Ray Henderson

The Best Things in Life Are Free: The Songs of Ray Henderson

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As has become typical in the series of composer collections compiled by Peter Dempsey and released by the British ASV Living Era label, there are 25 tracks here that are roughly contemporary to the composition of the songs, i.e., the 1920s and '30s. Ray Henderson, usually working with the lyric team of Lew Brown and B.G. De Sylva, wrote some of the major novelty material of the Roaring Twenties, songs like "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue," "Bye, Bye, Blackbird," and "You're the Cream in My Coffee." Those and many more are here, but if one appreciates the effort to bring this music into the digital era, the actual selections nevertheless often seem questionable. Specifically, Dempsey evidences an almost perverse desire to avoid the hit renditions of these songs -- there are only three among the 25 -- opting instead for often obscure (occasionally British) performers, even though he seems to have had access to the hit versions. For example, the inclusion of several Victor recordings indicates the availability of the label's catalog; why then is the hit Victor recording of "Five Foot Two" by Gene Austin passed over in favor of a lesser-known one by the California Ramblers? Maybe one shouldn't carp, though, and instead enjoy some of the best popular music of the '20s performed by some of the best recording artists of the era, including Al Jolson, Ruth Etting, Rudy Vallée, and Paul Robeson.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:20
2
feat: Frank Crumit
2:51
3 2:39
4 2:52
5 3:51
6 2:45
7 3:06
8 2:44
9 2:53
10 2:32
11
feat: Al Jolson
3:20
12
feat: Ruth Etting
3:04
13 3:31
14
feat: Frank Luther
3:05
15
feat: Joe Cassidy
2:48
16
feat: Ruth Etting
2:45
17
feat: Rudy Vallée
3:14
18
feat: Paul Robeson
2:37
19
feat: Hutch
2:43
20
feat: Rudy Vallée
3:24
21 3:00
22 2:37
23 3:15
24 3:06
25
feat: Hutch / Harry Roy
3:05
blue highlight denotes track pick