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Reviewers: Don Mather, Marc Bridle, Ian Lace, Peter Woolf, Colin Clarke

THE CHARLESTON ERA The Definitive Album: 25 Vintage Recordings, 1925-30.

Various artists.
ASV CDAJA5342 [AAD] [76'16]
  Amazon USA

I'd rather Charleston (Fred & Adele Astaire). Ain't she sweet (Gene Austin). I love my chili bom bom (Reg Batten). Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie). Yes sir that's my baby! (Ace Brigode). Everything is hotsy totsy now / I'm gonna Charleston back to Charleston (Coon Sanders Nighthawks). That's my weakness now (Cliff Edwards). Runnin' Wild (Duke Ellington). Charleston Charley (Birt Firman). Don't bring Lulu (Nathan Glantz). Black Bottom (Johhny Hamp). I wonder where my baby is tonight? (Jack Hylton). Pasadena (Al Jolson). I wanna be loved by you (Helen Kane). Five Foot Two Eyes of Blues (Art Landry). You're driving me crazy (Nick Lucas). Crazy Words Crazy Tunes (Johnny Marvin). The Girl Friend / The Varsity Drag (George Olsen). Crazy Rhythm / Miss Annabelle Lee (Whispering Jack Smith). I love my baby my baby loves me (Fred Waring). Charleston / Happy Feet (Paul Whiteman).  

The problem with starting with the most famous of all Charlestons, played by the inimitable Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra is that it could be downhill for the remaining 73 minutes. That's not quite true of this selection, a well balanced, representative selection of late twenties pop music. There is a fair smattering of well-known names to keep the interest going. Al Jolson gives his rendition of Pasadena, for example, and Duke Ellington and his Jungle Band round the disc off with a relentless, hyperactive account of Runnin' Wild. But, listening sequentially, by about track 7 its all beginning to sound a bit the same.

Some tracks promise more than they deliver, in particular I'd rather Charleston. The prospect of Fred and Adele Astaire as vocalists with George Gershwin on the piano is an appealing one. Gershwin is unbuttoned to the point of recklessness, however, and whatever Adele Astaire's talents were, singing clearly wasn't one of them.

Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards affords some respite from the prevailing band sound by accompanying himself on the ukelele, although it's impossible not to think of George Formby. Miss Annabelle Lee is a discovery, a real gem of its time, magnificently brought off by 'Whispering' Jack Smith.


Colin Clarke


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