My Blue Heaven - Hits of '27
see end of review for track listing
RETROSPECTIVE RECORDS RTR 4232 [78:00]
Eighty-six years is a long time in the world of popular music. ‘The Roaring Twenties’ was - mostly - a ‘Happy-go-lucky’ decade in the wake of the Great War and before the Wall Street Crash. This is mirrored in these best-selling records. What struck me while listening through these twenty-five titles was that so many of the songs have survived until this very day. Two of the songs are actually older, Some of these days is from 1910, Ida, sweet as apple cider from 1903, but the rest were brand new, several of them from various shows. How well these recordings as opposed to the songs have resisted the ravages of time is another matter and depends a lot on personal taste. However, as a document of what was in vogue in 1927 this compilation is hard to beat.
It is interesting to note that several star musicians play in the backing orchestras. Ferde Grofé, for instance, who was a serious composer (Grand Canyon Suite) and also arranged Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for symphony orchestra, plays the piano in Paul Whiteman’s orchestra in In a little Spanish town (tr. 2). In Sunday (tr. 3) we find Red Nichols, Miff Mole and Jimmy Dorsey in the background. Mole together with among others violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang appears in Russian lullaby (tr. 12). Nichols and Dorsey are heard in the Whiteman band in Here I am, broken-hearted (tr. 15) and in Nichols’ own Ida, sweet as apple cider (tr. 20). Clarinet giant, Pee Wee Russell has a solo - this track is certainly one of the survivors.
Another on my personal favourite list is Some of these days with the inimitable Sophie Tucker. She had introduced it as early as 1911 and this remake was a million seller. The unforgettable Gershwin song Someone to watch over me from the 1926 show Oh, Kay! (tr. 10) is here heard with its original artist Gertrude Lawrence. This is also the only track not recorded in the US. It was set down in London with His Majesty’s Theatre Orchestra on 25 October 1927. Irving Berlin’s delightful waltz Russian Lullaby (tr. 12) is memorable more for the elegant arrangement than for the singing of Henry Garden. The perennial Charmaine! (tr. 16) was written for the 1926 silent film What Price Glory? and in the early 1950s catapulted Mantovani’s recording career. It topped the charts also in 1927 with this recording by Guy Lombardo & his Royal Canadians. ‘The Singing Troubadour” Nick Lucas scored with the then brand new Side by side (tr. 18). It is refreshing to hear this song in such intimate format. Nat Shilkret, a former clarinettist in the New York Phil. He was the house conductor for Victor’s light music department and backed up Gene Austin in the ever popular Ain’t she sweet (tr. 19), the song that ‘sum[s] up the spirit of the Roaring Twenties’ as Gerry Stonestreet puts it in his excellent annotations. The final number is When day is done, a Viennese melody from 1924. It's heard here in a lavish - or overblown, depending on one’s taste - arrangement by Paul Whiteman & his Concert Orchestra. Henry Busse’s muted trumpet solo is anyway tasteful.
Those were my picks of the crop, but I’m sure everyone with an interest in the popular music of bygone days will find their own favourites in this collection.
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1. My Blue Heaven [3:35]
2. In a Little Spanish Town [3:09]
Cliff "Ukuele Ike" Edwards [2:57]
4. All Alone Monday [3:12]
5. Deed I Do [2:49]
6. It Made You Happy When You Made Me Cry [3:02]
7. Some of These Days [2:54]
8. Tonight You Belong to Me [3:34]
9. I'm Looking over a Four-Leaf Clover [2:47]
10. Someone to Watch over Me [2:45]
11. The Varsity Drag [3:10]
12. Russian Lullaby [3:13]
Roger Wolfe Kahn
13. It All Depends on You [2:59]
14. Me and My Shadow [3:22]
Whispering Jack Smith
15. Broken Hearted [3:14]
16. Charmaine! [3:03]
17. Miss Annabelle Lee [3:02]
18. Side by Side [2:49]
19. Ain't She Sweet? [2:42]
20. Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider! [2:50]
21. Sam, The Old Accordion Man [3:09]
22. Hallelujah! [3:09]
23. Blue Skies [3:08]
24. At Sundown [3:13]
25. When Day Is Done [4:15]
All recorded 1927 except tracks 2-8