Nominally speaking, Fred Astaire's studio recordings, most of which consist of songs he also sang in his movies, are the property of such major labels as BMG (which owns RCA Victor, for which he recorded in early '30s), Sony (which controls his mid-'30s Brunswick sides), and Universal (which owns his '40s Decca recordings). But in Europe, any recording made more than 50 years ago is in the public domain, and the result has been an endless series of CD reissues of Astaire's recordings, among many others. (And even though these albums are supposedly only available in Europe, they are imported into the U.S. and readily available.) The releases just keep coming, and all that changes is that each year a few more tracks fall out of copyright and get tacked onto the latest disc. Thus, this 2002 album is able to include the 1951 Royal Wedding song "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life?" (aka "The Liar Song"). Otherwise, it's similar to many other albums. The people at ASV/Living Era try to adopt a veneer of respectability by including extensive annotations that even include original matrix numbers, as well as liner notes. They also work at cleaning up the sound from the secondary sources with which they start. This album, subtitled "His 50 Finest," traces Astaire back as far as 1926, when he cut a version of "Fascinating Rhythm" from the musical Lady, Be Good! in London with his co-star and sister, Adele Astaire, accompanied on piano by the song's composer, George Gershwin. The bulk of the album consists of the Brunswick recordings of songs from the Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie musicals. There are many other CDs containing the same material; some of them are even legitimate.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2