A really cool CD, and one of the better Goodman volumes, despite its 16 songs being drawn from across five years (1941-1946). Most of the material is instrumental (although Peggy Lee and Goodman himself sing on six numbers), and the arrangements are among the best Goodman ever had to work with, certainly in the '40s, by Fletcher Henderson ("Fascinating Rhythm"), Mel Powell ("Darktown Strutters Ball," "Clarinade," "Mission to Moscow," "Why Don't You Do Right?" "Oh, Baby"), Buck Clayton ("Swing Angel," "All the Cats Join In"), and Eddie Sauter ("Not Mine," "Lucky"). Powell's arrangement of "Oh, Baby" (seven minutes-plus of pure swinging excitement, originally issued on two sides of a 78 disc) is a showcase for Goodman's sextet and the full band in its two sections (joined together for the CD), and is a slightly more sophisticated follow-up to his epic swing instrumental of the late '30s, "Sing Sing Sing." Johnny Thompson's arrangement on the title track -- originally cut by Goodman for the Disney cartoon Make Mine Music -- also showcases the contrast between the core sextet and the band. The notes don't really explain the logic of the song selection, except to say that these are really good tracks -- which they are -- spiced with some rarities: the Goodman band's version of Irving Berlin's "You're Easy to Dance With" (sung by Lee) was locked in the vaults until the end of the '70s; "Fly by Night" is a previously unissued recording; and "Lucky," featuring Buddy Rich on drums during the brief period between his quitting Tommy Dorsey and forming his own band, has only previously been out in a limited-edition LP release (Rich gets an even better showcase on the accompanying "Rattle and Roll," a bluesy number co-written by Goodman, Count Basie, and Clayton that sounds a lot like a sequel to "One O'Clock Jump"). One wishes Columbia would put out a complete Goodman box, but in its absence releases like this delight and whet the appetite for more. The sound is unusually crisp for a late-'80s Columbia CD.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder