The fourth volume of Sepia Records' series of compilations of Bing Crosby's chronologically sequenced commercial recordings Through the Years (which carries on from the 51 volumes of Jonzo Records' The Chronological Bing Crosby) picks up the story in the spring of 1952, just after the singer turned 49 years old, and follows his recording studio appearances into the winter of 1953. After consistently ranking among the ten most successful pop recording artists in the U.S. since 1940 (when Billboard magazine began publishing best-seller charts), he had slipped to 11th place in 1951. He was not even in the Top 20 for 1952, a year dominated by the likes of Eddie Fisher and Johnny Ray. Although he was aware of this slippage, he didn't change his behavior to try to reverse it. In the other entertainment areas in which he excelled, his popularity remained constant: He was the fourth biggest movie box office star of the year, and he continued to host his own weekly radio series. Both these activities provided material for his record releases. For his film Just for You, he recorded "Zing a Little Zong," a duet with co-star Jane Wyman in the upbeat style of "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," which had been a hit for them the year before and won an Oscar. It made the Top 20 (the only track here to do so) and got an Oscar nomination. Five songs came from Crosby's other movie release of the year, Road to Bali, his sixth "Road" picture with Bob Hope, and the two sang duets on such comic numbers as "Hoot Mon" and the title song. Joining them on "The Merry-Go-Run-Around" was Peggy Lee, subbing for co-star Dorothy Lamour, who was contracted exclusively to a different record label, while Lee had just moved over from Capitol, so that her four tracks with Crosby here were her first, although she was virtually a regular on his radio show. One of the performances, in fact, "Little Jack Frost Get Lost," was actually taken from the radio show, as were four other tracks included here, several of which were recorded prior to the period under consideration, but only now mastered for record release. Among them is the seasonal "Sleigh Ride," one of the few fairly well-known songs on the album, along with Crosby's version of the Western standard "Cool Water." This recording marked the end of the singer's 13-year series of duets with the Andrews Sisters, who were shortly to break up. In addition to music from his movies and his radio shows, Crosby also recorded more Western and Christmas music as well as some new compositions from Broadway composers, notably two songs from the Leonard Bernstein/Comden & Green score for Wonderful Town, "Ohio" and "A Quiet Girl." He brought his usual professionalism to whatever he sang, and actually sounded like he was having fun now and then, especially in tandem with Hope and Lee, but this remains a somewhat aimless period for him as a recording artist. Crosby collectors should note that the song "Mother Darlin'" is making its first appearance on CD and that "The Magic Window" is a previously unreleased rejected take of a song Crosby re-cut a month later (a version that will be on the fifth volume of Through the Years).
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann