Welcome to Living Era's grab bag of songs that sold well during the year 1944. It contains 25 recordings made between April 15, 1940 and December 15, 1944. As a sociological core sample calibrated almost entirely by quantities of records exchanged for legal tender in the U. S. and Great Britain, this installment in the "Hits Of" series accurately demonstrates the transatlantic music industry's mounting obsession with star vocalists rather than instrumentalists or most anything besides eye candy, pleasantly well-behaved larynxes and simple, easy-to-remember melodies. The few jazz entries are excellent: Eddie Heywood's marvelous handling of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" was highly praised by the composer himself, and Charlie Barnet's "Skyliner" still sounds so irresistibly propulsive as to suggest a euphoric alternate reality where tireless jitterbugs dance to an endless series of uplifting choruses. It's no mystery that Louis Jordan's "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?" became so enormously popular; this personable singer and alto saxophonist was gradually forging the strongest of links between jazz and what would soon be labeled rhythm & blues. Further successes in the ongoing transition from prewar jazz to postwar pop were realized during this time by the Mills Brothers and by Chick Webb's former main attraction Ella Fitzgerald in collaboration with the Ink Spots. If pop vocalists had always dominated the music industry, by 1944 the public wanted little else besides Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mercer, Helen Forrest, Dick Haymes, Vaughn Monroe, Tommy Dorsey's Sentimentalists and Artie Wayne crooning a theme from Tchaikovsky in front of Freddy Martin & His Orchestra. Since Living Era is a British reissue label, their nostalgia retrospectives almost always contain a number of examples of what the English public preferred. 1944's crop included Geraldo & His Orchestra, Viennese operetta idol Richard Tauber and Anne Shelton with the Stanley Black Orchestra. Elegant Adelaide Hall, famous for her early work with Duke Ellington, was by this time well established in London and would ultimately become a citizen of Norway. 1944 was apparently a good year for the David Rose & His Orchestra, here heard playing "Holiday for Strings" in Hollywood. This collection's best all-purpose novelty award goes to Hammond organ sorceress Ethel Smith & Her Bando Carioca, who perform "Tico Tico" with a vengeance.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf