This British compilation differs from other Ethel Merman retrospectives in that it focuses on a little-remembered aspect of the singer's recording career, her non-cast studio recordings of the early 1950s that appeared only on a series of singles. Like other Broadway stars, Merman didn't do much recording outside of cast albums, although she did cut some tracks for RCA Victor and Brunswick in the 1930s and early '40s before the era of the "Original Broadway Cast" album. Following the success of her show Annie Get Your Gun and its Decca Records cast album in 1946, however, Merman signed an exclusive term contract with Decca. The disadvantage of such a contract became apparent in 1950, when she starred in the musical Call Me Madam but was unable to appear on the cast album, which had been assigned to RCA, and had to record her own solo album of the show's songs instead, while Dinah Shore substituted on the RCA LP with the rest of the original cast. In addition to her Call Me Madam collection, Merman also recorded a bunch of singles that included her versions of songs from contemporary musicals such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Flahooley; covers of the current pop hits "I Said My Pajamas (And Put on My Pray'rs)" and "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake," both performed as duets with fellow Broadway star Ray Bolger; and novelty tunes, some of them done with Bolger, others with Jimmy Durante. The material did not measure up to the Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter songs she was accustomed to singing on-stage, but Merman threw herself into the sessions enthusiastically, and the performances showed off a light, playful side of her not always apparent on her cast albums. This collection, the first attempt to gather these rarely heard tracks together, should be welcomed by show music fans.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann