When Jo Stafford fans see the title The Best of the War Years, they might assume that this CD is a collection of her essential Capitol hits of the 1940s. The material was recorded in the 1940s -- 1941-1947, to be exact -- but these aren't the pre-rock pop goddess' more famous recordings. Rather, The Best of the War Years is mostly a collection of V-disc material. During World War II, V-discs were non-profit 78-rpm records that were shipped overseas to American servicemen. V-discs (the V stood for victory) weren't sold commercially or made available to the general public -- they were strictly for the enjoyment of U.S. military forces. Many major artists participated in the Pentagon-approved, government-funded V-disc program, including Stafford, who joins forces with Paul Weston's orchestra on many of these performances. Not everything on this 20-song CD is a V-disc recording -- for example, "Yes, Indeed!" from 1941 and "Manhattan Serenade" from 1942 (both of which unite Stafford with Tommy Dorsey's big band) never came out on the discs, although Dorsey did participate in the program. But most of the 20 tracks are V-disc recordings, and that includes captivating versions of well-known standards like "I Remember You," "Alone Together," "Blue Moon," and "Yesterdays." Unfortunately, the sound quality is scratchy on some of the material, although not unbearably so. This is still a pleasing collection, but one that falls short of essential. Casual listeners and novices would be better off starting out with a collection of Stafford's definitive Capitol hit -- the generally superb Capitol Collectors Series CD (Capitol 91638) that the label assembled in 1991 would be a fine introduction to her pop legacy. However, The Best of the War Years is enthusiastically recommended to Stafford's hardcore fans.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Billy Butterfield
feat: Lou McGarity
feat: Lou McGarity