Although it took nearly half a century, vocalist Lee Wiley's most prolific and oft-requested post-World War II recordings have been compiled and reissued in their entirety. This single CD gathers Wiley's trio of 10" EPs cut for Columbia in the early '50s -- including the universally acclaimed Night in Manhattan (1951) as well as Sings Vincent Youmans (1951) and Sings Irving Berlin (1951). When these titles were first issued, Wiley had already experienced significant success as a traditional pop and torch vocalist during the '30s -- supported by, among others, the Dorseys, Johnny Green, and the Casa Loma Orchestra. Although all three of these titles could rightly be considered as concept or thematic collections, it was Night in Manhattan that truly captured the varied moods and sounds of New York City after hours. Wiley's distinct organic and full-bodied timbre animates songs such as "Any Time, Any Day, Anywhere" and "(I Don't Stand) A Ghost of a Chance (With You)" with an intangible sense of a forlorn soul. Accompanying Wiley on these sides are Bobby Hackett and Joe Bushkin & His Swinging Strings. The Youmans and Berlin sets -- which both feature Stan Freeman and Cy Walter -- build upon a back catalog of "songbooks" that Wiley had recorded in the '40s featuring Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, and the Gershwins, to name a few. Of the eight Youmans compositions, producers chose to cover both well-known standards such as the luscious "Tea for Two" and lesser-known compositions, including the equally engaging "Why Oh Why." Sings Irving Berlin offers what is, comparatively speaking, the finest union of artist and material on this collection. Each familiar melody is veiled in a palpable intimacy that transcends into the sacred realm that truly superior music collectively occupies. With a lone piano accompaniment, "I Got Lost in His Arms," "Fools Fall in Love," and "How Deep Is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky)" are chillingly beautiful in the same way Manhattan is beautiful on a dark and rainy night.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer