Various Artists

30 #1 Hits of the '30s

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While there are a handful of various-artists compilations gathering songs from the Great Depression, few (if any) have packed so many "hit versions" into a single anthology as this 2004 release. The ever-increasing popularity of radio unified a nation wrought by financial and often personal turmoil. Of course, it also reflected the optimism and aspirations projected by the minority of Americans whose lifestyles were either unaffected or fueled by the misfortune of the rest. That obvious disparity is evident as Rudy Vallée's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" is juxtaposed with the hopeful attitude of Ruth Etting's classic "Life Is a Song (Let's Sing It Together)." Perhaps as a form of escape, some of popular music's most essential entries surfaced during the 1930s. Although available space prohibits a complete listing here, among the more notable titles are "One Night of Love" (Grace Moore), "You're a Sweetheart" (Dolly Dawn), "I'm in the Mood for Love" (Little Jack Little), "A Fine Romance" (Fred Astaire), "Love Walked In" (Sammy Kaye), and "Body and Soul" (Paul Whiteman). The era yielded several unforgettable torch ballads, includingEthel Waters' "Stormy Weather," the Boswell Sisters' "Object of My Affection," and Guy Lombardo's "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye." There are even selections showing the lighter side of life, such as the Russ Morgan arrangement of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" (which modern ears will instantly associate as the theme to Warner Bros. animated shorts), Al Donohue & His Orchestra's "Jeepers Creepers" with vocals by Paula Kelly, Frankie Masters' signature "Scatter-Brain," and the definitive reading of "Minnie the Moocher" by Cab Calloway (who else?). Typically when dealing with recordings that date from over half a century ago, fidelity becomes an issue. Not so of 30 #1 Hits of the '30s, as the contents and audio quality are uniformly excellent throughout, further adding to the appeal of this double-disc compendium.

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