CD Reviews

Music on the Web (UK)

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

[ Jazz index ] [Nostalgia index] [ Purchase CDs ][ Film MusicWeb ] [ Classical MusicWeb ] [ Gerard Hoffnung ]


Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



BUY NOW
Crotchet

FIRST LADIES of SONG

125 tracks by the 25 greatest American songstresses

1928-1952

LIVING ERA CD AJS500

 

 


      DISC 1
      ETHEL WATERS

      1. Stormy weather
      2. Am I Blue?
      3. Donít Blame Me
      4. Heatwave
      5. Moonglow

      Ethel Walters was a great entertainer who had a lot of jazz in her delivery and performance without being a jazz singer as such. On these tracks she is backed by The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra 1,3 & 5 and by a small group that Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. The recordings come from 1933 and 1934 and they sound younger than their 70 years.

      RUTH ETTING

      6. Love Me or Leave Me
      7. Iíll Get By as Long as I Have You
      8. Ten Cents a Dance
      1. Close Your Eyes
      2. Life Is a Song, Lets Sing it Together

       

      Ruth Etting was a celebrated torch singer in the 1930ís. An approximation of her life story was told in a great film called Love Me or Leave Me, which starred Doris Day in what was probably her best singing performance. I saw the film on TV a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. Ruth Etting was herself a cabaret star and an accomplished singer and these tracks recorded between 1928 & 1935 are good examples of her work. The backings are somewhat unremarkable.

      ANNETTE SHAW

      11. Loveable & Sweet
      12. Little White Lies
      13. We Just Couldnít Say Goodbye
      1. Moon Song, That Wasnít Meant For Me
      2. Lets Fall In Love

      3. Annette Shaw had a short but interesting career (1926 to 1934). She had a soft sweet voice and whist she was not a jazz singer, she was the ideal foil for the small jazz outfits of the day. These recordings, 1929 to 1933, demonstrate her work with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Adrian Rollini, Manny Klein, Jack Teagarden and many others. It is still true today that audiences like a vocalist with their jazz.

        IVIE ANDERSON
      4. It Donít Mean a Thing
      5. My Old Flame
      6. When My Sugar Walks Down the Street
      7. Mood Indigo
      8. I Got It Bad & That Ainít Good

      9. Ivie Anderson was one of the best vocalists that The Duke had; she really was a jazz singer with a light relaxed voice that was also used by him as part of the bandís ensemble sound. The backings, as you would expect from the Duke, have brilliant ensemble work and excellent soloists. Johnny Hodges was just one of a band of outstanding jazzmen who were members of the band in the period 1931 to 1941. There is a tenor solo from Barney Bigard on track 18, which is something of a rarity; he was usually featured on clarinet. All the tracks are classic Ellington and I enjoyed this section the best of anything so far.

        MILDRED BAILEY
      10. Rockiní Chair
      11. Squeeze Me
      12. Smoke Dreams
      13. Where Are You?
      14. Please Be Kind

      Mildred Bailey was another true jazz singer; some of the phrasing she uses here is very adventurous for 1937/38. Three of the five tracks here were recorded with the orchestra of Red Norvo, to whom she was married in 1933. They became known as Mr and Mrs Swing although their joint appearances had a comical touch, because Mildred was a large lady and Norvo was rather diminutive! Track 24 has the outstanding Roy Eldridge, one of the great trumpet players in jazz leading an ensemble that had Zutty Singleton on drums. Another very enjoyable segment!

      DISC 2
      CONNEE BOSWELL
      1. On The Isle of May
      2. Iíll Never Say Never Again
      3. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
      4. Deep In Dreams
      5. Sand In My Shoes

      6. Connee Boswell came to fame as part of the close harmony group, The Boswell Sisters. She had a pleasant singing voice and bravely overcame the handicap of being confined to a wheel chair through polio. The sleeve note says she was strongly influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, but to me she had a pleasant voice but was really a typical pop singer of the day. The orchestras of Victor Young, Ben Pollock, Woody Herman and our own Bert Ambrose, in a band that included Ted Heath and Sid Phillips back her. To keep this company she was obviously very competent at what she did, but to my ears she was really not a jazz singer.
         
        MAXINE SULLIVAN
      7. Loch Lomond
      8. Blue Skies
      9. The Folks Who Live On the Hill
      10. Say it With a Kiss
      11. When Your Lover Has Gone.

      12. Maxine Sullivan was a high quality jazz singer whose career lasted well into the 80ís. She was much in demand at jazz festivals and jazz clubs, because of her ability to work with any competent jazz rhythm section without the need for weeks of rehearsal, the mark of a true jazz singer. These tracks probably donít reflect the very best of her work, but they are all very musical, there is a good tenor solo by Babe Russin on Blue Skies. It is always a treat to hear The Folks Who Live on the Hill Again; both words and music are of a calibre that can only be described as exceptional. Say It With A Kiss has brief solos by Bud Freeman and Bobby Hackett and When Your Lover has Gone has the ultra neat John Kirby Band in support.

        FRANCES LANGFORD
      13. Iím In The Mood for Love
      14. I Feel A Song Coming On
      15. Blue Moon
      16. Easy to Love
      17. Serenade in Blue

      18. Frances was a radio star in the mid 30ís and she went on to star in many Hollywood films, probably the most notable of these was playing herself in The Glenn Miller Story. She had a melodious voice, better suited to Musicals than to the jazz scene. Her act strongly featured ballads like Blue Moon on which she performs here. It is on tunes like Easy to Love that the lack of jazz feel shows through.

        BILLIE HOLIDAY
      19. I Wished on the Moon
      20. What a Little Moonlight Can Do
      21. This Years Kisses
      22. Carelessly
      23. Iíll Never Be the Same.

      24. The sleeve note says that Billie Holiday was the greatest female jazz singer of them all, a statement many would take issue with, many including me would feel that Ella Fitzgerald must have that crown. Billie was a very important jazz singer and even to today some 45 years after her death she has imitators all round the jazz world! With Billie you always get wonderful backing groups, she would only work with the very best. On the record listen to Lester Youngís chorus on This Yearí Kisses, it is as near to the perfect chorus as you will ever hear. Teddy Wilson is on piano throughout which is a huge bonus to any recording, his immaculate playing makes him one of the most under-rated jazz pianists ever. Lester young is heard again on the introduction to Iíll Never be the Same before Wilson takes up the theme.

        LEE WILEY
      25. Time on My Hands
      26. Sweet and Lowdown
      27. Looking at You
      28. Any Time Any Day Anywhere
      29. A ghost of a Chance

      Lee Wiley was another singer who understood the jazz genre; she had the sort of husky, smoky voice that set the style for many other singers to follow. She knew exactly how to get the maximum out of each song in her repertoire. She was often featured with trumpet player Max Kaminsky and she is heard with his band on track 22, not the best song ever, even if it was written by G & I Gershwin, but a good performance.
      Bobby Hackettís fine trumpet playing is to be heard on the 1950 version of Any Time and on the ballad A Ghost of A Change, another superb jazz standard.

      DISC 3
      HELEN WARD
      1. Itís Been So Long
      2. Goody Goody
      3. The Glory of Love
      4. These Foolish Things
      5. You Turned the Tables on Me

      Helen Ward was the perfect vocalist for the Benny Goodman Band, Goodman was a musical perfectionist and Helen fitted the style of his band to perfection. She could swing with the best; she had a marvellous stage presence and was always popular with the fans that flocked to see and here Bennyís great band. On these tracks we hear plenty from the leaderís clarinet and from his well rehearsed precise but swinging band. With Jess Stacey on piano, and Gene Krupa on drums, the band was bound to swing and Helenís vocals combined with these musical talents just perfectly.

      DINAH SHORE
      1. Blues In the Night
      2. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
      3. Skylark
      4. Buttons & Bows
      5. Iíll walk alone

      6. Dinah Shore had 80 hit records between 1940 & 1957, she had an engaging personality and a very controlled and intimate performance, it gave the listener the idea she was only singing to them. Her delivery was unforced, relaxed and very attractive, when you listen to these five tracks it is easy to understand why she had so many hits. It is interesting to note that all these five tracks are of songs still heard regularly in the repertoire of other singers. Hoagy Carmichaelís Skylark is another of those super tunes that are unlikely to be bettered and will probably exist forever as a standard. Buttons & Bows was a million record seller in 1947 and Iíll walk Alone topped the hit parade in 1944.

        LENA HORNE
      7. Stormy Weather
      8. Out of Nowhere
      9. Where or When
      10. One for My Baby & One For the Road
      11. How Long Has This Been Going On?

      12. Lena was not only a top class singer, she was also very glamorous and her shows projected her enormous stage presence. She had a long career over 50 years and was always in big demand. Her good looks also enabled her to have another career as a film star; she was the first black artist to get a long-term contract with a major film studio. She starred in Cabin In the Sky for MGM and did much for black equality. All five of the tracks here are high quality songs, One For My Baby is generally thought of as a Sinatra classic, but Lenaís version is equally dramatic.

        HELEN FORREST
      13. Thanks for Evírything
      14. They Say
      15. Taking a Chance on Love
      16. I Had the Craziest Dream
      17. Iíve Heard That song Before

      18. Helen was one of the most successful of swing band vocalists, she first came to prominence with the Artie Shaw band, then when he disbanded she went on to the Benny Goodman band. Her association with Goodman was not a happy one and when the opportunity to join the Harry James band came along she jumped at the chance. She has a warm relaxed vocal style, with very accurate intonation and she knew how to make the most out of every song. On tracks 16 & 17 she is heard with the Shaw band, 18 is with Goodman and the remaining tracks with a James band that included strings. Track 20 has a classic Harry James trumpet intro. to a famous arrangement.

        ELLA FITZGERALD
      19. A-Tisket, A-Tasket
      20. Imagination
      21. My Happiness
      22. But Not For Me
      23. Someone To watch Over Me

      .
      "Man woman and child, Ella Fitzgerald is the greatest" said Bing Crosby and how right he was. There have been many great female jazz singers but nobody who was quite like Ella. She had everything diction, intonation, style, presence but most of all her delivery was produced in the same way as a jazz musician approaches his task, constantly seeking new ideas. Ira Gershwin said " I never realised how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them.
      On three tracks she is backed by large orchestras and on the last two by Ellis Larkins on piano. Personally I feel that it was in the company of a jazz trio that she gave of her very best, but with Ella nothing she did was bad, but some was sublime!

      CD4
      ANITA OíDAY
      1. Just a Little Bit of North Carolina
      2. Bolero at the Savoy
      3. And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
      4. Gotta Be Gettingí
      5. Tea For Two

      6. To aspire to sing with the Gene Krupa band was something, to then also be successful with the Stan Kenton band and return to have even more success with Krupa tells you that Anita OíDay is no ordinary vocalist. She has an individual and easily identifiable style, husky and tender in ballads but exciting and swinging in up-tempo numbers. She is a real jazz singer, I have seen her several times in live performances and she always with the best of rhythm sections (and gives Ďem hell if she doesnít get exactly what she wants!). The Krupa band of Ď41 included top jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge and is certainly no ordinary band. The Kenton band of í44 included another great jazz musician, Stan Getz, but he is not featured on either of the tracks on this record. Tea for Two has the Krupa band again in support. The band at that time included Don Fagerquist on trumpet, Charlie Ventura on tenor as well Teddy Napoleon on piano.
         
        PEGGY LEE
      7. Why Donít You Do Right
      8. Itís a Good day
      9. Golden Earrings
      10. Manana is Good Enough for Me
      11. Lover

      12. Peggy Lee began her long career with the Benny Goodman band and it continued for 50 years. She married Goodmanís guitar player Dave Barbour and moved on to a great solo career under his musical direction. Although she did not have a big range, she was a very polished vocalist and she had many hit records. She also possessed an excellent jazz feel. Listen for it on Lover.

        JOE STAFFORD
      13. Long Ago and Far Away
      14. I Love You
      15. Some Enchanted Evening
      16. Shrimp Boats
      17. You Belong to Me

      18. Joe Stafford was one of the worldís most popular singers in the late 40ís & 50ís. she has a distinctive voice and curiously sang with little vibrato, which dictates excellent intonation. Not really a jazz singer as such, but a good interpreter of popular songs, she began her career in the Pied Pipers, a vocal backing group in the Tommy Dorsey Band. Cole Porterís I Love You is another all time classic song and Some Enchanted Evening and Shrimp Boats are pop classics. You Belong To Me is still in most big band libraries.

        DORIS DAY
      19. Sentimental Journey
      20. Arenít You Glad Your You?
      21. I Got the Sun in the Morning
      22. Itís Magic
      23. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

      24. Doris Day learned her craft with Les Brown and his Band of Renown and she learned it well. Whilst she was not an out and out jazz singer, she had a great voice and was a brilliant song stylist. It was when I watched her performance in the movie Love Me or Leave Me again recently, that I realised what a great singer she is. Her performance on the great standard songs in the film is most impressive. What a good song Arenít You glad is, it would cheer anyone up for the rest of the day! The Les Brown band really swings on the intro to track 18 and itís Magic is a classic. Doris Day is much more than youíre average film star! Her performance on Bewitched is stunning, faultless diction, accurate intonation, beautiful vibrato control and faultless delivery.

        JUDY GARLAND
      25. Over the Rainbow
      26. Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart
      27. Embraceable You
      28. Iím Nobodyís Baby
      29. The Trolley Song

      July Garland died aged 42, unfortunately she was unable to look after herself in the way required and suffered erratic health. This was a great pity, because she was a brilliant performer who could light up a concert in no time at all. She was also an important film icon who shot to stardom as a teenager in the Wizard of Oz. All the tracks here are from her various movies, my favourite here is The Trolley Song which I have heard from the first time I heard it in 1944 (I was 8 at the time, even then I knew it was something special!)

      CD5

      KAY STARR

      1. The Wheel of Fortune
      2. So Tired
      3. Bonaparteís Retreat
      4. Side By Side
      5. Comes A-Long A-Love
      6. Kay was born on an Oklahoma Indian reservation in 1922. She had a very powerful voice and delivered her songs with a great deal of emotion. She could turn her hand to jazz as well as country and western, but it is as a pop singer she will be remembered.

        SARAH VAUGHAN

      7. Lover Man
      8. September Song
      9. Body & Soul
      10. Summertime
      11. East of the Sun
      12. Sarah Vaughan was up there with Ella Fitzgerald in the all time league of jazz singers. Like Ella she had a huge range, great timing, perfect intonation and she could swing like mad. Lover Man has Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker as the front line of the backing group. September Song is backed by teddy Wilsonís Quartet with Charlie Ventura on tenor. Jimmy Jones Trio backs body and Soul with Joe Benjamin Ė bass and Roy Haynes Ė drums. Summertime is backed by a big band led by Joe Lippman and East of the Sun has a band that includes Miles Davis, Benny Green and Tony Scott. This section gets my vote as the best representation of an artistís work.

        MARGARET WHITING

      13. Moonlight in Vermont
      14. It Might as Well Be Spring
      15. Now Is The Hour
      16. A Tree in a Meadow
      17. Far Away Places
      18. Like most of the best singers Margaret whiting learned her craft singing with the big bands in her case, Freddie Slack, Paul Weston and Billy Butterfield. Not a true jazz singer, but she had a strong distinctive voice and she knew how to sell a song. These performances really speak for themselves, but there is some nice Billy Butterfield trumpet on 11.

        PATTI PAGE

      19. The Tennessee Waltz
      20. All My Love
      21. Would I Love You, Love You, Love You?
      22. Mockiní Bird Hill
      23. I Went to Your Wedding
      24. Patti page sold more records during the 50ís than any other female vocalist, some 60 million! She had very clear diction and she was the first artist to overdub harmonies with herself, setting the style for pop songs for a decade.

         

        ROSEMARY CLOONEY

      25. Half As Much
      26. When Your in Love
      27. Come On-A My House
      28. Tenderly
      29. Youíll Never Know

      Rosemary Clooney was a very great singer, although for most of her career she was persuaded by her management to sing second rate songs in the context of arrangements she had no time for. It was not until the 70ís that she re-emerged as a jazz singer and got down to doing the sort of work that she really wanted to. Listen to these tracks there is no doubt about the quality of the voice, but to my mind itís only in the last one where she is recorded with the Harry James band where she is really at her best.
       
      This set of five CDís are well worth listening to, some of the items are familiar, some less so, but all are full of interest and truly tell the story of 25 of the most outstanding lady vocalists in the period 1928-1952. It is interesting to think what a similar record of 25 other female vocalists who were around at the time would be like. It would not be too difficult to name them!


    Don Mather

     



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

 

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Prťalable Arcodiva
British Music Soc.
CDAccord
Hallť
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter


Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months


You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: