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Margaret Whiting — That Old Black Magic. A Tribute — Her 27 Finest; 21 Chart Hits
Margaret Whiting with various accompaniments; and Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Wakely, Bob Hope, and Dean Martin
rec. 1942-50

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1. That Old Black Magic
2. Hit The Road To Dreamland
3. My Ideal
4. Moonlight In Vermont
5. It Might As Well Be Spring
6. Come Rain Or Come Shine
7. Guilty
8. Oh, But I Do!
9. Beware, My Heart
10. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
11. This Can't Be Love
12. Old Devil Moon
13. You Do
14. Pass That Peace Pipe
15. But Beautiful
16. A Tree In The Meadow
17. Far Away Places
18. While The Angelus Was Ringing
19. Forever And Ever
20. A Wonderful Guy
21. Younger Than Springtime
22. Baby, It's Cold Outside (with Johnny Mercer)
23. Slippin' Around (with Jimmy Wakely)
24. Ain't We Got Fun? (with Bob Hope)
25. I'm In Love With You (with Dean Martin)
26. A Bushel And A Peck (with Jimmy Wakely)
27. Now Is The Hour

Margaret Whiting has rather fallen between the cracks. A highly popular ballad singer, she was the first to sing and record a number of standards, and as this disc shows she did so in an exemplary fashion. Yet the recordings have to an extent been eclipsed in the collective memory by others; other singers, other times. She was the first to sing That Old Black Magic, for instance, but we now think of, say, Sinatra. Even My Ideal, which was written by her father Richard, has now been colonised by other subsequent performers.
Perhaps it’s because her strengths lay more in directness and ballad precision than in any great feats of sultriness. She wasn’t a sassy singer, and certainly not a jazz singer, and her generation was spoiled for choice in both categories. This selection of her 27 ‘finest’ spans the years 1942-50. She’s teamed with some first rate practitioners – Freddie Slack, Frank DeVol, Paul Weston and Jerry Gray among them. For jazz aficionados the most interesting tracks are the two with Billy Butterfield and his orchestra. Butterfield demonstrates his twin allegiances in the course of My Ideal, starting like Bunny Berigan and ending like Louis Armstrong.
Whiting was undeniably a highly effective interpreter of popular songs. She had a fine, focused tone, no affectations, and a good way with the lyrics. This concentrated, unflashy singing – try I Didn’t Know What Time It Was for one – is a superior conduit for the Great American song book and with excellent orchestrations and bands, makes for fine listening, even in bulk. Her excellent pitching and romantic charm can be savoured in You Do and she even lets her hair down a bit when an up-tempo song demands it, as Pass that Peace Pipe does – though it’s not quite her thing. It’s a shame that the Jeff Alexander Singers, are so syrupy in A Wonderful Guy, because Whiting sings it with style and verve. Maybe the zenith of her art here is Younger than Springtime, with DeVol, which is both immaculate and beautifully done. Who was DeVol’s charismatic solo violin?
There is a selection of tracks ‘with her men’ who were Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Wakely, Bob Hope and Dean Martin. Not a bad bunch for these 1949-50 tracks. I’m not keen on the yee-haw accompaniment for Slippin’ Around but Hope is droll as ever and the duet with Mercer is an absolute classic. To end there’s an unusual bonus, a Maori farewell song, though to me it sounds Hawaiian in this recording.
A most enjoyable disc all round and a good salute to an underrated singer.
Jonathan Woolf
A most enjoyable disc all round and a good salute to an underrated singer.

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