1. Bob Crosby & Martha Tilton: Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag
2. Bob Crosby: When I Grow Too Old To Dream
3. Bob Crosby: It's A Long Way To Tipperary
4. Jo Stafford: Blue Moon
5. Jo Stafford: Lonesome Road
6. Jo Stafford: Bakery Blues
7. Jo Stafford: Baby, Won't You Please Come Home
8. Jo Stafford: Am I Blue?
9. Jo Stafford: I'm Coming Virginia
10. Martha Tilton: Beyond The Blue Horizon
11. Martha Tilton: Out Of Nowhere
12. Martha Tilton: If I Had You
13. Martha Tilton: I'm In The Mood For Love
14. Connee Boswell: Goodnight Sweetheart
15. Connee Boswell: Shine On Harvest Moon
16. Connee Boswell: Way Down Yonder In New Orleans
17. Connee Boswell & Paulette Sisters: Bell Bottom Trousers
Jack Leonard: Sleepy Time Gal
2. Jack Leonard: Honey
3. Sy Oliver: Seventh Avenue
4. Trummy Young: Four Or Five Times
5. Trummy Young & Henry Wells: I Want A Little Girl
6. Monica Lewis: My Heart Stood Still
7. Monica Lewis: I'm An Old Cowhand
8. Betty Roch‚: Trouble, Trouble
9. Ella Fitzgerald: That's Rich
10. Ella Fitzgerald: I'll Always Be In Love With You
11. Ella Fitzgerald: I'll See You In My Dreams
12. Martha Tilton, Jack Leonard & Trummy Young: Two Sleepy People
13. Martha Tilton & Jack Leonard: Thanks For The Memory
14. Jimmy Brown: Mam'selle
15. Jimmy Brown: Possum Song
16. Jimmy Brown: Rumble, Rumble, Rumble
The expression "V-Disc" has fond associations for jazz fans, because these discs were first issued in 1942 when the American Federation of Musicians began a recording ban which lasted late into 1944. But for the V-Discs, which were released for the enjoyment of military personnel, the recorded work of jazz musicians during the Second World War would have been severely limited. As it was, V-Discs continued being recorded until 1949 and, although they were not intended to be released to the general public, several companies have made them available to everyone.
At first sight, the line-up depicted on the front cover of this double CD doesn't necessarily look totally appealing to jazz enthusiasts, as several of the vocalists were not entirely jazz singers, although many of them sang with big bands and jazz groups. For example, the first track and several others feature Martha Tilton who certainly sang with Benny Goodman's band and performed memorable versions of And the Angels Sing and Loch Lomond. Yet she was mainly a singer of sentimental ballads, and she is not included in most jazz encyclopedias.
Nevertheless, she is accompanied on this opening track by Bob Crosby leading a jazz group which includes Yank Lawson, Herb Ellis, Bob Haggart and George Wettling. After Crosby's introductory chorus to Pack Up Your Troubles (a song which might have reminded the troops of the First World War!), the band doubles the tempo and provides some worthy solos before Martha Tilton's swinging vocal. The same process is followed in the next two tracks, where Tilton is absent and Crosby handles the vocals alone before the band breaks into fast Dixieland. The group is called "Bob Crosby and his V-Disc Bob Cats" and its style is very similar to that of the original Crosby band. Bob Crosby's vocals are adequate, though not as noteworthy as his brother Bing's. In It's a Long Way to Tipperary (another song associated with World War I), he changes the line "Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square" to "Goodbye to Piccadilly, so long all of you squares"!
Jo Stafford is similarly backed by a jazz group which boasts trumpeter Billy Butterfield, trombonist Lou McGarity and drummer George Wettling. Her jazz tendencies may be slightly more pronounced than Martha Tilton's, and she certainly sings beautifully. Connee Boswell was hardly a jazz vocalist but she is supported with some good solos the likes of trombonist Vernon Brown and clarinettist Hank D'Amico. Tenorist Charlie Ventura adds his smooth sax to the tracks by Jack Leonard and Sy Oliver.
Trummy Young is best known as trombonist with Louis Armstrong's All Stars and he here sings and plays with a group which includes Don Byas doing a smoky tenor solo in Four or Five Times and trumpeter Buck Clayton clearly stating the tune of I Want a Little Girl. Monica Lewis has no jazz in her soul but My Heart Stood Still is brightened by a clarinet solo from Bill Stegmeyer, and I'm an Old Cowhand has a brief contribution from saxist Bud Freeman.
I am particularly interested to find Betty Roch‚ here - albeit only for one track - as she is a little-known vocalist who sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra for periods in the 1940s and 1950s. I remember affectionately her hip 1952 version of Take the "A" Train. Here she sings and scats on a blues, Trouble, Trouble which well suits her moody style. It contains the classic blues lines: "He's got a head like a monkey, He looks just like a bear, A mouthful of tobacco - Squirting it everywhere".
The jazziest tracks of all are a group led by drummer Buddy Rich and featuring Ella Fitzgerald. That's Rich is a hectic race propelled by Buddy's drums and including lightning-fast solos by such jazz stars as Charlie Shavers, Al Sears, Peanuts Hucko and Remo Palmieri. Ella only comes in towards the end, scatting after a fiery solo from Rich. Ella's two other tracks are less frantic and let us savour the perfection of the Fitzgerald voice, as well as brilliant trumpet solos from Charlie Shavers.
All these tracks except for the last three were recorded in 1945, and it is good to have them available as a generous double album. Good as this collection is, I look forward with possibly greater anticipation to a promised compilation of V-Disc instrumentals from the same company.