This comprehensive 70-and-a-half-minute, 22-track French disc presents the best recordings of Ethel Waters during her most popular and accomplished period as a recording artist, from the start of her recording career in 1921 to her Broadway triumph in the 1940 musical Cabin in the Sky. Drawing material from the Black Swan, Columbia, Brunswick, Decca, Bluebird, and Liberty Shop labels, the album includes Waters' major hits -- "Dinah," "Am I Blue?," and "Stormy Weather" -- as well as many of the songs she popularized, notably "Heat Wave." Waters transcends her usual categorization as a blues singer, assaying jazz material like "Sweet Georgia Brown" as well as classic pop by the likes of Jimmy McHugh, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, and Vernon Duke. The tracks sound like they have been mastered from records, and the earliest ones, from the acoustic era of recording, are primitive sounding. But Waters' projection and precise articulation overcome the sound limitations to confirm her influence on the singers who followed her.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann