, i.e: vocal differences immediately noticeable to those who recognize his voice instantly - anywhere - and in all its shades and moods. He acquits himself quite well though in most of these Caruso numbers but, again, the boffins and control room technicians at RCA or BMG have not done well by our lad.
Some selections sound wonderful (notwithstanding Paul Baron's attempts to overpower a tenor of substantial vocal power), others don't! There are some noticeable differences between the LP and CD versions.
Pour Un Baiser, Senza Nisciuno and Vaghissima Sembianza (as heard on the stereo LP, LSC 2393) are well recorded with Mario well up front and good orchestral balance (albeit, an unimaginative placement of instruments).
Serenata and one I have long waited to hear, Ideale, are in a class by themselves.
Pour Un Baiser - a little short in length but haunting and vocally 'splendorific'. Lovely middle-voice ending.
Senza Nisciuno - I concur with Mr. McGovern's sentiment, 'achingly sad'. Full of pathos and emotion but with Lanza's illness-diminished lung power evident in the final notes.
Vaghissima Sembianza - Oh, what a showpiece. Operatic and demanding with some great high notes (As).
L'Alba Separa Dalla Luce l'Ombra (as heard on the CD 'The Great Caruso & Caruso Favourites') suffers from some high-end vocal distortion akin to someone scraping the edge of a knife softly across a porcelain dinner plate. Pity, because it is a lovely song with a hummable melody that sticks with you through the day. Since distortion is a common complaint with respect to this particular CD, then someone at RCA/BMG should be pilloried post-haste!
The other 'from CD' selection here, Luna d'Estate, is well sung in a baritonal way and suffers only marginally from distortion. Great phrasing and a lovely ending.
The five 'Caruso Favourites' represented on the 'Encore' CD are beautifully engineered and distortion-free. Songs such as Santa Lucia, Vieni Sul Mar and the perennial tenor favourite Musica Proibita show off Lanza's by-then-darker voice quite well. He is subdued but he acquits himself well in these readings. Serenata and one I have long waited to hear, Ideale, are in a class by themselves.
The five 'Caruso Favourites' represented on the 'Encore' CD are beautifully engineered and distortion-free.
Caruso's Serenata - a difficult song to sing and Mario does himself proud.
Ideale - a wonderful piece of singing, surprisingly baritonal and a difficult one to leave off the CD deck for very long.
Incidentally, it's interesting to compare the '52 Coke Musica Proibita with the rendition offered here. Compared to Mario's 'Caruso Favourites' version, the '52 Coke Musica Proibita is somewhat untutored but full of those youthful, inimitable Lanza touches. Using his 'soft pedal' immediately after a flurry of full-throated singing is a little undisciplined, even for the younger Mario. I get the feeling he didn't get to practice this number too much before recording it. His '59 reading is sung 'full-pedal-to the-metal' but in a mature and disciplined manner. After three or four playings I find I quite prefer this version.
Note from Derek McGovern: Mike McAdam's fascinating series of audio "cobblings" (including remastered versions of some Lanza rarities, as well as the recording of "L'Alba Separa dalla Luce l'Ombra' mentioned above) can be heard here. Any questions for Mike can be directed to him at our forum.