Often known by his last name alone, Mantovani was actually Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, the Venetian-born of a La Scala concertmaster. He moved to England early in life. The music collected on this fascinating disc, one of the most successful in the Guild label's fine series of releases devoted to mostly British light orchestral music (or, in American parlance, easy listening), dates from the 1940s, with a few tracks from the year 1950. This makes it earlier than the LPs that carried the trademark Mantovani sound with its lush cascades of strings. He started out as a British bandleader who, like his competition, performed and arranged various types of material. One interesting aspect of the program, however, is that those who enjoy that style will be able to see it emerging in many of the romantic tracks here (for example Love Is a Song, track 3). Another very early example of a feature that later became common in easy listening music -- the wordless chorus -- appears in The Choristers, track 21, from 1940. Siesta: A Rumba Serenade (track 8), though not a specific example of the cascading-strings style, is a composition by the arranger who primarily developed it, Ronnie Binge. Much of the music has a Spanish tinge, and it stretches over a long enough period of time that this can't be put down simply to seasonal fads. Mantovani was attracted both to Spanish music and to Latin American styles, particularly the tango -- in evidence not only on pieces called tangos but in Mexican Starlight (track 4). That piece was credited to one Pedro Manilla, but the name turns out to have been a pseudonym for Mantovani himself; the album contains several original compositions, under both that name and his own. Another especially interesting work, even if it is mostly interesting for its failures rather than its successes, is the eight-minute Concerto in Jazz, composed by Donald Phillips, that closes the album. This work is clearly modeled on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and just as clearly its composer had nowhere near Gershwin's confidence in transferring jazz rhythms to an orchestral setting. It's intriguing nonetheless, and the entire album makes a great choice for a drive or a party. For Mantovani fans, who especially in the U.S. will probably never have heard this material, it's a must. The sound, as was often true in the later years of the 78 rpm era, is surprisingly clear.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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