Lena Horne

A Friend of Yours: Songs by Burke and Van Heusen

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The songwriting team of lyricist Johnny Burke and composer Jimmy Van Heusen may have been the most successful of the 1940s, even if it wasn't the most visible. Since Burke and Van Heusen were staff songwriters at Paramount Pictures and were Bing Crosby's personal songwriters, their material was given tremendous exposure, leading to numerous hits. But as Hollywood songwriters, they gained much less recognition than attends Broadway songwriters. It's hard to think of an album-length tribute to the team (which dissolved in 1953) before Lena Horne's A Friend of Yours: Songs by Burke and Van Heusen. She proves that there should be more. This is only a slice of their work, but even at that it presents recognizable standards such as "Like Someone in Love" and "But Beautiful," and the combination of singable melodies and well-constructed lyrics impresses throughout. The songs also work surprisingly well as vehicles for Horne, having been introduced by much more staid performers such as Crosby, Dinah Shore, and Tommy Dorsey. There's nothing staid about Horne, of course, and it seems fair to say that Burke and Van Heusen have never seemed as sexy as they do here, certainly not in Crosby's avuncular readings. Horne even makes an innocuous number like the old Dorsey chestnut "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" smolder, and that takes some doing. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg, perhaps signaling an overdue comeback for one of the ‘40s most popular (if largely unknown) songwriting duos.

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