In 1999, mail-order company Collectors' Choice Music licensed from Sony Music the two-disc/tape, 36-track The Best of Kay Kyser & His Orchestra, the most extensive compilation of Kyser's recordings ever released and, with prices upon release of about $25 for the CDs and $20 for the tapes, at a reasonable cost. Though Kyser led one of the ten most successful swing bands of the 1940s, his sweet, comedic approach brought him less respect and far fewer reissues than bandleaders who played in the more jazz-oriented, hot style. This chronologically sequenced set, drawing upon his Brunswick and Columbia recordings, traces his career from the mid-'30s, when he first began to score hits, to the late '40s, when he turned to television and then retired. In that period, there were ten number one hits and six reported million-sellers, all of which are included. They ranged from the children's novelties "Three Little Fishes" and "The Woody Woodpecker Song" and the adult novelty "Strip Polka" to romantic fare like "Who Wouldn't Love You?" and "On a Slow Boat to China," with a heavy complement of World War II-themed songs like "'Til Reveille," "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover," "He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings," and "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!" The set departs from the hit parade occasionally to include some characteristic and timely numbers, such as "Isch Ka Bibble (I Should Worry)," which gave bandmember Merwyn Bogue his pseudonym of Ish Kabibble; "So You Left Me for the Leader of a Swing Band?," "The Merry Old Land of Oz" from The Wizard of Oz, and "Way Back in 1939 A.D." (recorded in December 1939). There are enough Top Ten hits left out to fill another disc (the chief omissions are "Playmates" and "Johnny Doughboy Found a Rose in Ireland," both of which hit number two), but the scarcity of Kyser material in print can only make a swing fan thankful for what's here.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2