The Mills Brothers

Chronological, Vol. 4

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It is ironic that the Mills Brothers are chiefly remembered for being a middle of the road pop vocal group that sang conservative music in the 1940s and '50s, for they started out as an innovative jazz band. Up until the early '40s the Mills Brothers brilliantly imitated instruments, sounding like a full ensemble even though the only "real" instrument they used was an acoustic guitar. Chronological, Vol. 4, out of the six very valuable CDs compiled by the English JSP label, finds the Brothers dealing with a very traumatic experience, the death of John Mills, Jr. (in early 1936) who had supplied the bass parts and been the group's guitarist. John Sr. (the father of the four brothers) took his son's place as a singer while a variety of different guitarists (starting with Bernard Addison) were used. On this CD, the group is heard on four numbers from 1935 (John Jr.'s last records) and then resumes with John Sr. from June 23, 1936 forward. The Mills Brothers' sound was largely unchanged and they had a successful collaboration with a young Ella Fitzgerald in 1937 along with four delightful numbers (plus two alternate takes) with Louis Armstrong; in addition Harry Mills took "I Found the Thrill Again" as a solo feature. Highlights of this enjoyable set include "Shoe Shine Boy," "Pennies from Heaven," "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," and "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" (the last two with Armstrong).

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:00
2 2:26
3 2:13
4 2:59
5 2:01
6 3:36
7 2:25
8 3:19
9 2:36
10 2:48
11 2:39
12 3:25
13 2:49
14 2:26
15 3:06
16 3:15
17 2:58
19 3:04
20 2:47
21 2:47
22 2:22
23 2:21
24 2:23
blue highlight denotes track pick