NOTE:  Fans of Frank Sinatra know that he was both inspired by, and inspirations for, almost countless numbers of other entertainers.  Those who preceded him he spoke of admiringly, and some, like Bing Crosby, he became great friends with.  Those who have been influenced by Sinatra's artistry are many, and this page, and others that will follow it, hope to document the best and brightest of the many other stars who orbited Sinatra's gravitational pull.  This won't be a full discography listing, just a representative sampling of each artists' career.  So let's start at the very beginning... (it's a very good place to start, or so I hear.)

Bing Crosby: Bing!  His Legendary Years, 1931-1957
MCA Records 10887 [CD];
Released September 28, 1993


Features Include:

  • Four-CD box set containing 101 songs, including best loved hits, rarities, Christmas songs, previously unreleased on CD album tracks, and much more.
  • Extensive booklet with liner notes provided by Will Friedwald.
  • Numerous rare photographs
  • Complete discography
  • Digitally remastered sound

REVIEW:  There's simply no getting around the fact that if Frank Sinatra had not entered onto the music scene when he did, Bing Crosby would be the undisputed king of popular entertainment.  Before Sinatra, there was only Bing, and one listen to this fantastic box set will show you why.  Bing's voice radiated warmth.  He sounded compassionate, friendly, easy-going; and during the Great Depression, his rich baritone voice sounded both comforting and optimistic.  Crosby had been singing and recording since 1926, but it was during the Depression that his talent caught fire with the American public, and is was his voice which Sinatra learned to sing to while listening to him on the family radio in Hoboken.  What was even more remarkable in Crosby's talent was his ability to sound comfortable singing anything - Country and Western, Irish ballads, operetta, ragtime, swing, folk music, spirituals, Hawaiian music, and more, Crosby tackled them all with assurance and taste which never devolved into camp, but instead transformed each song into his own.  All his big hits are here, from the blue "Dancing In The Dark" to the bouncy "Love Is Just Around The Corner" - from the classic "Too Marvellous For Words" to the sacred gravitas of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," - his vast Christmas output is represented with "Silent Night," "Silver Bells" and the world-record breaker "White Christmas."   Bing can sound light-hearted and congenial on "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin" and "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby" or dreamy on "What's New?" and "I'll Be Seeing You".  And of course you'll find fine, remastered versions of his signature songs, "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" and "Swinging On A Star" and "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's an Irish Lullaby)" which were played in almost every home in America.  You'll also find soundtrack covers and hits, like "Easter Parade" and "Road To Morocco" as well as a handful of rarities for collectors, "Spaniard That Blighted My Life," "Song of the Fifth Marines," and the humorous outtake "Close the Door, Joe, We're Making a Disc!"  In short, as perfect an overview of Crosby's appeal as you're likely to find anywhere, showcasing his remarkable versatilty, rich, supple voice, and easy-going warmth which lit a fire in Frank Sinatra to become a singer as well.  Also worth checking out is the neat box set of live radio performances, Swingin' With Bing!

Bing Crosby: The Voice of Christmas - The Complete Decca Christmas Songbook MCA Records 11840 [CD];
Released October 6, 1998


Features include:

  • Forty-four holiday and seasonal tracks, from "Happy Holiday" to "Let's Start the New Year Right," spanning the years 1935-1956, all digitally remastered.
  • Rare and alternate takes of "Silent Night," "Adeste Fidelis" and "White Christmas"
  • Complete Christmas duets by The Andrews Sisters included.

REVIEW:  If there was one thing which Bing Crosby always did better than Frank Sinatra, it was his recordings of Christmas music.  Whereas Frank tended to sound too serious during his Columbia Years, and perhaps too careless and ring-a-ding-ding during his Capitol Years (let's not discuss the Reprise Christmas album, OK?) Bing Crosby's warm, purring baritone sounded tailor-made for listening to while decorating the tree, or cozying up to a crackling fire with a glass of eggnog.  Bing sounds sincere and pious when singing "Silent Night," "Ave Maria," "The First Noel" and "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day."  He sounds alternately smooth and sexy on "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "You're All I Want For Christmas," and "Sleigh Bell Serenade."  He radiates fuzzy-slipper coziness with "White Christmas," (three versions of which can be found here), "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "First Snowfall" and he cuts loose and swings with the razz-ma-tazz juice of The Andrews Sisters on several duets (quartets?), including "Jingle Bells," "The Twelve Days of Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Poppa Santa Claus" and the perennial Hawaiian holiday song "Mele Kalikimaka."  There are also several medleys included: "Christmas Carols: Deck the Halls/Away in a Manger/I Saw Three Ships," and "Christmas Carols: Good King Wenceslas/We Three Kings of Orient Are/Angels We Have Heard On High" as well as the fun "Crosby Christmas, Pts. 1 & 2" with the aforementioned Andrews Sisters.  For generations, this was the voice that defined Christmas music in the homes of America, and it still has the power to bring that magic home.

A Centennial Anthology of His Decca Recordings
MCA Records 113222 [CD];
Released April 8, 2003


 1. I Surrender, Dear
  2. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away)
  3. Star Dust
  4. I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five And Ten Cent Store)
  5. Please
  6. Where The Blue Of The Night (Meets The Gold Of The Day)
  7. I'm An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande)
  8. New San Antonio Rose
  9. Pistol Packin' Mama - (with The Andrews Sisters)
  10. Don't Fence Me In - (with The Andrews Sisters)
  11. Sweet Leilani
  12. Blue Hawaii
  13. My Isle Of Golden Dreams
  14. Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's An Irish Lullaby)

  15. McNamara's Band
  16. Galway Bay
  17. Wait 'Til The Sun Shines, Nellie - (with Mary Martin)
  18. Road To Morocco - (with Bob Hope)
  19. South America, Take It Away
  20. Couple Of Song and Dance Men, A - (with Fred Astaire)
  21. Alexander's Ragtime Band - (with Al Jolson)
  22. In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening - (with Jane Wyman)
  23. You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby
  24. Yes, Indeed! - (with Connee Boswell)
  25. South Rampart Street Parade - (with The Andrews Sisters)

   DISC 2:
  1. June In January
  2. Pennies From Heaven
  3. I've Got A Pocketful Of Dreams
  4. Moonlight Becomes You
  5. Sunday, Monday Or Always
  6. Swinging On A Star
  7. Bells Of St. Mary's, The
  8. Blue Skies
  9. It's Been A Long, Long Time - (with Les Paul Trio)
  10. I Can't Begin To Tell You - (with Carmen Cavallaro)
  11. Ol' Man River - (with Buddy Cole Trio)
  12. You Are My Sunshine
  13. San Fernando Valley
  14. Sioux City Sue
  15. Dear Hearts And Gentle People
  16. Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy
  17. Jingle Bells - (with The Andrews Sisters)
  18. I'll Be Home For Christmas
  19. Silent Night
  20. White Christmas
  21. Red Sails In The Sunset
  22. Now Is The Hour
  23. Far Away Places
  24. Harbor Lights
  25. Around The World

REVIEW:  If the above box set and complete Christmas recordings are a wee bit too much for you to take in one bite, then this double-disc set is an ideal, slimmed-down alternative.  Covering Bing's most important and popular years from the 1930s to the mid-1950s, this anthology does a masterful job of hitting all the high points of these seminal recordings, showing Crosby's then-unmatched appeal, which was a combination of his uncomplicated, mellow tones, his generally cheery musical disposition, and his remarkable versatility.  Although you won't find his earliest hits here, you will find fine Decca re-recordings of "Star Dust" and "Where The Blue Of The Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)," his popular collaborations with the Andrews Sisters on "Pistol Packin' Mama" and "Don't Fence Me In;" his Irish affectations are prominent on "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (That's An Irish Lullabye)" and "McNamara's Band;" his top-selling Christmas songs "White Christmas," "Silent Night" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas;" and his regional leanings into "Blue Hawaii," "Sweet Leilani," "I'm An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grand)" and "New San Antonio Rose."  These songs are thoughtfully strung together by genre so the listener gets a good dose of each one.  Also included are several of Bing's hit movie songs, from the Bob Hope duet "Road To Morocco" to "A Couple of Song and Dance Men" with Fred Astaire, and "The Bells of St. Mary," along with numerous others.  The second disc is even better, with a lion's share of charting hits here, with "Swinging On A Star" to Bing's take on "Ol' Man River" (fun to compare with Sinatra's more dramatic reading), to sentimental faves like "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" and "Red Sails in the Sunset."  Included in the set is a fine twenty-page booklet with loads of information and pictures which is very welcome.  Perhaps the perfect set for the curious listener.

Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday
Sony Records 85979 [CD];
Released September 28, 2001

  DISC 1:
  1. What A Little Moonlight Can Do
  2. These Foolish Things
  3. I Cried For You
  4. Summertime
  5. Billie's Blues
  6. If You Were Mine
  7. Fine Romance, A
  8. Easy To Love
  9. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
  10. I Must Have That Man!
  11. Me, Myself And I
  12. They Can't Take That Away From Me
  13. Easy Living
  14. Sailboat In The Moonlight, A
  15. Trav'lin' All Alone
  16. When A Woman Loves A Man
  17. You Go To My Head
  18. My Man
   DISC 2:
  1. I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me
  2. Very Thought Of You, The
  3. I Can't Get Started
  4. Long Gone Blues
  5. Sugar
  6. Some Other Spring
  7. Them There Eyes
  8. Man I Love, The
  9. Body And Soul
  10. Swing, Brother, Swing
  11. Night And Day
  12. Let's Do It
  13. God Bless The Child
  14. Solitude
  15. I Cover The Waterfront
  16. Gloomy Sunday
  17. Until The Real Thing Comes Along, (It Will Have To Do)
  18. All Of Me

REVIEW:  Frank often referred to Billie Holiday in his references to his personal influences, going so far as to record a fine tribute song, "Lady Day" which was later included as a bonus track on Watertown, but unless you listen carefully, you won't hear the reasoning.  That's because Billie Holiday seems to be steeped in Orleans jazz and blues, with her gritty, world-weary vocals covering the seedy, barroom accompainment with echoes of her hellish life.  Lady Day was a teenage prostitute and spent the majority of her life addicted to drugs, and the pathos she brings to her numbers is palpable - from the desperate "I Must Have That Man" to the plaintive irony of wanting the good life in "Easy Living," to her signature song, "My Man" - which is a tour-de-force of despair and longing.  Although on these early recordings you won't find much evidence of the Great American Songbook, Holiday seemed to prefer songs which spoke in the murky voice of the ghettos, occasionally a familiar face will turn up: "You Go To My Head" by Cole Porter is here is a slow shuffle, or "The Very Thought Of You" is given a spare reading.  The arrangements fit Holiday's readings perfectly, with a smoky barroom flavor steeping every song in either pathos or irony - there's no out-and-out joy to be found here; even up-tempo songs like "Swing Brother Swing" sound like a desperate upheaval, or attempt to escape the grim surroundings, than a true outburst of sunlight.  But it's also here where you'll hear the sublime tension which Billie Holiday creates by deliberately holding back the tempo, letting the music seemingly plow on ahead of her, only to snap back into the groove with a careless ease.  Frank surely must have been referring back to this traight in his own singing, and while Frank could plumb the depths of despair as masterfully as Holiday could, he never let the sentiment eat him alive, as it did Lady Day.  For this reason, I've never been a fan of Billie Holiday's - where Frank was always in the role of entertainer, for Holiday, she sang these desperate songs because she lived them. This two disc distillation of the 10-disc Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944) is a good introduction into the wrong-side-of-the-tracks imprint of this seminal jazz/blues artist.

Billie Holiday: The Ultimate Collection
Hip-O Records [CD + DVD];
Released April 5, 2005


Set Includes:

  • Two CDs containing forty two of her greatest hits, from her 1935 stint with Benny Goodman, to her chilling 1958 strings album, Lady in Satin.
  • Features her signature songs "Good Morning Heartache," "God Bless the Child," and her unforgettable anti-lynching number "Strange Fruit."
  • DVD includes film cameos with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, photographs, posters, rehearsals and interviews with friends and musicians, including a rediscovered 1956 radio broadcast with Mike Wallace.

REVIEW:  This second set of the gardenia-wearing Lady Day is perhaps even better than the previous, although one could easily own both sets as there is very little overlap.  The Sony set above has a greater emphasis on Holiday's early years, with only three songs overlapping this set, while the Hip-O collections gives a greater perspective on her entire career, from her early Benny Goodman years, to her last songs, which were despair-drenched laments which ripped the hearts out of listeners.  Hip-O collaborated on this set with Decca and Verve, which necessarily gives greater emphasis to Holiday's later years, which is when she was in her artistic prime, singing standards like "You Go To My Head," "Willow Weep For Me," "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "It Had To Be You," "What's New?" "But Not For Me," and a couple of songs more associated with Frank, "One For My Baby (And One For The Road)" and "I'm A Fool To Want You."  Songs which became signature songs for Holiday are also here, from "Lady Sings The Blues," "Detour Ahead," "God Bless The Child," "Mean To Me," and "Lover Man" showcasing her lifelong affinity for songs that delved deeply into blues sentiments.  The added attraction of this set is the inclusion of a DVD which shows Lady Day live with several famous sidemen, including a New Orleans meeting of Louis Armstrong and Holiday peforming "Blues are Brewin'" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," movie appearances from 1934 and 1946 in their entirety; 1957's Lady Day All-Star Jam is shown here complete, as well as lesser-well known 1956 television appearances (on the Stars of Jazz show) and much more, making the DVD just as valuable for Billie Holiday fans as the music.  Again, I have to state that Billie Holiday's voice is an acquired taste for many people, but if you want to hear why Frank repeatedly stated her as a key influence in his own singing, you only need to hear this once to see how her mercurial pathos and behind-the-beat phrasing tipped Sinatra in the direction he should go.

Harry James: Bandstand Memories (1938-1948)
Hindsight Records 503 [CD];
Released October 25, 1994

Harry James MP3 for all Harry James

Box Set Features:

  • 64 tracks on three CD's - featuring live cuts from radio transcriptions, air checks, and on-air interviews.
  • Vocal performances by Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes, Connie Haines, Helen Forrest and Kitty Kallen.
  • Detailed liner notes identifying vocalists, instrumental soloists, date and location of broadcasts, arrangements, and notes detailing other commercial releases or recordings of each song.

REVIEW:  Harry James was, of course, Frank Sinatra's first big break into show business, and while Frank was with James only a short while, their friendship and mutual regard lasted throughout the tenure of their lives.  Harry James wasn't initially successful during his and Frank's time together; he had broken off from Benny Goodman's band to start his own group, but were struggling for a long time before his own distinctive sound began to take off.  James was a silky trumpeter, who could swing or simmer, and garnered respect for his bebop stylings and debonair looks.  Although there is a fine two-disc compilation of his studio recordings which bear checking out, I prefer this three-disc set of live transcriptions which were captured during the tenure of his manager, "Pee Wee" Monte.  Whereas big bands always seemed to sound a little reigned-in in their studio captures, they cut loose and really swung in live performances, and you can hear ripping takes of "King Porter Stomp," "Fanny May," the boogie-woogie "Two O' Clock Jump," the charmingly-titled "Jump Sauce" and the "9:20 Special."  Along with Frank's appearances (including what may be his first recording of "Star Dust" and a shaky take of "The Lamp Is Low) are great takes of "Perdido" (with an arrangement by Juan Tizol), and the divine Helen Forrest appearing on several tracks.  Also are found several gentle songs for lovers, like the smooth "Moon Love," "When You Wish Upon A Star," "One Dozen Roses," "Where Or When," "It Could Happen To You" and numerous others.  All of Frank's recordings here were later released on the Complete Harry James featuring Frank Sinatra disc, so if you're looking for rare Frank, look elsewhere, but this is still a thick slice of big band bounce, and worthwhile listening for fans of the era.  While Sinatra may not have picked up any technical tips from James to carry on in his singing, James was a class act, and Frank couldn't have found a better friend to set him on his way to bigger and better things.

The Golden Years of Dick Haymes: Let The Rest of the World Go By
Jasmine Music [CD];
Released July 15, 2003

Dick Haymes MP3 for all Dick Haymes

Box Set Features:

  • 101 tracks on four CDs covering Dick Haymes most popular years
  • Duets with Helen Forrest, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and the Andrew Sisters, among others.
  • Digitally remastered and restored music.
  • Several tracks previously unreleased in any format. 

REVIEW:  Basing his career as sort of a safe alternative to Sinatra's more overtly sexual singing, Dick Haymes hung on Frank's coattails on more than one occasion, the first being his stepping into Sinatra's shoes with Harry James, and again after Frank's depature from the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.  And although Dick wasn't in the same league as Frank, he had great success in all his endeavors, and recorded several hit singles during the late thirties and thorughout the forties, as well as breaking into a very successful film career.  On this very reasonably priced four-CD set, you can hear the cream of his recordings in one go.  Haymes had a much richer baritone voice than Sinatra, occasionally sounding a bit swallowed in his tone, but was never the interpreter Frank was.  More in the mould of Bing Crosby, Haymes was a true crooner, placing the emphasis of his voice ahead the lyric, but serving the melody of each song very well.  Here you'll find his many most popular recordings, from "It Had To Be You" (with Helen Forrest) to "Great Day" with the always effervescent Andrews Sisters, to the panoramic "Laura" and his soundtrack hits "It's A Grand Night For Singing," "It Might As Well Be Spring" (from Rodgers & Hammerstein's State Fair) and smooth-as-buttermilk readings of "What'll I Do?" "Sunday, Monday, or Always," "You're Eyes Have Told Me So," and Irving Berlin's bouncy "It's A Lovely Day Today."  Also are found several of his collaborations with other popular stars of the day, from Judy Garland ("Aren't You Kind Of Glad We Did?" and "For You, For Me For Evermore"), several outings with the Andrews Sisters ("There's No Business Like Show Business," "Teresa," "My Sin," "What Did I Do?" and more) as well as duets with Patty Andrews on "Why Won't You?" "Can I Come In For A Second," and "I Oughta Know More About You," and a half-dozen songs with Carmen Cavallaro.  The sound is generally very good throughout the set, and if you like singers who exude that "boy-next-door" attitude, then Dick Haymes is your kinda guy.

This Is Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Volume One
Collectables 2815 [CD];
Released May 8, 2001

Tommy Dorsey MP3 for all Tommy Dorsey
1. I'm Getting Sentimental over You 
2. Stardust 
3. Marie 
4. Song of India 
5. Once in a While 
6. Joesephine
7. Lady Is a Tramp
8. Who?
9. Music, Maestro, Please
10. Boogie Woogie
11. Hawaiian War Chant
12. I'll Be Seeing You
13. East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)
14. I'll Never Smile Again
15. Whispering
16. Our Love Affair
17. Street of Dreams - Tommy Dorsey
18. There Are Such Things
19. Opus One
20. On the Sunny Side of the Street

REVIEW:  For Sinatra fans, Tommy Dorsey so often gets cast as the acidic, controlling boss figure, that his artistry is given the short shrift.  Even in the popular market, many of his recordings pair him with Sinatra, stripping Dorsey of having the spotlight on his playing.  But here, on the first volume of a stunning two-volume chronicle, Tommy as a solo artist gets to shine, and brother, it's sheer butter.  It's easy to hear the kind of game which Frank stepped into when comparing this music with the earlier Harry James orchestra.  Whereas James was all verve and bounce, Tommy Dorsey's music is pure polish - richly textured, smoothly delivered pieces which breathe class and distinction.  And Tommy's playing is pure heaven - long legato lines which float above a bed of subtle strings and horns, shivering low in almost too-soft pianissamos or singing amid a crush of clarinets, oboes and horns.  Oh, Frank makes an appearance here and there amid the riches; he of course shows up on "I'll Never Smile Again" and "There Are Such Things," but Frank's not the main event on this disc, he's simply one of the singers, and if you haven't heard the ultra cool "Opus One" or the dreamy "Who?" or blessed your life with hearing a sparkling version of the Sentimental Gentleman's signature song "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" then you're missing out on a real education of how Frank Sinatra learned how to sing.  Listening to this disc is like hearing the Columbia-era Frank reborn in the throat of Dorsey's trombone, which has such expressiveness and feeling that it often sounds like a human voice; and the manner in which Dorsey stretches phrases to past the breaking point is case in point for Sinatra's similar methods which he picked up from his boss.  This is great stuff, and pure gold among the sometimes gritty world of Big Band music.

This is Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, Volume Two
Collectables 2818 [CD];
Released May 8, 2001

Tommy Dorsey MP3 for all Tommy Dorsey
1. That's a Plenty 
2. After You've Gone 
3. Beale Street Blues 
4. Night and Day 
5. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 
6. Milenberg Joys, Pts. 1 & 2    
7. Tea for Two    
8. One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)   
9. For You 
10. This Love of Mine
11. Blue Skies
12. Hallelujah! 
13. What Is This Thing Called Love?
14. Well, Git It! 
15. Chicago 
16. Chloe
17. Why Do I Love You?
18. It's De-Lovely
19. I Get a Kick Out of You

REVIEW:  The second volume of Tommy Dorsey and Co., is less essential than the first, being concerned with more popular material and dance-floor numbers than Volume One, but still exibiting the trademark polish and sheen as the previous disc as well as a surprising variety in numbers, from the dirty growl Tommy plays during "Beale Street Blues"  and the the stunning arrangement found on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."  The album begins with the fast charleston of "That's A Plenty" which plays so fast and loose it sounds like another orchestra, then slows down with "After You've Gone" which has a lazy saloon-like feel carried by Dorsey's versatile solo line.  "Night and Day" is a fairly bloodless reading, again smoothed over by Dorsey's smooth, languid line, and the bouncy "Milenberg Joys, Pts 1 & 2" have a joyous kick to them that is again, unlike anything Dorsey ever tackled with Sinatra, sounding like a Benny Goodman jazz combo!  A fun, bouncy "Tea For Two" is next, with Dorsey floating over the rhythmic backing, and the cool, urban groove found on "The One I Love (Belongs To Somebody Else)" is revelatory, showing a depth and maturity to the arrangement that is top of the class.  Same with the slurring brass found on "For You" - an absolutely magnetic feel that saturates a darkly-hued piece.  Frank shows up on the ultra-smooth "This Love Of Mine" revealing a singer nearing his prime, vocally - Sinatra is clearly echoing his boss's phrasing here, and doing it masterfully.  This gives way to a groovy "Blue Skies," slow and slinky alternating between low, growling brass and high, cool oboes.  A martial air introduces "Hallelujah!" in an interesting, varied arrangement that bounces between the different sections; and the dramatic feeling of ""What Is This Thing Called Love" recalls Artie Shaw's "Nightmare" in its dark, wary mood.  The exuberant "Well, Git It!" is fantastic - a clarion call which shows Dorsey can swing as hard as any other band when he chooses.  "Chicago" is straightforward and unmemorable, but "Chloe" is a masterpiece of tension in its cool crime vibe and thundering percussive effects.  The placement of "Why Do I Love You?" after such a vibrant song kills it, with it's earnest, gushy love-song sentimentality, and the slurry "It's De-Lovely" is filler.  The album closes with a canny arrangement of Porter's "I Get A Kick Out Of You" which has a nicely understated feel punctuated with thick brass fills.  An interesting addition to your Dorsey collection.

Connie Haines: Singin' and Swingin'
Collector's Choice CCM-241 [CD];
Released February 12, 2002

Connie Haines MP3 for all Connie Haines
1. So This Then Is Love 
2. Isn't That Just Like Love? 
3. You Can Depend on Me 
4. Boog It 
5. Lights Out Hold Tight 
6. That's for Me 
7. Little Brown Jug 
8. Two Dreams Met 
9. Rhumboogie 
10. I Wouldn't Take a Million 
11. Georgia on My Mind 
12. You Say the Sweetest Things, Baby 
13. Will You Still Be Mine? 
14. Buds Won't Bud 
15. Swingtime Up in Harlem 
16. Dreaming Out Loud 
17. There'll Be Some Changes Made 
18. I'm Nobody's Baby 
19. You Think of Everything 
20. What Is This Thing Called Love?

REVIEW:  In every swing band of the 1940s (at least the larger ones) there was both a girl and a boy singer who accentuated the band and took the lead during certain songs.  In Dorsey's band, Frank was the male singer, and for a long time, the sweet and sassy Connie Haines was his counterpart.  Reading up about Haines is fascinating; she recorded for Decca, Capitol, Mercury and Columbia Records, as well as doing an entire album for Motown (with songs written by Smokey Robinson!)  But what's even more interesting is hearing her in this fab collection of live transcriptions with the Dorsey Orchestra.  Whereas Dorsey's songs with Frank were smooth and buttery, utilizing more strings and woodwinds to match the timbre of Frank's voice, the sound Tommy uses for Haines is brighter, brassier, and with a sly wink that perfectly accentuates her coy demeanor and cutie-pie persona.  Haines's voice has a touch of cupie-doll about her, and her personality really sparks here, whether on the hot "Boog It" or the southern shuffle of "Little Brown Jug."  Especially fun are the honking fire of "Rhumboogie" and the very un-PC opening of Tommy Dorsey before leading into a slinky take of "Georgia On My Mind."  The Pied Pipers show up for several of the songs, such as the sweet as syrup "You Say The Sweetest Things, Baby" and "So This Then Is Love."  What's fascinating for me is the different roles which Sinatra and Haines played in the Dorsey band; Frank was the dewy-eyed romantic, while Haines was the other side of the coin: the hot and sassy swinger, a role which Frank would master not fully until his Capitol Years and his unsurpassed series of swing albums; but here, with Dorsey, it's Connie Haines who took that part, and she masters it with a wink and tremendous charm.  Unfortunately, Connie Haines is terribly under-represented on CD, with only this CD and a later tribute to Helen Morgan available - which is too bad, because I'd love to hear more from this sparkling singer.

Jo Stafford: Yes Indeed!
Proper Box UK [CD];
Released April 8, 2002

Jo Stafford MP3 for all Jo Stafford

Box Set Features:

  • Ninety-nine tracks on four CDs, covering Jo's entire career at Capitol Records during the 1940s.
  • Thirteen tracks of her collaborations with Tommy Dorsey and the Pied Pipers. 
  • Forty-page booklet filled with photos, notes on songs, arrangers, and chart placings.
  • All her top ten hits from this era, plus many rare and previously unreleased tracks. 

REVIEW:  Another wonderful bargain for buyers, this four-CD box set with thick booklet can be had for around twenty dollars, and the music is wonderfully evocative.  Jo Stafford is usually not rated as highly as some of her contemporaries, but as a former member of the Pied Pipers with Tommy Dorsey, and later a soloist in her own right, she rubbed shoulders with Sinatra, and seemed to pick up several of the same lessons as Frank did from their mutual leader, as, at least to my ears, Stafford captures the same long lines and phrasing which Frank was making a signature style for him during the 1940s.  Stafford's voice is lighter and sweeter than other girl singers, giving her readings a cheerful girl-next-door quality which I find very appealing, and this box set from England is an ideal way to hear her fairer-sex take on Dorsey's phrasing.  This collection, which covers Stafford's tenure at Capitol Records, captures a baker's dozen of her Dorsey/Pipers recordings, from "What Can I Say (After I Say I'm Sorry)" and "For You" to "Who Can I Turn To?" and "Night We Called It a Day." Then slips into her solo career, with thick slices of hits like "It Could Happen To You" and "Amor, Amor" to novelty numbers like "Ridin' The Gravy Train" and "Temptation (Tim-Tayshun)." I don't want to give you the impression that Jo Stafford had a limited voice, or is lower on the talent scale than Helen Forrest or June Christy (although she is often classed in the same group of 'cool' singers as Christy and Anita O'Day), since her voice had a charming warmth and melancholy which often was brought into play in her many ballads: "I'll Be Seeing You," "Day By Day," "Fools Rush In" and "Autumn In New York" are just a few of the songs which warm, heartfelt vocals given them here, but Jo could never have produced an album like "In The Wee Small Hours" - she just didn't plumb those kind of depths; but she wasn't the cold, detached singer that she's often unfairly classed with - I consider her more of a Doris Day-like singer, but without the sobbing catch in her voice which Day had. Stafford is utterly professional, ocassionally light and carefree, and always a subtly romantic artist whose careful crafting of phrase and enunciation puts her in the same class as Sinatra, both graduating from the Hard-Knocks School of Tommy Dorsey.

Artie Shaw: Self Portrait
Bluebird/RCA 09026-63808-2 [CD];
Released October 9, 2001


Box Set Features:

  • 95 tracks remastered from the best available sources
  • Complete discography
  • Extensive liner notes by Artie Shaw himself and historian Richard Sudhalter
  • Produced by Grammy-winning jazz legend Orrin Keepnews
  • Rare photos of Artis Shaw and his musicians.

REVIEW:  You may think it's curious that I'd put an artist here who never collaborated with Sinatra, or even sang a note, but to me, Artie Shaw is definitely related to Sinatra in other, less obvious ways.  I was clued into Artie Shaw by none other than Will Friedwald, who, in his book Sinatra! The Song Is You equates Shaw as the instrumental equivalent of Sinatra, purely on an artistic  level.  After one listen to this fantastic box set, I had to agree.  Like Sinatra, Shaw was a rugged individualist, refusing to stay with the safe and sure.  Like Sinatra, Artie was committed to performing the best songs, from the best composers of the day, often using startling, dramatic arrangements (which Shaw often penned himself).  Shaw was also deeply rooted in the Jazz tradition, and would often veer wildly from the melodic tempo to stretch phrases, bend a note, or scatter around the melody in pure jazz forms.  And like Sinatra, Shaw was a tireless perfectionist, never satistfied with the sound or performance he gave, and always striving to one-up himself.  Unlike Sinatra, Shaw was never married to music, however, and in 1954, at the top of his game, he gave it up and devoted himself to a successful writing career.  In choosing the tracks for this retrospective, Shaw eschewed the "hits" which he had recorded over the years, (although many of them are here), and chose instead the most personally satisfying recordings, the most challenging pieces, and performances which show all-too-clearly how exacting and talented Shaw was in his art.  Covering every band and every label Shaw ever recorded with, this staggering set is filled with astounding performances, from the revolutionary "Nightmare" (which became his signature song), to the amazing acrobatics of "Streamline" and the dreamy "Monsoon" to the wild jungle rhythms found on "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?" - but the riches here are too many to number.  After I heard this set, I had to have more, so I made a beeline for the 10-CD import Begin the Beguine (which is available for under twenty dollars - score!) which focuses more on his "popular" side, and has many more vocalists present.  If you think Sinatra was the only hard-working perfectionist of his era, I suggest you check out Artie Shaw, and be prepared to be very, very impressed. 

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