What a splendid idea by Naxos to release a CD containing
so many great songs recorded in just one year - 1930. So many songs
were coming out of America at that time anyway. The joy of the twenties,
when people were disregarding old customs and changing their way of
living, seemed filled with them and how they provided the soundtrack
to the changing times of nights out, short skirts, girls with short
hair and girls dancing even closer to their partners. Oh yes, they enjoyed
themselves in the ’20s. Not many saw the depression that was approaching
in the thirties but when that arrived it hit hard. We all came down
to earth with a resounding bump, making the title song of this CD that
much more moving because, when it was recorded, days were not all that
happy. Even America after the Wall Street Crash a year before these
recordings were made felt the cold blast of depression. But America
recovered. Happy days came back before war brought another shadow in
1939 and even during what must have been a disastrous time for so many
people there had been others who were churning out great songs for a
pittance. And what songs they were, and how we in Britain loved them.
I was only thirteen in 1930 but even at that impressionable age I would
avidly listen to these songs, many of these very recordings, on our
old gramophone that needed winding up first. We had a good selection
of records but such care had to be taken with them as they broke very
easily. We had a wireless too. I watched my Father build a Crystal Set
whilst I listened to the records on the gramophone and he would tell
me I would soon be able to sit and listen to dance music by just turning
a tiny switch – no records, no needles, no winding up. To have them
on one CD is, for someone of my generation, still thrilling.
So more "Happy Days Are Here Again" and I
am sitting back and finding myself drifting back to those days, long
ago days, when the soft sounds of Walter Donaldson playing "Little White
Lies" slowly washed over me for the first time. Like a lot of artistes
on this CD he is less known today so it’s good to hear him again accompanied
here beautifully by Clara Hanlon and The Waring Girls, every word clearly
heard, the music soft but distinct. Though I think I was a real romantic
even in 1930 when I first heard this recording, too romantic for my
age perhaps, but I do remember wondering just who had told those "Little
White Lies". Both then and now I have always liked songs that told
a story and the music always appears to be joining in the telling as
it does here.
I have always enjoyed the music of Paul Whiteman and
his orchestra, and when Jack Fulton recorded "Body and "Soul" with him
he did so with patent sincerity. "It Happened in Monterey" is another
Paul Whiteman number. I remember thinking at the age of thirteen: "What
did happen in Monterey?" and never being able to work it
"Beyond the Blue Horizon" is also a favourite of mine
and here I really appreciate George Olsen and his Music in this recording.
The way he leads his orchestra into sounding like a real train slowly
moving out of the station, smoke puffing from the engine to a place
"Beyond the blue horizon", tooting merrily until it disappeared … until
all you can hear are the toots getting fainter, is marvellous. As Olsen’s
vocalist Bob Borger sings, my over-active imagination is even now happy
to react dreamily to being on that train and imagine myself somewhere
"Beyond the Blue Horizon". I think you will too.
Maurice Chevalier sings "You bought a new kind of love"
with the orchestra conducted by Leonard Joy. I have to say Chevalier
was never a favourite. I suppose I have always appreciated the reason
why he was popular with so many and even that he does have a certain
something. Though I can never decide what that something is. This particular
track I truthfully listened with an open mind, but felt that he was,
as usual, more intent on making sure his accent was centre-stage rather
than he. Did this really endear him to the people?
I loved the University of Maine’s "Stein song"
even back in 1930 and still love this great song now hearing it again
for the first time in many years. Perhaps even more so when crooned
here by Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees. I can remember all
that time ago dancing round the room on my own to this. As so often
on these recordings, the accompaniment never swamps the singer, which
is how it should be. Vallee also sings "Betty Co-Ed" and this is music
to make you leap up and dance too.
I thought Ruth Etting’s version of the great number
"Ten Cents a Dance" a super recording, sung as only Etting could.
Again the arranger’s art is evident in how the singer is allowed to
be centre-stage even when the music of the band is louder. Ruth also
sings "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes" and brings just the right
amount of pathos in her voice.
Hoagy Carmichael’s matchless "Stardust" is equally
well sung, soft and soothing, by Isham Young who might be an unfamiliar
name for many. This has always been music to slowly dance to (with someone
special) and as I sit in my chair, eyes closed, I was dreamily imagining
myself gliding round as the music softly played. I was still in a romantic
frame of mind when the recording changed again and was delighted to
hear again "Bye-Bye Blues". How could I feel anything else
but romantic, when the voice of Frank Luther sang this as a quiet, slow
song with such feeling and the orchestra quietly playing along with
"You’re Driving Me Crazy" soon made me sit
up, though. This is a recording to make anyone start to hum gently along
with the singer, Carmen Lombardo with the inimitable Guy in charge of
the accompaniment, then as the music "revs up" a little, you
find yourself humming louder. It’s as though the music is telling you
to wake up, and no-one was driving you crazy at all. "Confessin’ That
I Love You", also from the great Guy Lombardo with Carmen on vocals,
is not a recording I remember as being that wonderful even then. However,
it was pleasant to hear and like all the others the accompaniment is
always in its right place.
"On The Sunny Side of the Street" has Ted Lewis
partly singing and partly speaking as he tells you a short story but
he’s in complete accord with the orchestra and so vocals making the
story almost believable.
To me there is only one Bing Crosby and never will
he be forgotten although perhaps "It Must Be True" is not
one of his most well known songs. Nevertheless, the magic of his particular
style of singing, which had made him so popular even in 1930, is here.
You feel, as you did right through Bing’s career, he is singing to you
alone. There will never be another Bing Crosby so far as I am concerned.
Al Jolson was, in his day, at least as big a star as Crosby and I enjoyed
his version of "Let Me Sing and I’m Happy". Many find his style
mawkish. I always felt it came from the heart with the impression that
he means every word. But then this is also a great Irving Berlin hit
- always a winner. As, of course, is "Puttin’ on the Ritz",
delivered here with all the snappy style so typical of Irving Berlin.
The music is of a quality that I was hardly aware of the first time
round, but now it’s easy to hear why songs like this last.
I sat for a while when the disc finished and my thoughts
drifted back again to those days when these hits were first recorded.
Would the people of that generation of which I too belong have ever
believed what marvellous advances in technology were going to happen
later? Technology that would make reissues like this one possible? I
warmly recommend this CD taken from those original, cumbersome records
just to hear the great difference resulting from this new technology.
It is amazing to me that after all those years these records, so cherished
then, could now be made to sound even better by David Lennick and yet
still retain that special magical way of playing, just sounding even
better. I was amazed how the different instruments of the accompanying
orchestras could be so easily recognised now, especially so when the
vocalists were singing and yet never sacrificing the words they sang.
In those days the musicians knew their place and these recordings reflect
I have over the years heard many different versions
of these old songs sung over the radio and television, many of them
hardly recognisable as the original versions. This disc is one to buy
and keep no matter what age you are. But as a reminder of the days of
1930, to hear what it was like in the musical world then, it cannot
I love this new disc depicting those good old songs
and look forward to many more.