Denny Dennis - I’ll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs - His 53 Finest 1933-58
see end of review for track listing
Denny Dennis, vocals, with various bands
Recorded 1933-58
RETROSPECTIVE RTS 4229 [79:23 + 79:30]

Today it seems unexceptional to proclaim the uniqueness of Al Bowlly as Britain’s leading dance band singer. And yet there are still those who, tenaciously and with great conviction, remember the name of Denny Dennis and proclaim him instead as the most centrally important singer on the scene, not least because his period overlapped with that of Bowlly and they both sang contemporaneously for Roy Fox. Dennis sang widely for Ambrose in addition, as well as a plethora of other orchestras big and small, named and unnamed. The truth is that their strengths were very individual and no one could ever have confused them. When I first began to collect Dance Band records, in the wake of the soundtracks for Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven, I realised at once that here were two great singers: two inimitable and indisputably great singers.
If Dennis’s sun shines the less brightly today then so much the poorer for our skies. His story lacks the comet brilliance and sudden tragedy of Bowlly’s, but it lacks for little in vocal excellence. The warm, even vocal production is evident in his 1936 ‘title track’, the song that lends its name to Retrospective’s survey. By now he is fully in the milieu. The sense of tonal allure and fine diction can’t be faulted. A few years earlier, with Jack Jackson, one finds him just a little more rhythmically square and over-reliant on a Crosby-like production. Yet only a few months later, now with the more sympathetic and orchestrally felicitous Roy Fox band - Lew Stone was the pianist and outstanding arranger, soon to have the best, jazziest Dance Band in the country - we find him quickly maturing. There’s a noble lyricism in his singing of The Way You Look Tonight and an effortless take on Thanks for the Memory. With Vera Lynn he turns in a good performance of Two Sleepy People, Ambrose’s orchestra providing the plushest of accompaniments.
The bands chop and change with bewildering regularity in disc 2, a testament to how busy he remained in wartime Britain. The Jay Wilbur band varies in size but provides good support; Art Strauss’s orchestra is stuffed with a solid string section. It is alto player, Joe Crossman, ex-Lew Stone but now with Stanley Black in 1946, who takes the solo on It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues. There’s lapse of taste in Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba (it’s not Bob Farnon’s best hour either) but the run of discs both pre-and immediately post-war show why he sang and recorded with Tommy Dorsey in America in 1948 - two of the sides are here - following in the not inconsiderable footsteps of Frank Sinatra and Dick Haymes. He was certainly in the Haymes class, though not a singer in the Sinatran mould. There’s a Bing evocation when he teams with the up-and-coming Alma Cogan in If’n and we can indeed hear him change stylistic tack as he takes on sassier repertoire such as The Tender Trap with Ken Jones and his orchestra in 1956. There’s no sense in which he sounds out of his depth here at all, even when he essays Magic Moments, the last track in this twofer.
And then there was Rock ‘n’ Roll and Denny Dennis took non-musical jobs in Civvie Street, making forays back in the 60s and 70s. He died in 1993, having just reached 80 years of age. I said he and Bowlly were two of the preeminent British singers of their generation, and they were notwithstanding the notable competition. If I had to nominate a singer, though, to stand beside Bowlly it would probably not be Dennis, despite my huge admiration for him: it would instead be Sam Browne. Still, luckily we don’t have to play games of that sort. It’s a terrific pleasure to be able to savour Denny Dennis’s splendid recordings and to hear once more that rich timbre, splendid phrasing and sheer sense of style.
Jonathan Woolf 

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Track listing
1. I'll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs
2. From Me to You
3. I'm Getting Sentimental over You
4. This Is Romance
5. Hands Across the Table
6. Love Is a Dancing Thing
7. Let's Face the Music and Dance
8. At the Café Continental
9. I Heard a Song in a Taxi
10. Serenade in the Night
11. The Way You Look Tonight
12. A Fine Romance
13. Blue Hawaii
14. Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
15. The Can't Take That Away from Me
16. Gone with the Wind
17. It's the Natural Thing to Do
18. Thanks for the Memory
19. You Took the Words Right out of My Heart
20. What Is Romance?
21. Change Partners
22. Two Sleepy People
23. Blue Skies Are Around the Corner
24. The Umbrella Man
25. Deep Purple
26. South of the Border
1. My Prayer
2. Blue Orchids
3. Rosita
4. It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow
5. Stardust
6. Without a Song
7. Sweet and Lovely
8. How Did She Look?
9. You'd Be so Nice to Come Home To
10. A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening
11. Mary Lou
12. It's the Bluest Kind of Blues
13. That's the Beginning of the End
14. Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba
15. Every Time I Meet You
16. I'd Love to See You Home Tonight
17. Blue Shadows on the Trail
18. So in Love
19. While the Angelus Was Ringing
20. The Four Winds and the Seven Seas
21. My Golden Baby
22. If'n
23. Did You Ever See a Dream Walking
24. The Tender Trap
25. Lullaby of Birdland
26. Let Me Be Loved
27. Magic Moments