The Ethel Merman volume in LaserLight's American Legends series is a confusing, unannotated mixture of recordings that veers back and forth between mono tracks drawn from Merman's films and other 1930s recordings on the one hand and stereo tracks of '50s-'60s vintage with full orchestras. Merman is in powerful voice at whatever point she's heard, of course, and she's singing some of her best material, from the pens of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, among others. But as your ears careen from the stereophonic breadth and sassy Billy May arrangement of "But Not for Me" to the tinny sound of the movie soundtrack from Anything Goes, in which Merman sings "You're the Top" with Bing Crosby, you're liable to wonder which aural sadist sequenced this record. Still, that's a small price to pay for some historical recordings and, come to think of it, the price of this series is small, anyway.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Bing Crosby
feat: Bert Lahr