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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Definitive Album. The 26 finest original recordings 1924-30

Retrospective RTR 4150




  1. Charleston - Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra
  2. Pasadena - Al Jolson; Isham Jones and His Orchestra
  3. I Love My Chili Bom Bom - Reg Batten and The Savoy Havana Band
  4. I'm Gonna Charleston Back To Charleston - The Coon-Sanders Nighthawks
  5. Sweet Georgia Brown - Ben Bernie and His Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra
  6. Don't Bring Lulu - Nathan Glantz and His Orchestra, Chick Straun (vocal)
  7. Yes Sir, That's My Baby! - Ace Brigode and His Fourteen Virginians
  8. Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue - Art Landry and His Orchestra, Denny "Dinty" Curtis (vocal)
  9. Everything Is Hotsy Totsy Now - The Coon-Sanders Nighthawks
  10. I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight? - Jack Hylton and His Orchestra
  11. I Love My Baby, My Baby Loves Me - Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians
  12. That Certain Party - The Goofus Five
  13. Charleston Charley - Birt Firman and His Carlton Hotel Dance Orchestra
  14. The Girl Friend - George Olsen and His Music; Fran Frey, Bob Borger, Larry Murphy (vocals)
  15. Black Bottom - Johnny Hamp and His Kentucky Serenaders
  16. I'd Rather Charleston - Fred and Adele Astaire, George Gershwin (piano)
  17. Ain't She Sweet? - Gene Austin; Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra
  18. Crazy Words, Crazy Tune - Fred Rich and His Hotel Astor Orchestra, Johnny Marvin (vocal)
  19. Miss Annabelle Lee - Whispering Jack Smith; Bert Ambrose and The Whispering Orchestra
  20. Varsity Drag - George Olsen and His Music, Fran Frey (vocal)
  21. That's My Weakness Now - Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards
  22. I Wanna Be Loved By You - Helen Kane; Leonard Joy and The Victor Orchestra
  23. Crazy Rhythm - Whispering Jack Smith; Carroll Gibbons and The New Mayfair Dance Orchestra
  24. Happy Feet - Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
  25. You're Driving Me Crazy - Nick Lucas and His Crooning Troubadours
  26. Runnin' Wild - Duke Ellington and His "Jungle Band"

The title says it all, though it’s clearly a personalised view of the ’26 finest’. Others will have their say, but unlike the habitual lure of positing a counter proposal of the 26 of my favourites, I’ll take this selection at face value. It’s certainly been compiled with a wide ranging spirit.

Whiteman leads off in a startlingly vivid transfer of the song that launched a few hundred musical ships, the title track as it were, and an epoch evoking tune. Jolson follows as he must, but there’s an unusual entrant at number three in the form of Reg Batten and The Savoy Havana Band’s I Love My Chili Bom Bom; Billy Mayerl was the pianist but you don’t hear much of him. As well as strong vocal presences there are strong instrumental ones. No personnels are given in the booklet but the trumpeter of The Coon-Sanders Nighthawks was Joe Richolson and plays a fine, strong lead. Gene Austin plumps for some hick vaudeville and comic effects in the stop chorus, and there’s a slap-tonguing saxophone player on board Art Landry’s band as it essays that 1920s classic Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue.

Jack Hylton is here but his band is too jerky and grandiose to make much of I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight? In a different league, instrumentally and rhythmically, is The Goofus Five – a band for whom many aficionados have a soft spot; Adrian Rollini is predictably august – in the plethora of early jazz greats he stands high. There’s also the delightful Fred and Adele Astaire recording of I'd Rather Charleston where interest can also turn to their pianist, a certain G Gershwin. This was recorded in London in 1926 and two years later ‘Whispering’ Jack Smith recorded Miss Annabelle Lee with Ambrose; Mr Microphone was in fine form, as he was with Caroll Gibons and his New Mayfair Dance Orchestra in Crazy Rhythm; it’s probably Eric Siday who takes the violin break.

As with so many, Gene Austin recorded Ain't She Sweet? hot off the press. It’s good that we hear the chorus of That's My Weakness Now - Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards does the honours with this one. The song that influenced Marilyn Monroe is here – in case you were wondering Helen Kane did I Wanna Be Loved By You back in 1928, complete with requisite boop boop a doops.

In other words there’s a lot of variety in these strongly animated performances that summon up a time, a place, an era. The transfers are full bodied, and the notes helpful.

Jonathan Woolf

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