While there are scores of compilations reconfiguring Benny Goodman's (clarinet) voluminous catalog, kudos to the two dozen selections that comprise Collectors' Choice Music's aptly-titled Benny's Girls: Goodman's Rare Songbirds (2004). Ever the jazz purist, Goodman purportedly disdained working with vocalists be they male or female. Listeners might have never guessed as his roster boasted the likes of Ethel Waters, Mildred Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. The trend began in 1934 when Helen Ward became a regular on his Let's Dance radio show. Another seminal collaborator was the vivacious Anne Graham, whose August '34 recording of "It Happens to the Best of Friends" commences this anthology. After a short stint with Martha Tilton -- then wife of Harry James -- Louise Tobin filled in for a spell in the late summer and fall of 1939. She can be heard on five cuts, including "Rendezvous Time in Paree," Hoagy Carmichael's "Blue Orchids" and a previously unreleased "Untitled Blues." The early 1940s was a comparatively stable time as Helen Forrest took over from Lady Day in 1938 and stayed until Peggy Lee replaced her in 1941. The collection resumes in 1945 when Lee split to begin her solo career and Goodman was retooling his big band. Here we find a plethora of never before available sides by Jane Harvey ("You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me," "Ev'ry Time (Ev'ry Time I Fall in Love)" and "Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread"), Kay Penton ("Ain't Misbehavin"), Dottie Reid ("My Head Says Yes but My Heart Says No," "How Little We Knew" and "I'm Gonna Love That Guy"), Liza Morrow ("That's All That Matters to Me," "Fishin' for the Moon" and "Sweet I've Gotten on You") and Eve Young ("That's The Beginning of the End"). Benny's Girls concludes with a pair from one of Goodman's early-'50s discoveries, Nancy Reed on "Then You've Never Been Blue" and "Toodle-Lee-Yoo-Doo."
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