Sunday, October 27, 2013

On the Sentimental Side (BCE / Collector's Choice, 2010)

Personally, I've never understood the appeal of the singalong records pioneered by producer Mitch Miller, but the truth is that the public was drawn to them in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Of course, in the wake of Miller's singalong success both on record and on television, Bing Crosby recorded his own take on this type of albums, and his efforts were hugely popular as well. One of these projects was shelved and never released, and for many years, collectors believed that either it had never been completed or else it had been lost to history. However, a few years ago, some tapes containing the results of these sessions were located by Crosby archivist Robert Bader and issued in 2010 as On the Sentimental Side.

The liner notes of this CD, written by James Ritz, explain in detail how the tapes were miraculously retrieved and how, after a few obstacles, they were mixed together for release. As it happened, the basic tracks for the album were recorded in London in March of 1962, but Bing didn't contribute his own vocals until June of that year in Los Angeles. For some reason, after the project was abandoned, the instrumental tracks and Bing's vocals were somehow preserved on different tapes and needed to be synched in order to achieve a satisfactory product for release on this CD. The sound, as always, is magnificent, and Bing Crosby Enterprises have done their usual outstanding job, and so now On the Sentimental Side is finally available on a high-quality digipack issue for the delight of all Crosby completists.

Mitch Miller, the singalong pioneer
As for the music, the title doesn't actually imply that the album is made up of sentimental songs, but of tunes that had a sentimental value for Bing, "songs that Bing grew up on and was intimately familiar with as far back as the 'Twenties when his musical career was in its infancy," as Ritz observes. In keeping with the singalong format, the collection contains twelve medleys of songs such as "My Bonnie / The Band Played on," "Beautiful Dreamer / The Last Rose of Summer," and "Look for the Silver Lining / Say It with Music," with Bing in perfect voice and always accompanied by a choir. Some of the tunes ("Tom Dooley / The Old Gray Mare," for instance) have a folkish air, and in my opinion, Bing's interpretations of Irving Berlin ballads like "Always," "Remember," "All Alone," and "What'll I Do" are the highlights of the disc. They would certainly benefit from not having been sung as part of a medley and with the often annoying choir accompaniment, but then this wouldn't be a singalong record, right? The CD also includes five bonus tracks made with Buddy Cole for radio broadcast, which show what a good idea it would have been to record a whole album of this type of material with Cole and no choir. Overall, while this isn't an essential Crosby release, it does have its worthwhile moments, and if you have little kids, like I do, you can always slip it into your CD player and have the little ones sing along with you and Bing—after all, that's what this kind of record is for, isn't it?

TRACKS: My Bonnie - And the Band Played on / Always - Wishing / Remember - Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet / All Alone - In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree / How Can I Leave Thee - A Bird in a Gilded Cage - The Sidewalks of New York / If I Didn't Care - Blueberry Hill / Beautiful Dreamer - The Last Rose of Summer / Roll on Silver Moon - Now the Day Is Over / Tom Dooley - The Old Gray Mare / Together - What'll I Do / Look for the Silver Lining - Say It with Music / Did You Ever See a Dream Walking - A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody / Because / Love's Old Sweet Song / Smilin' Through / Whither Thou Goest / Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral.

Songwriter Irving Berlin was much admired by Bing. Six of his songs appear on this album

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