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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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Paper Doll: Their 56 Finest




Two jam-packed discs salute The Mills Brothers in discs made over a two-decade period from 1931 to 1952, from the early Depression years to the dawn of the arrival of the LP. The twofer opens with their signature song, Goodbye Blues Their close harmonies and instrumental imitations were so much a part of the fabric of popular music it’s difficult to conceive of a generation that has not thrilled to their virtuosity and wit. And yet perhaps this generation, more than ever, needs a dose of their repartee.

The Mills Brothers were never solemn and embraced a degree of corn – sample Tiger Rag. They teamed with the greatest popular entertainers of the day - Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald – and they mined without either shame or vulgarity Edwardian balladry. The cross-talk on Don Redman’s I Heard is a classic of its kind and part of a great vaudeville tradition whilst their engaging enthusiasm for the music of Ellington was rewarded with a recording of Diga-Diga-Doo, with the band along for the ride. Their instrumental prowess was so advanced they could voice like brass and sax section – often uncannily – and were alive to the latest line in sax section voicings.

Their Brunswick sides are on balance more exciting than the Deccas, as Decca had a bit of thing about populist material that didn’t necessarily suit all its roster of artists. Nevertheless many good things came from the Decca sessions from the late 30s onwards, albeit some of the material – such as the cowpokery of Across the Alley from the Alamo – won’t be to all tastes. Still, the Brothers were wide-ranging recording artists and as the track with Al Jolson proves (inevitably, Is it true what they say about Dixie?) they could certainly hold their own with even the biggest and brashest of stars. Around 1950 a certain smoothness entered into the music-making and the vitality and immediacy of the earlier tracks dissipates. Yet even here there are good things; the track with Tommy Dorsey’s band, for example.

Production values are good, as usual from this source, and are rightly admiring of The Mills Brothers.

Jonathan Woolf

1. Goodbye Blues
2. Nobody’s Sweetheart
3. Tiger Rag
4. You Rascal, You!
5. Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home?
6. Dinah
7. Shine
8. I Heard
9. How’m I Doin’? Hey, Hey!
10. Chinatown, My Chinatown
11. Sweet Sue, Just You
12. St Louis Blues
13. Bugle Call Rag
14. The Old Man of the Mountain
15. It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing
16. Diga-Diga-Doo
17. My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms
18. Swing It, Sister
19. Money in My Clothes
20. Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet
21. Sleepy Head
22. Lazybones
23. Nagasaki
24. Sweet Georgia Brown
25. Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider
26. Some of These Days
27. I’ve Found a New Baby
28. Rockin’ Chair
29. Dedicated to You

1. Paper Doll
2. Carry Me Back to Old Virginny
3. Caravan
4. Sixty Seconds Got Together
5. Jeepers Creepers
6. Stardust
7. Georgia on My Mind
8. Ain’t Misbehavin’
9. When You Were Sweet Sixteen
10. Cherry
11. Marie
12. Lazy River
13. I’ll Be Around
14. Till Then
15. You Always Hurt the One You Love
16. I Wish
17. I Don’t Know Enough about You
18. There’s No One But You
19. Across the Alley from the Alamo
20. Is It True What They Say about Dixie?
21. I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
22. Someday You’ll Want Me to Want You
23. Daddy’s Little Girl
24. Nevertheless I’m in Love with You
25. Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone
26. Be My Life’s Companion
27. The Glow-Worm

Donald Mills – Lead tenor
Herbert Mills – Tenor
Harry Mills – Baritone
John Mills – Bass, guitar (to 1936)
Bernard Addison – Guitar (from 1936)
Norman Brown – Guitar (from 1938)
Bing Crosby – Vocals (tracks I/6, 7, 17)
Duke Ellington’s Orchestra (track I/16)
Ella Fitzgerald – Vocals (track I/29)
Louis Armstrong – Vocals, trumpet (tracks II/2, 10, 11)
Al Jolson – Vocals (track II/20)

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