Various Artists

Top Hits 1940-1945

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In 2008 WG Productions released a five-CD set containing 90 recordings that sold well enough to be considered Top Hits during the years 1940-1945, a period during which old and new styles in jazz coexisted with each other while pop vocalists became increasingly prominent in the cultural marketplace. The fact that this compilation neatly encompasses the Second World War is thought-provoking as one scans the titles and reflects upon what mattered to a nation at war with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. While name-for-name jazz musicians technically outnumber pop singers and mainstream acts in this anthology, the Andrews Sisters and Frank Sinatra are most heavily represented, with seven and six titles apiece, respectively. This means that according to the producers of this anthology, these were some of the biggest-selling titles during the period in question. Ella Fitzgerald's five titles put her ahead of everyone else in the next tier, with Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington each being allotted four selections. The next plateau of popularity in this set is occupied by Gene Autry, Dinah Shore, Perry Como, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw; each of these popular names is represented here by three hit records. The rest of the roster is nearly as diverse as the tastes of the record-buying public, with Louis Armstrong, the Mills Brothers, Teddy Wilson, Django Reinhardt, Count Basie, Bud Freeman, Gene Krupa, and Sidney Bechet perfectly balanced by Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, Spike Jones, Al Dexter, Johnny Bond, and Felix Mendelssohn's Hawaiian Serenaders. The jazz element is further represented by Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller, Lu Watters, Wild Bill Davison, Jack Teagarden, Edmond Hall, Art Tatum, Eddie Heywood, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, Helen Humes, Anita O'Day, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Oscar Peterson. What's great about this mammoth all-star anthology is the blending of jazz and pop preferences. A lot of times when hit records are reissued en masse in this way, pop gets overemphasized at the expense of a lot of great jazz. Happily, Top Hits 1940-1945 presents a fairly accurate overview of records that sold well in both categories. For this reason it is warmly recommended for listeners of all ages, persuasions, and temperaments.

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