This is a very surprising collection of recordings by Woody Herman's First Herd, which consists of rehearsals from a series of broadcasts in 1944 made by the big band on the Old Gold Cigarettes summer season of radio shows. These transcriptions were rehearsals primarily made to check broadcast timings and microphone balances; what is unusual is that they were set aside without damage for over six and a half decades, showing little signs of wear or sound flaws. The generally swinging arrangements are by either Ralph Burns or Neal Hefti; the material includes a mix of songs associated with Herman ("Woodchopper's Ball" and "Apple Honey"), standards ("Sweet Lorraine" and "I've Got the World on a String"), and quite a few novelty throwaways with good-natured vocals by the leader, such as the forgettable "It Must Be Jelly Cause Jam Don't Shake Like That" and the rather bland "Noah." Herman fans will enjoy strong performances by Flip Phillips and Bill Harris, as well as the leader's clarinet solos and underrated vocals. Announcements, commercials, and incidental commentary by sports broadcaster Red Barber and popular singer Allan Jones are included; especially amusing is the "Old Gold Commercial" with Barber referring to "tuhbaccah" laced with "Apple Honey" in his thick southern accent. Fans of big band swing will enjoy this long-overlooked music.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden