Bing Crosby – So Rare: Treasures from The Crosby Archive – Collectors Choice Music CCM2109, 88:14 ***:
(featuring Freddie Rich and the CBS Studio Orchestra; Nat W. Finston and his Paramount Orchestra; John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra; George Melachrino and the British Band of the AEF; Buddy Cole and his Orchestra and Trio; Pete King and his Orchestra; The Lorelei of Goose Bay; Johnny Keating and his Orchestra; Ernie Freeman and his Orchestra; Jimmie Haskell and his Orchestra; Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra)
Bing Crosby’s career endured for six decades. Despite the constant changes in popular music, he was able to maintain his ardent fan base, and continue to record until his death in 1977. Perhaps not common knowledge was his involvement in helping to develop state of the art recording technology. (Crosby is credited as being the first to record his radio programs in advance on magnetic tape, to be an investor in the new reel-to-reel tape company Ampex, and for giving Les Paul an early version of a multi-track tape recorder.) This recognition of technical progress allowed the singer to produce music that was viable and commercial.
On the new retrospective “So Rare: Treasures From The Crosby Archive, the listener can experience the proportions of this catalogue. There are a significant number of lush arrangements, like “Somewhere Over The Rainbow, “”The Second Time Around”, and “I’ll Be Seeing You”, that represent popular vocal production at its best. Crosby’s vocals are pitch perfect and he has a very creative tone and phrasing with the famed baritone. Also impressive is his bluesy rendition of the Gershwin classic, “I Can’t Get Started” and the swinging version of “Pennies from Heaven”. Crosby was an effective jazz singer and comfortable with this breezy construct. Sound engineering on this CD, including the early mono recordings, is impressive.
There are a number of humorous songs, highlighting the singer’s infatuation with golf (“Straight Down The Middle, “Tomorrow’s My Lucky Day”), horseracing (“My Old Kentucky Home”, “Where the Turf Meets the Surf”) and football (”You’re the Gem State Wonder, Idaho”). Naturally there are sentimental folk ballads, like “Far from Home” and “How Green Was My Valley”, exploring a sentimental mood.
It would be impossible not to mention the inexpedient material. There is a soliloquy on the merits of Rock and Roll music, and a lackluster version of the Johnny Ace hit, “Pledging My Love”. A series of 60’s “self-examination” tunes illustrate that every artist does not have rapport with every musical genre. The packaging will be a hit with Bing’s fans, offering a variety of casual photographs.
TrackList: Disc One: Just One More Chance; I’m Through With Love; Buckin’ The Wind; Where the Surf Meets the Turf; Over the Rainbow; As Time Goes By; I’ll Be Seeing You; Why Don’t You Fall in Love With Me; You’re the Gem State Wonder, Idaho; Santa Clause is Coming to Town; What Do You Mean, You Lost Your Dog?; We’re in the Money (The Golddiggers’ Song); I Hear Music; I Can’t Get Started; Because; Pledging My Love; The Yellow Rose Of Texas; My Old Kentucky Home. Disc Two: So Rare; Straight Down The Middle; Tomorrow’s My Lucky Day: The Second Time Around; Incurably Romantic; Anthem of the Clams; Pennies from Heaven; Far from Home, How Green was My Valley; Step to the Rear; Live a Little; Don’t Let a Good Thing Get Away; What Do We Do With The World; The Human Race; Take a Longer Look; That’s What Life is All About.
Bing Crosby – On the Sentimental Side – Collectors’ Choice Music CCM2106, 51:34 *½:
(featuring the Ivor Raymond Orchestra and Chorus, tracks 1-12, Buddy Cole tracks 13-17)
The various Bing Crosby reissues will invigorate this American icon. Along with Al Jolson and Frank Sinatra, he transcended popular music. The art of “crooning” would influence generations of imitators, but without a legitimate peer.
However, “On the Sentimental Side” does not do justice to this legacy. With the intention of having the beloved crooner interpret an assortment of popular songs from his childhood, the CD is surprisingly uninspired. Backed by an orchestra featuring an accordion, the music is repetitious and boring. Arranged in duet medleys, the songs seem to move at a deliberate pace. Crosby’s penchant for breezy and jazzy phrasing is sublimated by the tedious arrangements. He is relegated to being merely a baritone voice in a chorus.
— Robbie Gershon