What, In Your Opinion, Are the Best and the Worst of Mario Lanza's 1959 Albums?
In the last six months of his life, Mario Lanza was unusually active in the recording studio, making no fewer than five albums for RCA Italiana between April 1959 and September 1959. Unfortunately, this period also coincided with a decline in the tenor's health and energy, as he battled a number of serious ailments, including phlebitis, a possible heart attack, and double pneumonia. Not surprisingly, Lanza's singing was at times compromised by his physical condition. In addition, the recording quality on these albums was (inexplicably) substandard, and a far cry from the mostly excellent sound engineering achieved on Lanza's 1958 album of Neapolitan songs, Mario!, recorded at the same studios the previous December.
With the exception of the 1956 Lanza On Broadway, the tenor's five 1959 LPs divide his admirers like no other concept albums in his recorded legacy. To some, the best of these final recordings represent a new-found poignancy in Lanza's singing, while to others these constitute dreary affairs that are best avoided. This essay includes my own assessment of Lanza's final albums, but what is your opinion of these recordings? Which is the best and which is the worst of the tenor's 1959 output? ----Derek McGovern.