Forget the age of battling boy bands, the era of dueling young tenors is upon us. Hot on the heels of Josh Groban's dizzyingly successful, Ally McBeal
-fueled debut comes this first international release from African-born, Greek-raised tenor Mario Frangoulis. There are some clear parallels between Groban's debut and this Frangoulis release, but some distinctive differences as well. While Groban coated his slick, David Foster-molded pop sense with a veneer of classical respectability, Frangoulis has effectively turned the formula inside out. With similar classical training--but a few crucial years of experience on his American rival--Frangoulis treats the classics reverently but not slavishly, with the title track effectively turning an aria from Puccini's Tosca
into romantic Europop. Elsewhere, the international flavor is further expanded by three melody-rich songs ("Hijo de la Luna," "La Luna de Valencia," and "Naturaleza Muerta") by Spanish singer-songwriter Jose Maria Cano and a sing-along-ready take on the 1950s Neapolitan chestnut "Luna Rossa."
Like Groban, Frangoulis and producer Steve Woods also plumb the music of la cinema italiana for inspiration, turning Nicola Piovani's bittersweet Life Is Beautiful theme into the ponderous "Buongiorno Principessa," but faring better with a moody, dramatic take on Rota-Wertmuller's "Canzone Arribiata." The obligatory rock-pop cover here is the flamenco-inflected "Nights in White Satin", with Frangoulis joined in a bilingual duet with original Moody Blue Justin Hayward that's surprisingly effective. Less showy perhaps than Groban's debut, but a more nuanced and emotionally satisfying album overall. --Jerry McCulley