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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Love is the Sweetest Thing.
His 51 Finest




CD 1
1. Love Is The Sweetest Thing
2. Time On My Hands
3. Lady Of Spain
4. Lazy Day
5. Hang Out The Stars In Indiana
6. Sweet And Lovely
7. Got A Date With An Angel
8. Guilty
9. Hold My Hand
10. I Was True
11. By The Fireside
12. We've Got The Moon And Sixpence
13. Sailin' On The Robert E. Lee
14. I Can't Write The Words
15. Lying In The Hay
16. Maybe It's Because I Love You Too Much
17. The Old Spinning-Wheel
18. Roll Up The Carpet
19. Love Locked Out
20. Night And Day
21. My Hat's On The Side Of My Head
22. Close Your Eyes
23. You Ought To See Sally On Sunday
24. I'll String Along With You
25. Over My Shoulder
26. The Very Thought Of You

CD 2
1. When You've Got A Little Springtime In Your Heart
2. I Never Had A Chance
3. Judy
4. The Isle Of Capri
5. Blue Moon
6. My Melancholy Baby
7. Paris In The Spring
8. Top Hat, White Tie And Tails
9. Dinner For One Please, James
10. The Touch Of Your Lips
11. Easy To Love
12. I've Got You Under My Skin
13. Where The Lazy River Goes By
14. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
15. Marie
16. Moonlight On The Highway
17. Sweet As A Song
18. Mama, I Wanna Make Rhythm
19. Music, Maestro, Please!
20. Penny Serenade
21. Two Sleepy People
22. Dreaming
23. It Was A Lover And His Lass
24. When That Man Is Dead And Gone
25. Goodnight, Sweetheart

Al Bowlly with various orchestras and accompanists
rec 1931- 41, London and New York [79:11+77:39]


Bowlly retrospectives come thick and fast. This one spans the decade or so between 1931 and `41, and includes his (ironically prescient) last recording, When That Man Is Dead And Gone. `That man', of course, was Hitler but by the time the disc was released Bowlly was dead, killed during an air raid over London.

I can't recall how many times I've listened to the iconic Bowlly recording, with Ray Noble, of Love Is The Sweetest Thing, one of the most famous popular song recordings of the 30s, but it struck me this time just what a lovely viola solo there is towards the end; and that it must be played by the equally tragic Harry Berly. These felicitous instrumental touches reveal how clever and sophisticated were many of the arrangements served up for the Noble, Ambrose, Lew Stone, and the Savoy Hotel orchestras and their coevals.

Many of these recordings are etched in the tapestry of popular song and don't call for much comment but there will be a few things that will come as novelties. Maybe Lady of Spain will do so, with its vivacious local colour. Lazy Day is an absolute delight, again with Noble, but Sweet and Lovely seems to have given Bowlly problems since the issued side was take four. It's pitched quite uncomfortably high for him as well - but two more elite British string players were probably in the studio with him, namely Hugo Rignold and/or Reg Leopold.

One doesn't always encounter Bowlly's recording of Sailin' On The Robert E. Lee principally because it's almost all instrumental. Similarly You Ought To See Sally On Sunday is a less well known recording, with a good vocal but a rather unconvincing Nat Gonella trumpet solo. If you like the Bowlly-Monia Liter vocal/piano duo recordings, access YouTube for the visual pleasure of seeing them together on film. You'll get a glimpse of the relaxed Bowlly charisma in operation.

For many it's the Noble sides recorded in England that are his finest and most characteristic; some prefer (I don't) the all-star American band organised for Noble in 1935, though the mini-drama of Dinner For One Please, James is a small miracle of compression and the very early recording of I've Got You Under My Skin is a tonic - though does anyone else share my aversion to the `mentality/reality' line that Cole Porter inflicts on us? We get some down-home fiddle work on Where The Lazy River Goes By - was it Fritz Prospero, Nick Pisani or Danny D'Andrea? I suppose I should add the names of Glenn Miller, Johnny Mince, Bud Freeman, Charlie Spivak, Will Bradley and Van Eps to this band. Not bad.

You won't be interested but I'll tell you anyway; my favourite up-tempo Bowlly song is Music, Maestro, Please! And it's with my favourite band, Lew Stone's. It's here, fortunately.

This well selected compilation has been well annotated. The discographies are full, with matrix and issue numbers and dates of recording, but there are no band personnel - it would have bulked things too much, I suppose. Good transfers, though a bit treble starved for my total enjoyment.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Tony Augarde

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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