Collectables Records' two-fer CD Ring Around Rosie/Hollywood's Best, credited to Rosemary Clooney "& Friends," combines the singer's first and last album projects for Columbia Records. Hollywood's Best, which paired her with Harry James' trumpet, was first released as an eight-song, 10" LP in 1952 (it was later expanded to a 12-track, 12" LP). Ring Around Rosie, from 1957, matched her up with the jazzy vocal group the Hi-Lo's. These two albums also were Clooney's only ones to reach the Billboard pop charts during the 1950s: Hollywood's Best peaked at number three in 1953, and Ring Around Rosie went to number 14 four years later. As a 24-track, 70-minute CD, the collection is a mixed bag. The original idea of the eight-song Hollywood's Best was to have Clooney and James square off on Oscar-winning compositions, including the newly minted "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening." In effect, Clooney was serving as James' girl singer on songs that had his 1940s swing sound and distinctive trumpet leads; as a former band singer, she knew just what to do (as can be heard on tracks 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, and 24). When Columbia expanded the album to 12 tracks, the additions were arbitrary, two by Clooney without James (one being her novelty hit "Come On-A My House"), two by James without Clooney. So, the concept went out the window and, in a sense, more was less. Ring Around Rosie, on the other hand, started out with the idea of being one-third Clooney alone (tracks 3, 5, 8, and 11), one-third the Hi-Lo's by themselves (tracks 2, 4, 6, and 9), and only one-third actual collaborations (that would be "Don'cha Go 'Way Mad," "Together," "What Is There to Say?," and "How About You?"). Those four songs are so good they make the listener wish that the whole album had actually featured Clooney and the Hi-Lo's, as billed, even though both were enjoyable separately. Thanks to Collectables, Clooney's Columbia LP catalog is bookended on this CD, with a few extras thrown in. But don't be surprised when the "friends" take over, and Clooney herself is absent for a quarter of the selections.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: The Hi-Lo's