Various Artists

American Songbook

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The idea of a Great American Songbook is mostly a hypothetical concept, but it does define an era in the heart of the 20th century, roughly from the 1920s through to the advent of the 1960s, when elegantly graceful songwriters, arrangers, and composers like Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and Duke Ellington, all often working for Broadway, musical theater, or Hollywood films, created a sort of golden age of sophisticated American pop music. This two-disc, 46-track set collects classics from this loosely defined catalog, including Peggy Lee's version of "How Deep Is the Ocean," Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," Billie Holiday's "Stormy Weather," Tony Bennett's "It Had to Be You," the Mills Brothers' "Lazy River," Frank Sinatra's "That Old Black Magic," and Dean Martin's "That's Amore," among others. These are beautiful recordings, born out of the jazz age, but when things drifted into the 1960s, which saw the rise and impact of rock & roll and R&B, the pop landscape changed, leaving these wonderful tracks frozen in amber.

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