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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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The Essential Collection

Avid AVC 915






1. My Funny Valentine
2. The Touch Of Your Lips
3. ĎSwonderful
4. Tenderly
5. Itís Magic
6. Honey
7. Letís Put Out The Lights (And Go To Sleep)
8. Iím In The Mood For Love
9. I Donít Know Why (I Just Do)
10. Paradise
11. Time On My Hands
12. Gimme A Little Kiss (Will Ya, Huh?)
13. Make Yourself Comfortable
14. Mr Wonderful
15. I Wanna Play House
16. My One And Only Love
17. Oh Yeah
18. And This Is My Beloved
19. Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)
20. The Other Woman
21. Experience Unnecessary
22. Johnny, Be Smart
23. Old Devil Moon
24. Itís Easy To Remember
25. Idle Gossip
26. Sometimes Iím Happy

1. A Tree In The Park (Peggy Ann)
2. Little Girl Blue (Jumbo)
3. Comes Love (Yokel Boy)
4. But Not For Me (Girl Crazy)
5. My Darling, My Darling (Whereís Charley?)
6. Lucky In Love (Good News)
7. Autumn In New York (Thumbs Up)
8. It Never Entered My Mind (Higher And Higher)
9. If This Isnít Love (Finianís Rainbow)
10. The Touch Of Your Hand (Roberta)
11. Homework (Miss Liberty)
12. Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered (Pal Joey)
13. Dancing In The Dark (The Bandwagon)
14. September Song (Knickerbocker Holiday)
15. A Ship Without A Sail (Heads Up)
16.. Lost In The Stars (Lost In The Stars)
17. Itís Got To Be Love (On Your Toes)
18. All The Things You Are (Very Warm For May)
19. Poor Butterfly (The Big Show Of 1916)
20. Letís Take An Old Fashioned Walk (Miss Liberty)
21. My Heart Stood Still (One Dam Thing After Another/A Connecticut Yankee)
22. Heís Only Wonderful (Flahooley)
23. They Say Itís Wonderful (Annie Get Your Gun)
24. My Ship (Lady In The Dark)

Sarah Vaughan was a jazz singer, although you might not guess it from some of the tracks on this compilation. The recordings date from the mid-fifties and many of them accompany Sarah with a lush string orchestra, which often makes her sound more a pop singer than a jazz diva. This tendency is accentuated by some awful songs, such as Honey, performed with coy backing vocals and an unsubtly cheeky arrangement (as well as some clunking lyrics like "Every day would be so sunny, honey"). Oh Yeah is equally embarrassing Ė an adaptation of a classical melody, with a male chorus shouting "Oh yeah!" at regular intervals. And I Want to Play House has a backing that unnecessarily underlines every phrase with screeching strings.

Some tracks are better Ė notably those which employ a jazz group instead of glutinous strings. Sometimes Iím Happy uses a big band conducted by Ernie Wilkins, allowing Sarah to float at ease on the swinging accompaniment. If This Isnít Love benefits from the similar punch in the backing. The first CD consists of the albums Make Yourself Comfortable and Wonderful Sarah, topped and tailed by two extra tracks. The second CD contains the two 1956 volumes of Sarahís Great Songs from Great Shows, with songs by such masters as Rodgers & Hart, Irving Berlin and the Gershwin brothers giving the vocalist more worthy material for her talents. Itís good to hear some very worthwhile but neglected songs - like A Ship Without a Sail, where Sarahís long-held final note is a wondrous thing.

Sarah Vaughan was nicknamed "The Divine One" because she could sing with almost heavenly perfection. Her intonation, improvisation and expressiveness were generally impeccable, and her vocal range was remarkable. Occasional slips (like singing "The dearest thing I know Are what you are" in All the Things You Are) are exceptions that prove the rule. Even on the string-laden tracks, Sarah manages to capture your attention with her professionalism and the quality of her voice. She shines on a slow, rather soupy ballad like I Doní Know Why (I Just Do) because she takes jazzy liberties with the melody.

At its budget price, this double album is worth buying but it hardly deserves its title of "The Essential Collection". An essential collection would include much more of Sarah singing with small jazz groups, as well as duetting with Billy Eckstine.

Tony Augarde


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