When a record buyer filters through an artist's catalog, it is likely that any disc with the words "B-sides" and/or "rarities" printed on it will automatically be dismissed as a record company's attempt to make money on stale, leftover songs. However, there are instances in which a surplus collection, like Andy Williams' B-Sides and Rarities, can stand on its own merit and reveal some terrific songs or performances that simply got lost in the shuffle. Most of the songs dusted off for this disc are from Williams' peak years at Columbia Records, where for a decade he cranked out an amazing 14 Top Ten albums on the Billboard chart. The two exceptions open the disc as Andy and his brothers back Kay Thompson on the late-'40s big band hits "Louisiana Purchase" and "Jubilee." While these songs are fun and reflective of Thompson's innovative nightclub act with the Williams Brothers, they seem out of place when immediately followed by Andy's suave solo voice on 1962's bouncing waltz "Help Me." Being nominated for an Academy Award was not enough to get A-side consideration for the gorgeous "The Peking Theme (So Little Time)" from the film 55 Days at Peking. The simplicity of Dimitri Tiomkin's melody along with Williams' tender vocals makes this song a worthy companion to any of Andy's movie-theme hits. As with similar collections, there are bumps in the road, and a large pothole is felt in "The Many Faces of Love," where Andy's forced phrasing collapses under the weight of this Righteous Brothers knockoff. Also, the lounge-ish arrangement and reading of "Long Long Time," a song most associated with Linda Ronstadt, could have stayed in the vault. The most revealing find is the finale, "I'll Never Be the Same," a Jimmy Webb-style song recorded but never used for Williams' unjustly overlooked work, 1973's Solitaire. The bittersweet song demonstrates that he was still a viable artist in the burgeoning era of the singer/songwriter, but the album (a hit in England) failed to catch on and signaled his inevitable decline in popularity. More than a treasure for fans, B-Sides and Rarities documents the unheard side of Williams' career and adds to the recorded legacy of one of America's greatest pop vocalists.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham
feat: Kay Thompson
feat: Kay Thompson