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Manhattan, from Garrick Gaieties, 1925
Ben Selvin and his Orchestra (New York 1925)
Mountain Greenery, from Garrick Gaieties, 1925
Frank Crumit (vocal and ukelele), Jack Shilkret (piano) (New York 1926)
The Girl Friend, from The Girl Friend, 1926
George Olsen and his Music, Fan Frey, Bob Borger, Larry Murphy (vocals) (New York 1926)
The Blue Room, from The Girl Friend, 1926
The Revelers, with Ed Smalle (piano) (New York 1926)
My heart stood still, from One Dam Thing After Another and A Connecticut Yankee, 1927
Jessie Matthews, Hutch (piano) (London 1927)
Thou Swell, from A Connecticut Yankee, 1927
Ben Selvin and his Orchestra, with unknown vocal (New York 1927)
You took advantage of me, from Present Arms, 1928
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, with Bix Beiderbecke (cornet); Bing Crosby, with Jack Fulton,
Charles Gayford, Austin Young (vocals) (New York 1928)
With a song in my heart, from Spring is Here, 1929
Hutch (vocal and piano) (London 1930)
Ten Cents a Dance, from Simple Simon, 1930
Ruth Etting, with small orchestra (New York 1930)
Isn't it romantic? From Love me tonight, 1932 film
Jeanette MacDonald, Nat W. Finston and his Orchestra (Hollywood 1932)
Lover, from Love me Tonight, 1932 film
Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, Jack Fulton (vocal) (New York 1933)
You are too beautiful, from Hallelujah, I'm A Bum, 1933 film
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra (Los Angeles 1945)
Blue Moon, 1934
Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra, Kenny Sargent (vocal) (New York 1934)
It's easy to remember, from Mississippi, 1935 film
Bing Crosby, Georgie Stoll and his Orchestra, The Rhythmettes and Three Shades of Blue
vocals) (Los Angeles 1935)
My Romance, from Jumbo, 1935
Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra, with chorus (Los Angeles
There's a small hotel, from Jumbo and On Your Toes, 1936
Hal Kemp and his Orchestra, Maxine Gray (vocal) (New York 1936)
Where or when, from Babes in Arms, 1936
Lena Horne, Lou Bring and his Orchestra (Los Angeles 1941)
My Funny Valentine, from Babes in Arms
Mary Martin, Lehman Engeal and his Orchestra (New York 1949)
Johnny One Note, from Babes in Arms
Wynn Murray, Ruby Newman and her Rainbow Room Orchestra (New York 1937)
The Lady is a Tramp, from Babes in Arms
Sophie Tucker, Harry Sosnik and His Orchestra (Los Angeles 1937)
Falling in love with love, from The Boys From Syracuse, 1938
Allan Jones, Charles Previn and his Orchestra (Hollywood 1940)
This can't be love, from The Boys From Syracuse
Benny Goodman (clarinet) and his Orchestra, Martha Tilton (vocal) (Chicago 1938)
I didn't know what time it was, from Too Many Girls, 1939
Margaret Whiting, Frank De Vol and his Orchestra (Hollywood 1946)
Bewitched, from Pal Joey, 1940
Doris Day, The Mellomen, John Rarig and his Orchestra (Hollywood 1949)
ASV CD AJA 5367 [75' 38"]

I was remarking in connection with the Enchanté volume in this series that in the world of light music the name of the composer often counts for little. But sometimes a name stands out, and not only a name but a partnership. Richard Rodgers has entered history with two such partnerships. The wider public perhaps knows him through his post-war Hammerstein II collaborations, box-office successes in their film versions and now recommended family viewing at the video-rental store. But the cognoscenti, ever suspicious of too much success, look back to the spunkier pre-war Rodgers, long-time collaborator with Lorenz Hart.

Mind you, either way we hear the music through the filter of arrangers and interpreters to a greater degree than we perhaps realise. No intention to denigrate, that's the way things were done in the light music field, where the composer was principally a tune-smith and thereafter handed over to the orchestrator. Nevertheless, a lot of these versions were made when the ink was barely dry on the songs, and they give us a sound that Rodgers surely recognised as his. The lesson for later interpreters is that this music has an easy lilt, not so hectic as to lose its gaiety in the faster numbers, and not too sticky and sentimental in the slower ones. Though only a few years had passed, the post-war recordings here take the songs off the Broadway stage and into the smoke-filled hotel lounge. Compare Mary Martin's laboured My Funny Valentine with the zippy creator's record of Johnny One Note or Sophie Tucker's up-tempo The Lady is a Tramp. I'm afraid the Sinatra recordings (well done as they are from their own point of view) point up this lesson all too well, but a word of praise is due for Doris Day's most touching handling of Bewitched.

Not everything is pure gold, since the items are chosen to illustrate the composer rather than the performers, but the pre-war recordings preserve a special atmosphere and all the items illustrate the high professional standards of the day. Special highlights are Ruth Etting's Ten Cents a Dance and Paul Whiteman's subtle rhythmic handling of Lover. The female singers, unlike most of those on the French Chanson disc and many of their contemporaries not included here, sing in their soprano range, so the chesty tones of Sophie Tucker seemed so manly as to induce me to send a panic-stricken e-mail to ASV querying whether the version here was wrongly labelled. Not so (and they pointed out that "the last of the red-hot mamas" was 53 in 1937) and on re-hearing there is a feminine side to her gutsy delivery too. I regret having enjoyed least the two items recorded in London. Tastes change, but I doubt if Jessie Matthews's school-mistressy tones will encourage modern imitation and Hutch, though a nifty pianist, is vocally rather limited.

The transfers are fine and the booklet gives full documentation. Care should be taken over proof-reading: Falling in love with love is correctly labelled on the cover and in the notes, but in the contents-list it appears tritely as Falling in love with you.

All in all a fascinating collection, documenting an essential moment in Broadway history. But when all's said and done, the Rodgers and Hammerstein II songs tend to be the ones that stay in your head.

Christopher Howell

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