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

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Hits of the Twenties and Thirties
by the Gals That Sang `em




1. I Wanna Be Loved By You - Helen Kane

2. Button Up Your Overcoat -Helen Kane

3. Come Up and See Me Some Time - Elsie Carlisle

4. Poor Butterfly - Elsie Carlisle

5. Bye Bye Blues - Louise Brooks (sic; Scrappy Lambert)

6. Ten Cents A Dance - Ruth Etting

7. Love Me Or Leave Me - Ruth Etting

8. I Ain't Got Nobody - Marion Harris

9. Second Hand Rose - Fanny Brice

10. I'd Rather Be Blue Over You - Fanny Brice

11. Runnin' Wild - Marion Harris

12. As Time Goes By - Binny Hale

13. Ukelele Lady - Vaughn De Leath

14. Blue Skies - Vaughn De Leath

15. Black Bottom - Annette Hanshaw

16. Let's Fall In Love - Annette Hanshaw

17. I Taut I Taw A Puddy Kat - Helen Kane

18. Abba Dabba Honey Moon - Helen Kane

19. The Man I Love - Vaughn De Leath

20. Am I Blue - Annette Hanshaw

21. Love Letters In The Sand - Lee Morse

22. That’s My Weakness Now – Helen Kane

23. I'm Nobodys Baby Now - Ruth Etting

24. Miss Annabelle Lee - Annette Hanshaw

Here’s a Flapper Special, a selection of 24 tracks by female singers of the 1920s and early 30s that summon up a time and a place with great specificity. Almost all are American, though we also hear from Elsie Carlisle and Binnie Hale, and some were actresses as well as singers.

Whether or not Helen Kane was the original of Betty Boop – it’s as likely to have been Clara Bow, or a composite – it’s pleasing to find five tracks by her here, complete with Bronx drawl. Button Up Your Overcoat is still a favourite. Carlisle is at her flirtatious best in Come Up and See Me Sometime. But it’s also good to hear from someone from a different tradition like Fanny Brice. On the record labels she was marked as ‘comedienne’ and we trace her from late acoustic to early electric recordings. Marion Harris is less well known and often recorded for Brunswick, and Runnin’ Wild is a pleasing example of her communicative esprit. Binnie Hale’s As Time Goes By – the one Rick sang in Casablanca – is accompanied by Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans in 1932, and it’s excellent; modest, discreet, touching. Vaughn De Leath is one of the big hitters here, a number of her tracks replete with vocal effects – her Blue Skies, with Stuart Ross at the piano, was made for Edison and features her soprano-coloratura style. Annette Hanshaw is always a big hit with sensitive listeners – discographer extraordinaire Brian Rust was crazy about her. I don’t much buy her version of Black Bottom but Let’s Fall in Love is a perfect vehicle for her.

Which brings us to the great curio here – actress Louise Brooks (of Pandora’s Box and Weimar sex fame) singing Bye Bye Blues. What a find! Or, actually, not. This is in fact a favourite of mine, only it’s not Brooks – who never recorded as a singer – it’s Scrappy Lambert (a chap) with Frankie Trumbauer’s Orchestra. How could this mix-up happen? I did online sleuthing and perhaps the confusion lies in a YouTube video that illustrates the recording with pictures of Brooks. Somewhere along the line conflation has happened. More Blooper than Boop Boop, these things happen.

The transfers leave something to be desired and have been over-filtered. There are no recording details at all and so no details of the backing bands. Sometimes this is understandable as the record labels themselves just noted ‘with accompaniment’ or else was wholly silent on the matter. But there are also no details of recording dates or the companies for which these singers recorded. I realise that this label makes discs available at competitive prices, but this is still disappointing. Checking a discography would have dealt with the Brooks business at base camp.

Jonathan Woolf

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