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WALTER DONALDSON

My Blue Heaven: His 52 Finest

Retrospective RTS 4364

 

Disc 1 (1918-1931) Playing time: 78m. 10s.

1. My Blue Heaven

2. How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em down on the Farm?

3. My Buddy

4. Carolina in the Morning

5. My Best Girl

6. Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby

7. I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight?

8. That Certain Party

9. After I Say I’m Sorry

10. But I Do, You Know I Do!

11. Where’d You Get Those Eyes?

12. It Made Me Happy When You Made Me Cry

13. There Ain’t No Maybe in My Baby’s Eyes

14. Thinking of You

15. At Sundown

16. Sam, the Old Accordion Man

17. Changes

18. Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe Now

19. Just like a Melody out of the Sky

20. Out of the Dawn

21. Love Me or Leave Me

22. Makin’ Whoopee

23. My Baby Just Cares for Me

24. Little White Lies

25. Without That Man

26. You’re Driving Me Crazy

Disc 2 (1931-1962) Playing Time: 77m. 32s.

1. My Blue Heaven

2. That’s What I Like about You

3. An Evening in Caroline

4. You’ve Got Everything

5. Sleepy Head

6. Riptide

7. Clouds

8. I’ve Had My Moments

9. It’s Been So Long

10. You

11. Did I Remember?

12. Cuckoo in the Clock

13. At Sundown

14. My Buddy

15. Mister Meadowlark

16. My Heart and I Decided

17. My Mammy

18. Little White Lies

19. The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady

20. Love Me or Leave Me

21. After I Say I’m Sorry

22. ‘Tain’t No Sin

23. My Baby Just Cares for Me

24. You’re Driving Me Crazy

25. My Little Bimbo

26. My Blue Heaven

Among the musical groups are those of

Paul Whiteman

The Dorsey Brothers

Benny Goodman

Muggsy Spanier

Chris Barber

Among the vocalists are

Ruth Etting

The Boswell Sisters

Billie Holiday

Bing Crosby

Ella Fitzgerald

Despite writing over 600 songs, many of them “hits,” as the booklet notes inform us, Walter Donaldson never seemed to become a household name. This two-CD compilation presents us with many of these compositions but not quite the “52 finest” of the set’s subtitle, as several of the tracks are different versions of the same song, such as “My Blue Heaven” which has three (disc 1-1; disc 2-1 and 26) and some others with a couple each.

Donaldson wrote almost all of his songs during the period between the two world wars, his work becoming less relevant, it seems, as the swing period advanced. His domain was Tin Pan Alley, just about all of his songs aimed at the Great American Songbook audience. One exception from the collection here might be “Changes” (1-17), but it, too, was given lyrics, sung here by The Rhythm Boys (who included the then-unknown Bing Crosby) accompanied by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra (which included Bix Beiderbecke and the Dorsey Brothers). This tune, along with several others, has become something of a jazz standard with traditional jazz bands.

Some of the cuts in this set are played by traditional jazz bands, most featuring a singer, such as Ottilie Patterson with the Chris Barber Jazz Band (“’Tain’t no Sin to Take off Your Skin” [2-22]) or Whispering Paul MacDowell with The Temperance Seven (“You’re Driving Me Crazy” [2-24]). We also hear from a young Billie Holiday and a young Ella Fitzgerald. An exception to having a vocal on a track is “At Sundown” (2-13) in a 1939 performance by Muggsy Spanier and his Ragtime Band.

For the most part, the first disc contains renditions of the songs close to their date of publishing, the majority being in the twenties to early thirties; the second disc has more “modern” renditions, from the thirties and through the early sixties. We thus get a sense of what they sounded like at the time of initial issuance on disc one and then later with swing and jazz treatments on disc two. Both discs attest to the durability of these compositions and perhaps shine a light on an otherwise fairly obscure tunesmith, who produced some wonderful material. Probably disc two will hold more appeal for jazz lovers, containing as it does a number of tunes which have been taken up and are played here by jazz groups.

Bert Thompson


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