Sarah Vaughan


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Aficionados of Classics' chronological series of compilations may be disheartened by this volume of Sarah Vaughan sides, taken from her early-'50s stint on Columbia. After years of perfection, listeners soon came to expect the best from Classics -- thorough compilations, faithful sound, and dozens of hot sides by some of the best jazz artists of the swing era. Unfortunately, while few female vocalists swung as righteously as Sarah Vaughan, there's no evidence of it here. The compilation includes two dozen sides, from the beginning of 1951 through the very end of 1952, at a time when Columbia was marketing her as a "serious" vocalist, neither jazz fire nor pop novelty but straight, trad balladry. Backed by large, string-filled orchestras (most led by Paul Weston or Percy Faith), Vaughan doesn't shine. Her voice, majestic and filled with drama, should be perfect in this setting, but the gauzy arrangements and often subpar material make a difficult task nearly impossible. Since Vaughan's delivery was usually direct, it was difficult for her to fight poor material and lackluster backing (unlike Billie Holiday, that notoriously excellent singer of bad material). She performs the opener, "Ave Maria," with operatic precision, and exercises her deep, low vibrato on "My Reverie," but shows little interest in anything more than straightforward readings. "Street of Dreams," one of the few songs here that outlasted the '50s, is one of the few bright spots amidst the gloom.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:29
2 3:32
feat: Percy Faith
4 3:01
5 2:38
6 2:35
7 2:39
8 2:53
9 3:21
10 2:45
11 3:13
12 3:20
13 3:03
14 3:01
15 3:00
16 2:57
17 3:06
18 3:00
19 3:01
20 2:50
22 2:22
23 2:41
24 3:07
blue highlight denotes track pick