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19 original mono recordings from 1935-1947
Transfers by Peter Dempsey
NAXOS NOSTALGIA 8.120591 [60.00]

Crotchet Budget price

1) Smilin’ Through
2) Dusty Road
3) Auf Wiederseh’n
4) Rose Marie
5) Indian Love Call
6) Oh, Promise Me
7) Sun-Up To Sundown
8) At "The Balalaika"
9) Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise
10) Tokay
11) I’ll See You Again
12) Tomorrow
13) My Hero
14) Little Workaday World
15) Because
16) Great Day
17) Oh! What A Beautiful Morning
18) Raindrops On A Drum
19) A Perfect Day

Seeing the face of the devastatingly handsome Nelson Eddy my mind drifted back to the 1930s when he and Jeannette MacDonald could fill a cinema whenever one of their films were showing. They became America’s Sweethearts prior to WWII when they made eight of the biggest escapist blockbusters in screen history and their songs still linger many years after. But we need to go back some years before this. Not many people are aware that Eddy was a soloist in his own right. Maybe he hadn’t the magic touch he acquired later, but he was born with a voice that would eventually entice people to stop and listen, a voice that rang out with genuine sincerity and pure, clear phrasing and sound. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1901. As a boy he sang in the local church choir. After his parents separated he went with his mother to Philadelphia where he worked in many occupations while taking lessons from a noted Quaker baritone. He made his singing debut at a Philadelphia benefit in 1920 and then, after a few appearances in Gilbert and Sullivan, in 1924 entered a competition and took first prize with the Philadelphia Opera Society in Aida. The Philadelphia Record reported that Eddy was a star from the moment he appeared. He underwent further tuition in Europe and went on to perform a wide range of roles in opera and concert tours. In 1933 he made the first of many broadcasts continuing to take an active role in opera until 1935, always with the San Francisco Opera, with good notices. It was the revival of filmed operetta that provided him with the right profile. His first films for Louis B. Meyer in 1933 were three non-starring B pictures conferring on him a secondary status and his career remained static until the studio realised that the Eddy voice and persona would complement their established soprano star Jeannette MacDonald.

The first three songs he recorded came in June and December 1935. Eddy was a baritone capable of singing any type of song . When necessary he could sing with animation and abandonment, or with pathos when singing a song where his love had left him. The first is "Auf wiederseh’n" Not a number I particularly care for, but he sings with such intensity I was one over. I was delighted when I saw that the next number was "Rose Marie", a perfect song to follow such a dismal one. Now you hear the real Nelson Eddy singing with the abandonment he was known for. The words are so simple yet with his singing and the chorus in the background joining in at the right time this makes the song. The third in this group is a quiet one ,"Dusty Road". Eddy sings it with all the assurance of a well trained singer who has the gift of enticing you to forget everything and listen to him only. I found it so easy to travel along that Dusty Road with him.

In 1936 he recorded a song in Hollywood with Jeannette Macdonald from the first of their blockbusters films. What a sensational duet this number is. It’s "Indian Love Call", of course, a song based on the same David Belasco story about the California gold rush which had provided Puccini with a theme for a 1910 opera. Jeannette’s clear voice rises to all the high notes without any difficulty and Eddy, with perfect timing, supports her superbly. I hope this will never be forgotten. The next recording is "Oh Promise Me" and is a disappointment. I expected to hear something a little brighter. I think this a number more suited to be sung at a sedate gathering of people after church. Although perfectly well sung it’s just dreary and melancholy. However, I felt a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as "A Perfect Day" began. One of my late Mother’s favourite songs, Eddy recorded this in June 1937 with great warmth and tenderness.

With a sigh of real relief I wiped my eyes and listened to the next recording Eddy from March 1938 ,"Sun-Up to Sundown" which I think you will like. It’s lively, jolly and bubbly and Eddy sings out with great gusto, his enjoyment obvious. In "Balalaika" from 1940 Eddy sings of how melancholy he felt until he remembered the Balalaika where there was magic in the air and he had a rendezvous. He sings of how violins would be playing and hearts would be young and gay, and knew not what the night would bring. I enjoyed too the instrumentalist who features in the introduction, and at first gives the impression the number is a sad one which it isn’t.

On this disc are two recordings from Noel Coward’s screen version of ‘Bitter Sweet’ that Eddy recorded in 1940. The first is "Tokay", a typical Coward number which he sings as Coward meant it to be sang, quick and lively. He is accompanied by a chorus, although in a slightly off-key manner which makes the slightly jerky way of Eddy’s singing even more attractive. Next is that great Coward standard "I’ll See You Again" which Eddy sings excellently. I have never been able to fault Nelson Eddy’s voice whatever he sings.

From the remake of ‘New Moon’ we have "Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise" from 1940. Another lovely song of that era, Eddy sings with passion and you hear every note clearly. The orchestra builds up as Eddy’s voice rises with it at the right time, but in no way do they swamp him even when he ends on a particularly high note. A good song to follow is "Tomorrow". It’s a kind of marching song all about forgetting what today is, but to think of tomorrow. Eddy, without faltering, sings merrily along with the orchestra and chorus accompanying him.

To follow we have another of my great favourites. Recorded in Hollywood October 1941, Eddy joins with Rise Stevens in her film debut for the great duet "My Hero", from a film revival of the Oscar Strauss operetta. This is a duet to lift you from your normal routine and compel you to listen. Both sing in perfect harmony and I have yet to hear this done better. A strange number to follow is "Little Workaday World" from February 1942. This is a song I would never have imagined Nelson Eddy singing, and one I think you immediately either like or dislike. Half talking and half singing part of the time in a dialogue with the chorus answering, Eddy hurries them along to his "workaday world". It was cut from the film ‘I Married An Angel’ prior to its premier. Make of that what you will.

A delightful song to sing along with next is "Great Day" recorded in November 1944. Eddy could sing just about any type of song and it would immediately become a show stopper. There is something about his voice that has this effect and you are captivated when you hear him. The same applies to his recording of "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" from ‘Oklahoma’. I have heard this sung so many times by so many people but never better than by Eddy. In December 1944 he recorded "Raindrops On A Drum". Not a number I’m familiar with but one to enjoy and you can also hear the sound effects of raindrops on the drum very realistically before Eddy starts to sing. The last number in on the disc is "Because" recorded in Hollywood 1944. I can only praise Nelson Eddy for the perfect way he sings this lovely, familiar song too.

I have listened several times to each track on this disc and I do so admire Eddy’s absolute control over each of the different songs he sings and his obvious enjoyment of each one.

It’s thanks once again to Naxos for giving us such a fine collection. Highly recommended.

Joan Duggan

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