Fred Astaire

Puttin' on the Ritz [Eclipse]

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This budget compilation of 12 unidentified Fred Astaire recordings is a much more valuable collection than you might expect. The blank booklet gives no indication that these are among Astaire's earliest recordings, including seven tracks recorded for the English Columbia label between 1926 and 1930, five of them ("Fascinating Rhythm," "Hang On To Me," "I'd Rather Charleston," "Swiss Miss," and "Funny Face") duets with his sister Adele, who was his dancing partner onstage before he went into the movies, and four of them ("Fascinating Rhythm," "Hang On To Me," "The Half Of It Dearie Blues," and "I'd Rather Charleston") featuring piano accompaniment from their composer George Gershwin. The sound is surprisingly good, and since the tracks have only seen occasional U.S. release (the Smithsonian put them out at one point), the album is a real find. The lack of annotations may also hide some pilfering, since the last five tracks were recorded by and released on RCA Victor and Brunswick (now controlled by Sony Music) between 1931 and 1935. But legalities aren't the consumer's problem when there's an opportunity to pick up rare, high-quality Fred Astaire music for a bargain price.