George Gershwin

American Legends: George Gershwin

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Discount-priced repackager LaserLight has a tendency to toss together compilations that are as enjoyable to listeners as they are frustrating to discographers. This Gershwin tribute album is more generous than most of the label's offerings with its running time of 64½ minutes, and it is rich in interesting interpretations of Gershwin's songs and instrumental works by such artists as Bing Crosby, Lee Wiley, Oscar Levant, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, and, in a couple of instances, Gershwin himself. The 13 tracks, licensed from several labels, range from scratchy mono to wide stereo and from spare solo piano arrangements to big orchestral versions, sometimes from one track to the next. Annotations are nearly non-existent. The rendition of "Lady Be Good" by Crosby, with backing by trombonist Tommy Dorsey and violinist Joe Venuti, probably comes from a 1951 radio show, for example, and Gershwin's own recording of his three piano preludes was made in London on June 8, 1928, but you'd never know this from reading the credits. The album is part of a series drawn from the archives of Rod McKuen's Stanyan Records, which explains why McKuen himself, a vocalist of narrow range and considerable wheeze, gets to sing "Our Love Is Here to Stay."

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