Sammy Davis, Jr.

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Best of Sammy Davis Jr.

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Nearly all of the Universal Music Group's releases under its confusingly named discount-priced reissue series 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection are given the generic title "The Best of...," including this one on Sammy Davis, Jr. In this case, a little more information might have been useful; consumers might have been given a heads-up about the contents if the record company had subtitled the album "The MGM Years." Although several of Davis' many label affiliations are now to be found in the Universal vaults, including Decca and Motown, this collection selects only from Davis' recordings for the MGM Records label in 1972 and 1973. As it happens, that brief tenure marked a commercial comeback on records for him, including his biggest single hit, the gold-selling, chart-topping "The Candy Man." But the early '70s was a confusing time for pre-rock pop singers like Davis, and that confusion is reflected in the diversity of styles found here. Davis essays familiar-sounding material like "I'll Begin Again" and "I'm Not Anyone," the sort of self-dramatizing ballads at which he excels. But there are also country-styled numbers ("Have a Little Talk with Myself," "[I'd Be] A Legend in My Time"), the folk-pop standard "Mr. Bojangles" (which Davis turned into something of a signature song), and a version of Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" retitled "John Shaft" and produced by Hayes himself. A live segment at the end including a "Porgy & Bess Medley" gives a sense of Davis' impressive on-stage skills. The MGM period was an interesting one in Davis' long career, and fans will welcome the CD reissue of some of these tracks, but it was often atypical stylistically, so anyone buying this album under the impression that it actually contains "the best of Sammy Davis, Jr." is going to be disappointed.

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