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FORTIES GUYS AND DOLLS

THE 25 TOP CROONERS

Original mono recordings 1945-1949

Compiled by Ray Crick Transfers by Peter Dempsey and David Lennick

LIVING ERA CD AJA5412 [77.52]

 

 

Crotchet Budget price


  1. "Oh What It Seemed To Be" (Frank Sinatra)
  2. "Youíll Never Walk Alone" (Judy Garland)
  3. "A Cottage For Sale" (Billy Eckstine)
  4. "I Canít Begin To Tell You" (Bing Crosby)
  5. "The Gypsy" (Dinah Shore)
  6. "Prisoner of Love" (Perry Como)
  7. "Golden Earring" (Peggy Lee)
  8. "To Each His Own" (Eddy Howard)
  9. "Thatís My Desire" (Frankie Laine)
  10. "My Happiness" (Ella Fitzgerald)
  11. "Mamíselle" (Art Lund)
  12. "So Tired" (Kay Starr)
  13. "Peg Oí My Heart" (Buddy Clark)
  14. "Ballerina" (Vaughn Monroe)
  15. "Some Enchanted Evening" (Jo Stafford)
  16. "Nature Boy" (Nat King Cole)
  17. "Again" (Doris Day)
  18. "Little White Lies" (Dick Haymes)
  19. "Itís Magic" (Gordon MacRae)
  20. "Black Coffee" (Sarah Vaughan)
  21. "Careless Hands" (Mel Torme)
  22. "With My Eyes Wide Open Iím Dreaming" (Pattie Paige)
  23. "Youíre Breaking My Heart" (Vic Damone)
  24. "Thereís No Tomorrow" (Tony Martin)
  25. "Now Is The Hour" (Margaret Whiting)

 

As the late 1920s and early 1930s were known as the Jazz Age, it wasnít long before we had the age of the Crooners to follow. But this was the result of worldwide wireless and of the gramophone as with the microphone it became easier for untrained vocalists to be heard. By the early 1930s crooners were sophisticated soloists in their own right and this meant big sales for the record companies. By the Second World War the crooners were in greater demand, both on record and radio, by a war torn world. Many were known as "Radio Favourites" and "Forces Favourites" but that was during grim days when young men with husky voices sang sweet or amusing songs and beautiful girls sang them as well, all telling you of the lovely futures that would be coming one day soon. But it was not until the war was over when bands were losing some popularity that the crooners truly came into their own. Here is a selection of songs of the 1940s with a few of the top crooners of that time.

I was interested to hear Billy Eckstine singing "A Cottage for Sale" recorded in New York in May 1945. Billy was also an instrumentalist and bandleader and to hear him sing this sentimental ballad makes you amazed at his talent. He sings it well and as I listened I could imagine him gazing at this cottage with longing in his eyes as he wished he could see someone through the window. I think the orchestra accompanying could have lowered the volume a little to a more gentle tone, however. A perfect number to follow is one everyone will know, "Youíll Never Walk Alone" from Rodgers and Hammersteinís "Carousel" sung here by the youthful Judy Garland. As always with her it comes from the heart and the chorus softly join in at the right time. It has a special charm and Judy singing it like this demonstrates a kind of pull the words have. Recorded in New York in July 1945, this is a number that will never be lost but itís great to hear such an early version of it.

Next the never-to-be-forgotten Bing Crosby with "I Canít Begin To tell you" recorded in Hollywood in August 1945. Who can fault "The Old Groaner", or should I say the young groaner, as he was then. He sings this beautifully with all that special charisma and magnetism that he never lost. What girl wouldnít wish to have those words so tenderly sung to them. I liked the piano arrangement accompanying him too. Played softly it only adds to the quiet power of Bingís charm. What could be more appropriate to follow than the young "blue eyes", Frank Sinatra, in "Oh What It Seemed To Be" recorded in November 1945 with Axel Stordahl. Frank was the most popular singer in broadcasting history and he did have a distinctive style that he never lost. His voice as a crooner was perfect, in fact. However, to me when he sang he lacked the warmth I always craved. I can listen to and enjoy him but to get any deep feeling from what he is singing about I turn elsewhere. I know there are many that will disagree with me, but there it is.

I sighed as I listened to Perry Como singing "Prisoner of Love" recorded in New York in December 1945. I felt sad as Perry sings in his own magical way. The orchestra plays along softly enabling Perry to express his real sounding heartache that this song is all about. Perhaps this is not a song you could foresee becoming a hit but it does show what a good crooner Perry was. Now try to imagine a true Romany with golden earrings and a crystal ball, and Dinah Shore in her husky voice will tell you all about her in "The Gypsy" recorded in Hollywood in February 1946 with Sonny Burke and his orchestra. Dinah is a great favourite. She has such a natural style that is ideal for listening to on record. So too is "To Each His Own" recorded in New York in April 1946 with Eddy Howard and his orchestra. I felt myself slowly swaying to this magical voice and feeling lulled into tranquillity. I have never heard anyone sing this song quite like Eddy Howard. After listening to that I was pleased to hear Frankie Laine, a great favourite, in "Thatís My Desire" from August 1946. Not a number I have heard before and I donít think it has survived well, but I enjoyed it as Frankie turns it into a pleasant lyric song.

To hear someone new singing a ballad is always a pleasure and hearing Art Lung in "Mamíselle" which he made in Los Angeles February 1946 with Johnny Thompson and his orchestra made me realise what I had missed. But then there were so many recordings made at that time that no one could have heard them all. This is a beautiful song and as I listened I felt Artís voice creep gently over me, compelling me to listen. What a pity this isnít heard more often. A good one to follow is "Peg Oí My Heart", a revival from the Ziegfeld Follies 1913. This is sung beautifully by Buddy Clark with Michael Ayres and his orchestra in New York in April 1947. I wondered why I had never heard of Buddy Clark then discovered he had been killed in an air crash soon after. I am sure we would have heard more of him, as he had the kind of voice that made people stars.

Perhaps not the ideal choice to follow is "Nature Boy", based on a traditional Yiddish melody and sung here by Nat King Cole with Frank Devoi and his orchestra in Hollywood in August 1947. Itís a lovely song and Nat sings it in his low, dulcet, mellifluous way. Perhaps a good recording to follow that is "Ballerina" with Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra recorded in August 1947. I have heard this over many times over the years and always liked it, mainly because of the tuneful melody. Vaughn Monroe sings it very well, although I donít feel this number really needs a singer - better as an instrumental, I think. I sighed with delight when once again I heard that old favourite "Little White Lies" recorded in November 1947 by Dick Haymes with Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra. Dick sings in his usual delightful way with a harmonising group along and makes very clear how we can all tell those little white lies. As I listened to the next recording I once again wished we had crooners today with voices like the ones on this CD. Another one is Gordon MacRae who here sings "Its Magic" in December 1947 - a song introduced by Doris Day in the 1948 Warner musical "Romance on the High Seas". Gordon sings this in his warm, charming way.

It was also great to hear that deep and warm voice of Ella Fitzgerald singing "My Happiness" with the Songspinners. Ella was probably one of the first to sing this song all those years ago when it was recorded in New York 1948. I have heard her sing many numbers, and some I have liked more than others, but this is a favourite of mine and Ella sings it easily and without any effort and you know she is happy to do so. She is supported by the Songspinners, who quietly harmonise in the background. A good number to follow this is Kay Starr in "So Tired". I like Kayís voice as she sings with great feeling, but in this song perhaps a little more warmth was needed than we get. I know I shouldnít have followed it with Sarah Vaughan in "Black Coffee" recorded in New York in January 1949. This song always depresses me but in no way do I blame Sarah Vaughan for she has just the right voice to sing what to me is a dark, rather dreary number. I did however think the instrumentalist who played the trumpet came in just at the right time and made a unique contribution.

A lovely and warm song to follow this is Vic Damone in "Youíre Breaking My Heart" recorded in Chicago early 1949. Vic Damone sings this number, an adaptation of Leoncavalloís `Mattinataí, so poignantly and with such warmth you will love it. Vic even drifts into Italian for a few bars to add that extra touch of romance. To follow this I thought I was about to hear a snappy comedy number from Doris Day, but not the case. "Again" was one of Dorisís first hits recorded in Hollywood in March 1949 and it is a surprise to hear her in such a serious song. Itís pleasant, though, and she sings it very sweetly. Next "Some Enchanted Evening", that great standard from Rogers and Hamersteinís "South Pacific". Many have recorded this over the years but this early version is by Jo Stafford with Paul Weston and his orchestra from March 1949. Jo sings it clearly and with every word clear. The Orchestra quietly plays in the background and in no way swamps Joís voice. A lovely version.

The next song can really pull at your heartstrings. Itís "Thereís No Tomorrow" based on "Oh Sole Mio" and sung beautifully by Tony Martin with Henri Rene and his orchestra in August 1949. I especially like how Martin breaks off and hums a few bars at one point. A lovely song this. I was delighted when I saw the next recording was Pattie Page singing "With My Eyes Wide Open Iím Dreaming" where the Pattie Page Quartet accompanies her from December 1949. This is a revival of a song from a 1934 Paramount film and Pattie with her quartet tells of holding someone close to her and it was with her.

What better way to finish than with Margaret Whiting singing that great revival of the traditional Maori song of farewell "Now Is the Hour", with Frank DeVoi and his orchestra. Itís a song I have heard many times over the years. Our own Vera Lynn has sung it many times. I like Margaret Whitingís version because you still get the feeling of the traditional roots of the original.

Obviously some singers on this CD became more famous than others did. But there isnít one artist here who isnít worth listening to. Some of the songs are perhaps not to my own liking but even they are enjoyable and you may well like them more than me. As usual we have to thank "Living Era" for making it possible to hear these old recordings given a new lease of life in such a lovely compilation. It makes it possible for everyone to look back and remember what it was like at that time when the age of the crooners was at its height.

Joan Duggan

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