Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Bing Crosby – Return To Paradise Islands – Collectors’ Choice Music Bing Crosby – El Senor Bing – Collector’s Choice Music

1) A new stereo mix of the 1963 collection of Hawaiian songs. 2) A reissue of a light and breezy 1960 Latin music collection shines.

Published on May 26, 2010

Bing Crosby – Return To Paradise Islands – Collectors’ Choice Music
Bing Crosby – El Senor Bing – Collector’s Choice Music
Bing Crosby – Return To Paradise Islands – Collectors’ Choice Music
Bing Crosby – El Senor Bing – Collector’s Choice Music

Bing Crosby – Return To Paradise Islands – Collectors’ Choice Music CCM 2105 **½:

(featuring the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, tracks 1-13; Buddy Cole and his Trio, tracks 14-18.

Bing Crosby had an appreciation for exotic island music and culture. Most of his comic “Road Movies” with Bob Hope were set in different paradises, and often featured a related song or two. With the release of the 1963 Reprise record on CD, his fans get to experience over fifty minutes of so-called tropical music.

Under the strict arrangements of longtime Sinatra arranger, Nelson Riddle, Crosby glides through an assortment of “Hawaiian standards”.  A familiar number, ”Return To Paradise”, written by Hollywood songwriters Ned Washington and Dimitri Tiompkin, demonstrates the singer’s relaxed feel and tone. Fans of the late 50s show, “Adventures in Paradise” will certainly recognize this laconic theme of the same name.

Devotees of Crosby will undoubtedly be delighted with this nostalgic fare. Unfortunately, It does seem that the focus of the recording is on the orchestra. At times, the arrangements, skillful and articulate, are pervasive. The listener needs to look at the bonus material produced with the quartet to see the difference. The simplified sound captures the essence of island music. On tracks like “My Little Grass Shack” and “King’s Serenade”, the vocals seem to be more prominent and expedient to the songs. On “Ukulele Lady”, and the whimsical “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai”, there is a sense of playfulness. It should be noted that the bonus tracks were recorded for the 1961 CBS radio program, the Crosby-Clooney Show.

For a generation unfamiliar with this legend, this series is a pleasant introduction.

TrackList: Return to Paradise; The Hukilau Song; The Old Plantation; Lovely Hula Hands; Love and Aloha; Keep Your Eyes on the Hands; Adventures in Paradise; Frangipani Blossom; Forevermore; Farewell My Tane; Beautiful Kahana; Home in Hawaii (King’s Serenade); Return to Paradise ( studio chatter, false take); My Little Grass Shack (in Kealakakua, Hawaii); The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai; Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula; Ukulele Lady; King’s Serenade.

Bing Crosby – El Senor Bing – Collector’s Choice Music CCM 2108, 68:00 ***½:

(featuring Billy May and his Orchestra, with the Jud Conlon’s Rhythmaires (tracks 1-20); and Buddy Cole and his Trio (tracks 21-26)).

Bing Crosby’s involvement with Latin music dates as far back as the 20s as a member of the Rhythm Boys, backing up the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. In the 30s Warner Brothers introduced a Latin cartoon character, based on Crosby.

The reissue of Senor Bing, first released in 1961, captures the charisma and undeniable appeal of this legendary performer.  Under the skillful arrangements of Billy May, the music is energetic and manages to accentuate Crosby’s vocals without overpowering them. The 10 original songs are arranged in dual pieces. On “In The Still of the Night/I Could Have Danced All Night”, an interesting flute and xylophone combination forms a melodic beat that blends in perfectly with the soft baritone vocal.  The familiar “How High the Moon/Old Devil Moon” has a driving percussion, as does the staccato “Down Argentine Way/What a Difference a Day Made”, augmented by horns, flute and backing singers.  Again, the orchestral arrangements of May wrap around the singing. Bing’s vocals are relaxed and subtle. The song selection is first rate.

As with other CDs in this collection, there is a substantial amount of bonus material. Recorded in mono, these songs are solid, not superfluous. Even when he is singing entirely in Spanish (“La Borrachita”,” No Te Importe Saber”), the music is natural and unassuming. Oddly, there is a song, performed in French, but with a Latin arrangement.   A humorous take on the Perry Como classic, “Papa Loves Mambo”, recorded with Buddy Cole and his Trio becomes another Crosby staple, as does “In a Little Spanish Town”. The tracks with Buddy Cole were recorded for the CBS radio program, The Bing Crosby Show.

TrackList: In The Still of the Night/I Could Have Danced All Night; C’est Magnifique/Taking a Chance on Love; Heavenly Night (Cielito Linda)/My Shawl; Marta/The Rose in Her Hair; How High the Moon/Old Devil Moon; Pagan Love Song/Cuban Love Song; Ramona/ Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy); Malaguena (at The Crossroads)/Andalucia(The Breeze and I); Down Argentine Way/ What a Difference a Day Made; Again/Allez-Vous-En (Go Away); Ramona/Amapola (mono); Marta/The Rose in Her Hair (mono); Again/Allez-Vous-En (mono); In the Still of the Night/I Could Have Danced All Night (mono); Pagan Love Song/Cuban Love Song (mono); Down Argentine Way/What a Difference a Day Made (mono); Heavenly Night/My Shawl (mono); Malaguena/Andalucia (mono); How High the Moon/ Old Devil Moon (mono); C’est Magnifique/Taking a Chance on Love (mono); Papa Loves Mambo; Solamente Una Vez (You Belong to My Heart); Las Borrachita (I’ll Never Love Again); Floras Negras (You’re the Moment of a Lifetime); No Te Importa Saber (Let Me Love You Tonight); In a Little Spanish Town.

— Robbie Gerson


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