Proving themselves the equal of Time-Life in the field of musical year-by-year recaps, ASV/Living Era moved into the '50s with Hits of '51, an entertaining look at what was hitting the charts during the early '50s. For the most part, it was vocal pop, delivered by broad voices and white-bread performers with sympathetic arrangements from the largest orchestras that labels could afford. Much of the material included here slants toward that middle ground -- no matter whether the performer is quintessentially of-his-time (like Guy Mitchell, who delivers "My Heart Cries for You" in an immediately forgettable baritone) or clearly timeless (like Nat King Cole, whose high tenor artfully reveals all of the argumental flaws of the parents in "Too Young"). Still, there's plenty of room for distinctive performances compiled in sympathetic fashion, like Jo Stafford's "Shrimp Boats" appearing close to Frankie Laine's "Jealousy (Jalousie)" or Mitchell's pop triumph (courtesy of Mitch Miller) "My Truly, Truly Fair" right next to Rosemary Clooney's '50s landmark "Come on-a My House." 1951 was also the breakout year for two of the era's brightest performers, Tony Bennett ("Because of You," "Cold, Cold Heart") and Les Paul and Mary Ford ("How High the Moon," "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise").
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AllMusic Review by John Bush