Lena Horne

Back in My Baby's Arms

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Back in My Baby's Arms Review

by William Ruhlmann

This budget compilation primarily collects recordings made by Lena Horne for 20th Century-Fox Records in the early '60s. After a long stint at RCA Victor, Horne left that label in 1962 as musical trends caused her sales to diminish and her increased interest in political issues began to compete with her career as an entertainer. She first moved to Charter Records, then, in 1963, to 20th Century-Fox, which issued the civil rights anthem "Now!" (not included here) that fall. The single's B-side was "Silent Spring," a song written by Horne's longtime collaborators Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg that meditated on the murder of four black girls in a church bombing in Birmingham, AL, on September 15, 1963. (Curiously, despite the coincidence of the title, it did not refer to Rachel Carson's famous 1962 book on environmental concerns.) 20th Century-Fox followed up the single in 1964 with an LP, Here's Lena Now!, and another single, Horne's version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." Heard here, the material mixes these socially conscious '60s songs with more expected Horne fare such as Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" and Cole Porter's "Night and Day" as well as then-recent standards like "More," the popular theme from the film Mondo Cane. Horne, performing before an orchestra, gives the songs her usual precise, impassioned readings. The album's 15th and final track, "Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues," is a live recording of unknown vintage that is noticeably inferior in sound quality to what has gone before. The album offers no explanation of its contents beyond song titles and some songwriting credits, which robs it of context for the consumer. But the music it contains makes up an important and otherwise hard to find chapter in Horne's career.

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