It wasnít until 1935 that people heard the voice of
the young Vera Lynn on the wireless with Joe Loss and his band and it
was around this time that she began her recording career too. One of
her earliest records is on this disc and is a song hardly known today,
"The Generalís Fast Asleep", recorded in 1935. Vera was accompanied
by Jay Wilbur and his band in a really entertaining song by Michael
Carr and Jimmy Kennedy who later gave us "The Mountains of Morne" and
"The Isle of Capri". It is also apparent by the excellence of the sound
on this new transfer how very young Vera was when she recorded it and
it is doubtful if her voice has ever sounded clearer. Very different
from how people will think of her today. A recording of "No Regrets"
quickly followed and here again we have to thank Peter Dempsey for transferring
this lovely song on to the new CD so well as he does every song on this
CD. Here Vera is accompanied by Arthur Young at the Novachord, of which
more later, and she sings this with such feeling that you could wonder
if she had any "Regrets" herself at this time.
By 1937 Vera was recording with Charlie Kunz's Casani
Club Orchestra for "When my dream boat comes home". The refrain is played
first by the orchestra but you are conscious of the accompaniment cleverly
being lowered as Vera comes in with the chorus. This song, by Cliff
Fried and Dave Franklin, was a great favourite of many people when it
was first recorded and Veraís version compels you to become conscious
of someone dreaming of the time when a special person came back and
they would always be together. She also conveys the impression of dreaming.
It's a song with a good melody too and with the technology we have now
it is a pleasure to hear how Vera has used her voice to make you think
how very possible it is to sit and wonder how it would be when "My dream
boat comes home". Superbly accompanied by the Orchestra, no other recording
of this song could have brought out the yearning of her waiting for
her dreamboat but a CD such as this has achieved it.
By 1940, the second year of the war, Vera had become
much better known. By then she had been with Ambrose and his Orchestra
for some time while at the same time entertaining troops and generally
boosting national morale just when it was needed. In fact, she was soon
to be known as the "Forcesí Sweetheart" mainly through her BBC radio
request programme "Sincerely Yours" where she would read out
messages for men abroad. With Ambrose she recorded that year "Careless".
I think you can hear that by then music making had undergone a change
as it is noticeable how individual instruments were being heard more
when changes in the melody were indicated. Passages of pathos and sudden
cheerings up see the melody take on a whole new sound. It is a tribute
to the skills of transfer engineer Peter Dempsey that we can hear this
too. Vera always sang with warmth and charm but by 1940 gone was the
sweeter sound of very young Vera to be replaced by an experienced voice
that could emphasise even more her, always natural, way of expressing
her feelings through the words of the song.
Later in 1940 Vera recorded another song with Ambrose,
"Until you fall in Love". The orchestra plays very softly in the background,
never at any time swamping Vera, and by doing this you hear her all
the pleading in her voice. Then as her voice dies away the clarinet
repeats the refrain beautifully. This is a nice song, another that is
perhaps not so well known now, but hearing it in this lovely arrangement
made it a true pleasure.
About the same time, Vera recorded the much more famous
"It's a lovely day tomorrow" by Irving Berlin and accompanied by Jay
Wilbur's Band with Arthur Young at the Novachord. A real morale booster
this one, believe me. Vera sings as if she is telling you that, in spite
of the happening in that second year of war, she wants you to forget
your troubles and believe it will still be "a lovely day tomorrow".
It was possible to believe it. I know, because I was there. Again
the music plays along with just the right tempo and Arthur Young with
his distinctive Novachord accompanies.
It was a pleasure to hear the dulcet notes from Arthur
Young and his Novachord and if you are wondering what a Novachord is,
itís a kind of electric organ/piano first invented in the thirties by
Laurens Hammond. It was a pleasurable addition to any Orchestra at the
time that now gives so much "period feel" to the recordings
it is featured on.
A song which immediately became popular in 1940 was
"When you wish upon a Star", by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington
and Vera Lynnís version is with Arthur Young at the Novachord once again.
I remember that it was a song that people whistled while they worked
or even tried to play on the piano. Even without the music, anyone with
the basics of training could be heard strumming it at gatherings where
people tried to forget what might happen to them at any time. Listening
to the words as Vera sings them you can hear again that she was of the
generation that knew the words of a song were as important as the music.
It is no surprise that "Memories live longer than dreams",
recorded by Vera Lynn in 1940 yet again with Arthur Young at the Novachord,
was considered an appropriate "follow up" to the previous
one. Vera sings the words with all the meaning sounding in her voice,
not over-pleadingly, but reminding you that in spite of what could happen
you would still have your memories that last for ever. A song to be
listened to and to and remembered that every word is so true.
"There'll come another day", accompanied by Jay Wilbur
and his Band, comes from 1940 too. This one was written by the actor
Allen Shanks ("PC 49" to radio listeners) and Pat Patterson.
It's a simple song and many people thought it too sad at the time, I
remember. Well, perhaps it was, but this was Vera desperately trying
to assure you that the day would come when there would be no shadows
and it would be possible to stroll once again into the sunset hand in
hand with the one you love. During those horrendous days it was hard
to believe a day such as Vera sings would actually come and maybe that
was why it didnít gain such popularity. Jay Wilbur and his Band strike
just the right tempo, keeping their contribution soft and gently helping
Vera sing this song that is meant to ensure everyone gets the right
message. But perhaps this recording is not for everyone.
Vera Lynn had by then met her future husband and manager
Harry Lewis, a clarinettist and tenor-saxophonist. During the war she
also toured wherever the troops were. All the time boosting them with
her songs and generally making sure by doing so she was entertaining
them. She also appeared in the West End comedy revue "Apple Sauce"
with Max Miller and made three films. With ENSA she started tours singing
her way to become what she was already but even more of a household
In April 1941, with Jay Wilbur and his Serenaders,
she recorded "Smilin' through" by Arthur Penn. This was a song
that really tugged at the heart, and brought a tear to many eyes. It
can have the same effect even today to some people too. Jay Wilburís
Serenaders play along with Vera brilliantly and Vera does full justice
to the song in every way. It came at a time most needed when people
never knew from one day to the next if they would still be alive. The
worry too of not knowing if they would ever see their loved ones again
who were fighting the enemy somewhere overseas pressed heavily. It was
a time when people met and comforted each other, a time when everyone
was a friend. Sheltering in an Air-Raid shelter listening to music was
one of the popular ways the people indulged in. Vera Lynn was a great
favourite. This recording of "Smilin' through" even though it pulled
at those heartstrings was loved by all.
"When they sound the last all clear" by Hugh Charles
and Louis Elton was one of the recordings that Vera made with Mantovani's
Orchestra and it became an instant favourite. No one ever doubted the
last all clear would sound, I remember. People talked about that time
when the bells would ring, and people would sing again, and no one would
ever be parted again. So this song really caught the mood. But hearing
Vera sing with such conviction made this record what it became - a song
to remember, and one never to be forgotten for many years.
Accompanied again by Mantovaniís Orchestra, Vera Lynn
recorded that great song "Yours" that same year. In her distinctive
way she always knew when to speed a song along and as always the music
accompanying her faithfully follows. This was a song that brought a
few tears to peopleís eyes as well and is very much a Vera Lynn song.
I doubt if anyone would think of it as anyone elseís.
A song never heard now, on the other hand, is "My
Sister and I". Again Vera is with Mantovani and she faithfully
sings this story-song by Sy Zaret, Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer. We
hear of two elderly sisters who are reminiscing and how they are thinking
of a time when they sailed away leaving their friends who stayed behind.
You hear Veraís voice change as she tells you how they say "But
we donít talk about it anymore." A nice little song that tells
of a habit often indulged in by many people.
The great song "I donít want to set the World
on Fire", is often to be heard now, of course. Mantovani accompanies
again and I do like the orchestra in this recording. You can hear every
instrument and this is Mantovani at his very best. It easy to hear that
his Orchestra is enjoying playing with such enthusiasm as this, but
always supporting Vera. The same applies to "Youíre in my Arms"
by Michael Carr and Jack Popplewell with the Orchestra catching Veraís
plaintive mood superbly. This is not a song heard often these days either
and it is good to be reminded of it.
I can highly recommend this CD to Vera Lynnís many