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Say it Isn’t So: Songs of Irving Berlin

Various artists

NAXOS Nostalgia 8.120829 [63:50]



Crotchet Budget price

Alexander’s Ragtime Band [2:57]
Al Jolson and Bing Crosby, Morris Stoloff’s Orchestra, 1947
A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody [2:28]
John Steel, Orchestra conducted by Joseph Pasternack, 1919
What’ll I Do? [3:12]
Walter Pidgeon, Lester Hodges (piano), 1924
All Alone [2:42]
John McCormack, Orchestra conducted by Nathaniel Shikret, 1924
Always [3:27]
George Olsen and his Music: Fran Frey, Bob Rice, Edward Joyce (vocals),
Remember [3:15]
Cliff Edwards and His Hot Combination, 1925
Blue Skies [3:13]
Jack Smith, vocal and piano, 1927
Puttin’ on the Ritz [2:20]
Harry Richman with Earl Burtnett and His L.A.Biltmore Orchestra, 1929
Say It Isn’t So [3:34]
Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees, 1932
How Deep is the Ocean [3:22]
Ethel Merman, Orchestra conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret, 1932
Easter Parade [3:20]
Leo Reisman and His Orchestra, Clifton Webb, vocal, 1933
Heat Wave [2:59]
Ethel Waters with studio orchestra, 1933
Cheek to Cheek [3:16]
Fred Astaire with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra, 1935
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm [2:55]
Red Norvo and His Orchestra, Mildred Bailey, vocal, 1937
Marie [3:18]
Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Jack Leonard, vocal, 1937
God Bless America [1:58]
Irving Berlin, Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson, 1940
White Christmas [2:59]
Bing Crosby, Ken Darby Ingers, John Scott Trotter’s Orchestra, 1942
O, How I hate to Get Up in the Morning [3:08]
Irving Berlin, with Supporting Cast and Soldier Chorus, Orchestra conducted
by Milton Rosenstock, 1942
I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning [2:58]
Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Mel Tormé and His Mel-Tonmes, vocal, 1946
You’re Just in Love [2:50]
Mary Martin and Her Son Larry (Hagman), Mitch Miller’s Orchestra, 1950
There’s No Business Like Show Business [2:32]
Keenan Wynn, Lousi Calhearn, Howard Keel, Betty Hutton, MGM Studio
Orchestra, conducted by Adoph Deutsch, 1949.

Which great American composer and lyricist was born in Siberia?

Which great American song writer could play the piano in only one key (F sharp major) and had a special piano made by the Weser Company so that he could work in different keys, while only fingering his ‘own’ key?

As you will have guessed, the answer to both questions is Irving Berlin (born Israel Baline in Temun, Siberia in May of 1888).

According to David Ewen (in his All The Years of American Popular Music, 1977), the elderly Berlin listed the following as his own favourites amongst his many songs: Alexander's Ragtime Band, A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody, Always, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, How Deep Is The Ocean, Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning, White Christmas, God Bless America and There's No Business Like Show Business. All of them are included in this compilation from Naxos. They come with good notes by Richard Ouzounian on each of the songs, relating them, as appropriate, to the events of Berlin’s life and career.

Most of the performances will perhaps be of limited interest to the committed jazz fashion – except in one or two cases, the best one could say that there are jazz inflections to be heard. But this CD comes in Naxos’ Nostalgia – rather than its Jazz – series. One or two performances – notably that of ‘Blue Skies’ by Jack Smith, "the whispering baritone" made me cringe; many others are excellent and memorable, not least Harry Richman’s delightful interpretation of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ (not surprisingly, this was a major hit in 1929) and Fred Astaire’s ‘Cheek to Cheek’ from Top Hat.

The wit and appositeness of Berlin’s lyrics is a constant delight. His melodies – as every reader will surely know – have a capacity for lodging themselves in the mind. Nostalgists and historians of popular music will certainly be grateful for this compilation. Those whose interest is primarily in jazz will surely enjoy it as a gathering together of materials that jazz musicians would go on to rework in their own ways.

Glyn Pursglove

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