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



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GEORGE GERSHWIN

'S Wonderful. His 51 Finest 1925-51.

RETROSPECTIVE RTS 4176

 

 


CD1
1 Swanee - Al Jolson
2 Do It Again! - Mary Martin
3 I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise - Georges Guétary
4 Somebody Loves Me - Dinah Shore
5 Oh, Lady Be Good! - Cliff Edwards
6 Fascinating Rhythm - Fred & Adele Astaire
7 Hang On To Me - Fred & Adele Astaire
8 The Half Of It, Dearie, Blues - Fred Astaire
9 I'd Rather Charleston - Fred & Adele Astaire
10 Looking For A Boy - Ella Fitzgerald
11 That Certain Feeling - Layton & Johnstone
12 Sweet And Lowdown - Lee Wiley
13 Clap Yo' Hands - Whispering Jack Smith
14 Do, Do, Do - Gertrude Lawrence
15 Maybe - Ella Fitzgerald
16 Someone To Watch Over Me - Frank Sinatra
17 Strike Up The Band! - Red Nichols
18 The Man I Love - Sarah Vaughan
19 I've Got A Crush On You - Frank Sinatra
20 Soon - Ella Fitzgerald
21 Funny Face - Whispering Jack Smith
22 'S Wonderful - Whispering Jack Smith
23 My One And Only, What Am I Gonna Do? - Fred Astaire
24 How Long Has This Been Going On? - Peggy Lee
25 Liza, All The Clouds'll Roll Away - Al Jolson
26 "Of Thee I Sing" - Dance Medley: Of Thee I Sing -Who Cares? - Love Is Sweeping The Country - Abe Lyman
CD2
1 Bidin' My Time - The Foursome
2 Embraceable You - Nat King Cole
3 I Got Rhythm - Judy Garland
4 But Not For Me - Ella Fitzgerald
5 My Cousin In Milwaukee - Hildegarde
6 Summertime - Sarah Vaughan
7 I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' - Lawrence Tibbett
8 Bess, You Is My Woman Now - Lawrence Tibbett &Helen Jepson
9 It Ain't Necessarily So - Paul Robeson
10 I Loves You, Porgy - Todd Duncan & Ann Brown
11 By Strauss - George Byron
12 Shall We Dance? - Fred Astaire
13 They Can't Take That Away From Me - Fred Astaire
14 They All Laughed - Fred Astaire
15 I've Got Beginner's Luck - Fred Astaire
16 Let's Call The Whole Thing Off - Fred Astaire
17 Slap That Bass - Fred Astaire
18 A Foggy Day - Fred Astaire
19 Things Are Looking Up - Fred Astaire
20 Nice Work If You Can Get It - Fred Astaire
21 Our Love Is Here To Stay - Larry Clinton
22 I Was Doing All Right - Larry Clinton
23 Love Walked In - Kenny Baker
24 Aren't You Kind Of Glad We Did?
25 For You, For Me, For Evermore- Dick Haymes & Judy Garland

 

Gershwin compilations are not exactly uncommon, so one looks for rarity, novelty and maybe even a degree of eccentricity in the selection policy of such discs if ennui is not to set in. I can't argue for all three in this twofer from Retrospective. In fact the only slightly off-the-wall selections are really not so much so once you know that they include The Foursome singing Bidin' My Time and Cliff Edwards's Oh Lady Be Good!

Otherwise the bulk of the selections will be reassuringly familiar to many and a few will be known by all, if only be repute. There are two Jolson cuts. The first is, and it to be, Swanee. This comes from the Capitol Revue of 1919 but was recorded for Decca in 1945. The other track is fortunately contemporaneous with its show; Show Girl's splendid Liza, All The Clouds'll Roll Away which comes from 1929. But the most often recorded Gershwin singer here is Fred Astaire. His records are heard in several runs; he recorded numbers from the 1924 show Lady, Be Good with Gershwin at the piano and with, on a couple of sides, Astaire's sister Adele. These famous sides were made in London for Columbia in 1926. He also lost no time in recording a selection of songs from Shall We Dance? for Brunswick in 1937 and they can be found on the second disc, and these are amongst the greatest of all Gershwin song recordings, one outstanding performance after another of one classic song after another.

But the single slots devoted to other artists shouldn't be overlooked. There's coy Mary Martin in Do It Again! with its disappointingly amorphous backing. Gallic insouciance arrives via Georges Guétary, we hear a very young Dinah Shore, and a somewhat older Cliff Edwards whose recording, made less than a year after Lady, Be Good opened, is one of the weirder examples of Gershwin on disc, and the only acoustic recording here. There are three songs featuring Ella Fitzgerald and the highly superior accompaniment of Ellis Larkins, and a cut from Lee Wiley, the woman who put the sass into sassy.

Those who have not come across the parlando baritone of 'Whispering' Jack Smith are in for, if not a treat exactly, then certainly a surprise. He was a very influential singer, and his microphone technique was famously advanced for the time. We also hear from a later star, Sinatra, from Peggy Lee, Nat Cole, Judy Garland and two from Dick Haymes, as well as plenty of others. The Porgy and Bess extracts are sung by Sarah Vaughan (Summertime, inevitably), Lawrence Tibbett and Helen Jepson, Paul Robeson and Todd Duncan. A Naxos disc devoted to the work [8.110219-20] also contains these last four singers' work.

The extensive notes are good, but are about the shows and songs, not about the singers. The transfers are decent, though a bit treble starved. There's a strange cavernous moment, briefly, on Hang on To Me on disc 1, which I ascribe - rightly or wrongly-to the restoration work.

Jonathan Woolf



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