An examination of the year 1951 in pop music reveals that it was the year of the big-voiced male singers, as a series of dramatic tenors dominated the charts, among them Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Tony Bennett, Tony Martin, Johnnie Ray, and Mario Lanza, often fronting gimmicky arrangements touching on everything from opera to country music. Continuing popularity was also achieved by somewhat sweeter voiced women such as Jo Stafford, Patti Page, and Rosemary Clooney, as well as men who sang more casually, such as Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Nat "King" Cole. 1951 was also a year of novelties, as the most successful recording artists were Les Paul and Mary Ford, with their multi-tracked electric guitars and vocals, while Rosemary Clooney competed with a harpsichord in the ethnically confusing "Come On-A My House," and as song subjects took listeners from "On Top Of Old Smoky" (courtesy of Gordon Jenkins and the folksinging Weavers) "Down Yonder" (Del Wood with her rinky-tink piano) to "Mockin' Bird Hill" (Les Paul and Mary Ford), and Doris Day wondered, "(Why Did I Tell You I Was Going To) Shanghai." As usual, Time-Life Music presents most of the year's hits in its 24 selections, drawing upon the archives of Columbia, RCA Victor, Decca, and Mercury, but unaccountably forgets a few. Most notable among the missing are Johnnie Ray's "The Little White Cloud That Cried" and Les Paul and Mary Ford's "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise," but the biggest question is why the compilers chose "Detour" and "Mister And Mississippi" for Patti Page when her recordings of "Would I Love You (Love You, Love You)" and "And So To Sleep Again" were bigger hits. The compilers typically exercise a little editorial judgment, in this case including Mantovani's "Charmaine," which barely made the Top Ten, and Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman's "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening" (written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer), which didn't, though it has become more of a standard than some songs that did. Also among the few memorable songs from the year: "Too Young" (done by Nat "King" Cole) and "Be My Love" (by Mario Lanza), which is evidence that 1951 was a better year for singers than it was for songs.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann