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Bing Crosby A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings Review

Compilation. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

He might have been any Tom, Dick or Harry doing his best to make good in the 1930s and...

Morag Reavley 2003

It was his dazzling ordinariness which made Bing Crosby extraordinary. Pleasant yet unexceptional in appearance, he had a breezy, all-American manner and an intimate, unshowy voice. He might have been any Tom, Dick or Harry doing his best to make good in the 1930s and 40s.

This double-set album marking the centenary of his birth comprises a mere 50 of a staggering 1,700 songs recorded by Bing, mostly for Decca Records, between 1934 and 1957. The studiousness of the undertaking is obvious, tracks being carefully compiled to represent the development of the whole of Crosby's output.

His break came in the early 1930s. In "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams", "Star Dust" and "I Found A Million Dollar Baby", Crosbys average-Jack voice - worn but warm, and full of yearning - embodies the emotions of the Depression era like no other.

From his enormously popular films there are the swoony ballads "Pennies From Heaven" and "June In January", and the bantering "A Couple Of Song And Dance Men" with Fred Astaire.

If Crosbys crooner-next-door act begins to pall, there is plenty of swingier stuff. Bing began his career in a jazz band, and whoops it up with the best of them in "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby" and a stomping "Alexanders Ragtime Band" with Al Jolson.

Crosby was also a country and western pioneer, one of the first to bring the Nashville style to mainstream prominence. "I'm An Old Cowhand" and "Pistol Packin Mama" are pure vaudeville. "In Dont Fence Me In" Crosby plays the deep-voiced, chap-legged cowboy straight man to The Andrews Sisters psychedelic, harmonising seraphim.

The other, less-fashionable songs Bing recorded are not ignored sentimental Irish tunes, languorous Hawaiian songs, and those famous Christmas songs.They might sound square now, but they're touched with the same ready charm as the rest of the oeuvre. Easy listening doesnt get much easier than this.

A complete works of Bing Crosby would run into several hundred discs. This one deftly packs his fifty-year career into just two. He may have been born a century ago, but theres still plenty of zing about Bing.

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