You could make the argument that Mary Martin was among the most successful recording artists of the 1950s, since the original Broadway cast albums of the musicals in which she starred, such as South Pacific and The Sound of Music, monopolized the charts between 1949 and 1960. But she never pursued a recording career as anything much more than a corollary to her stage work, and in part for that reason she jumped from one record label to another, depending on the project. Columbia Records had the use of her services for the two cast albums cited above, and while she was doing South Pacific in New York, she recorded a solo album, 1949's Mary Martin Sings for You (from which "A Foggy Day [In London Town]" is excerpted here), and Columbia president Goddard Lieberson took the opportunity to use her for a series of studio cast albums of classic musicals of the 1930s that showed off the possibilities of the new LP format Columbia had introduced. They were: Cole Porter's Anything Goes, and Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz's The Bandwagon (each released as a 10" LP credited to Martin in 1950); and George & Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy, and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart's Babes in Arms (each released as a 12" cast album in 1951). This compilation draws (sparingly) from South Pacific and The Sound of Music, but the bulk of it comes from those four studio cast albums. Martin, who got her start singing Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in 1938 (her debut studio recording of the song leads off this album), proves an excellent Reno Sweeney on "Anything Goes" and "I Get a Kick Out of You." Her characteristic warmth puts across the Gershwins' "But Not for Me" and "Embraceable You" effectively. And she is also a match for Lorenz Hart's wistfulness on "My Funny Valentine" and his spunkiness on "The Lady Is a Tramp." One might suggest that songs like South Pacific's "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" or "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music are more among Martin's "most requested" performances than some of the songs here, but that's not to say that these vintage recordings, long in the vault, are not welcome as reissues.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann