Mantovani's Golden Hits/More Mantovani Golden Hits

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Britain's Dutton Vocalion reissue label has offered a fine series of remastered albums by Italo-British orchestra leader Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, generally known by his surname alone. The series has proceeded in something like reverse order of popularity, delving into such oddities as Mantovani's album of hymns and a stereo demonstration record before reaching the greatest-hits albums reproduced here. The CD reissue combines two LPs, Mantovani's Golden Hits (1967), compiling recordings from the peak of Mantovani's commercial influence, and More Mantovani Golden Hits, released in 1976. Mantovani and the genre known as easy listening or light music were considerably less popular by that time, and the second LP was a miscellaneous collection with misses and oddities like the bizarrely ornate treatment of Deep Purple (track 16), as well as later hits. The earlier album does indeed offer a good introduction to Mantovani and to some of the recordings that could be heard merely by turning on an FM radio in the 1960s, and that were, indeed, partially responsible for the spread of FM as a medium. The opening track, Charmaine, was Mantovani's trademark, with a definitive use of the cascading-strings technique intended to mimic the resonance of a cathedral; included here is not the original 1951 recording that installed Mantovani at the top of the charts, but a later and sonically superior recording of unspecified provenance with a splendidly strange alternation between the strings and a solo muted instrument, perhaps a saxophone. Other highlights include the various subtle uses of the accordion in The Moulin Rouge Theme, La vie en rose, and other "Continental"-style Mantovani hits. Part of what has brought about Mantovani's revival was his sheer imagination as an arranger (and good judgment in employing arrangers even more imaginative than he himself was). These recordings by and large are not Mantovani's most complex; for those you have to go further into the Dutton Vocalion series. But for those just coming to easy listening music this is an excellent starting point.

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