CD Reviews

Music on the Web (UK)

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

[ Jazz index ] [Nostalgia index]  [ Classical MusicWeb ] [ Gerard Hoffnung ]

Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Hits of the Twenties - Volume 2: 1921-1923

NAXOS 8.120841 [65:18]


Wabash Blues — Isham Jones and his Orchestra featuring Louis Panico
Ain’t We Got Fun? — Van and Schenck with orchestra conducted by Charles A. Prince
Kitten on the Keys — Zez Confrey and His Orchestra, Zez Confrey, Piano
I’m Just Wild about Harry — Marion Harris with Isham Jones and His Orchestra
Three O’Clock in the Morning — Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra
Margie — Eddie Cantor with Orchestra
The Sheik of Araby — Rudy Wiedoeft’s Californians
Palesteena — Frank Crumit with orchestra conducted by Charles A. Prince
Second Hand Rose — Fanny Brice with Orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon
April Showers — Al Jolson with orchestra conducted by Charles A. Prince
Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean: "Positively, Mr. Gallagher?" "Absolutely, Mr. Shean" — Ed Gallagher and Al Shean with Orchestra conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret
Hot Lips (He’s Got Hot Lips When He Plays Jazz) — Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra
The OKeh Laughing Record (Lachplatte) — Otto Rathke and Lucie Bernardo
My Man — Fanny Brice, with orchestra conducted by Raosario Bourdon
Barney Google — Billy Jones and Ernest Hare, with Orchestra
It Aint Gonna Rain No Mo’ — Wendell Hall
Toot, Toot, Tootsie! (Goo’Bye) — Al Jolson, with Orchestra conducted by Charles A. Prince
Timely Topics — Will Rogers
Yes! We Have No Bananas — Billy Jones, with Orchestra
Swingin’ Down the Lane — Isham Jones and his Orchestra
rec. New York except for The OKeh Laughing record rec. Berlin and Second Hand Rose and My Man, both recorded in Camden, New Jersey

By definition popular music has always been commercially successful. What it isn’t always — and this has been a constant — is good. A look at the current charts as well as the chart-toppers of the past will bring back winces and occasionally howls of recognition. So what we have on this second volume of Naxos’s Hits of the 1920s is the top of the heap, and there are some wonderful moments here. To open the disc we get a quadruple blast of the best of them, started off by Wabash Blues of 1921 performed by Isham James and His Orchestra, featuring, as the credits indicate, Lewis Panico and his "laughing cornet" - a fun, snappy tune. Following is a rather surprising early version of Ain’t We Got Fun? by Van and Schenck. The lyrics betray a certain sense of bitterness not mined in later versions I’ve heard: "The rich get rich and the poor get children" followed by "The rich get rich and the poor get laid off." Then, for fans of silent film, we have Kitten on the Keys by Zez Confrey of 1922, a tune that shows up often as the soundtrack to many a Chaplin short.

Some of the hits here are rather pleasant, if lesser-known, such as the waltz-time Three o’clock in the Morning performed by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and recorded in 1922. The big names aren’t absent entirely. Eddie Cantor shows for his 1920 hit Margie and in a similar vein we have Al Jolson’s over-the-top April Showers. The mastering here is much different than that found on the Columbia Legacy reissue of 1994, which has the vocals much more forward in the mix and with more surface noise. The same song on Naxos has much less surface noise, but the compromise is the suppression of aspects of the rest of the recording; namely, the band. It’s a bit of a toss-up, depending on what bugs you most — surface noise, or overall presence. My ultimate choice for this song is for the Columbia release — I’m fine with a bit of surface noise if the backing band has more of a toehold. Overall, however, the remastering is top-notch, befitting Naxos’s other work with vintage recordings.

Aside from three exceptions, all of the songs here were recorded in New York. Of those three we have the positively frightening "O-Keh Laughing Record (Lachplatte)" an international hit recorded in Berlin, which consists entirely of Otto Rathke playing sourly on a cornet while he and Lucie Bernardo laugh. Yep, that’s it. Mystifying and disturbing and looking back you wonder what on earth people were thinking lining up in droves to buy it. Other low points in public taste are documented here with the interminable song with the equally lengthy title Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean: Positively, Mr. Gallagher?" "Absolutely Mr. Shean."

For those who enjoy vintage recordings of Twenties tunes, this is hardly a purchase to debate over — the price is right, the sound restoration is very good, and the tunes are fun to hear (for the most part), and while you put the disc on, think on the possibility that someone 85 years from now will be sitting in a space age living room writing reviews on a retrospective restored reissue of Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue.

David Blomenberg

    Gerard Hoffnung CDs

    Advertising on

    Donate and get a free CD

    New Releases

    Naxos Classical


    Musicweb sells the following labels
    Acte Préalable
    Cameo Classics
    Northern Flowers
    Toccata Classics

    Follow us on Twitter

    Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

    Sample: See what you will get

    Return to Index

    Reviews from previous months

    You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: