Lena Horne

Bewitched

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Typical of unlicensed, budget-priced compilations, this collection of 25 Lena Horne tracks provides no information about the source of the recordings in the U.K.-oriented, factually challenged two-panel biography of the singer that makes up the liner notes; other annotations are restricted to songwriting credits and the song publishing information that is legally required, since the songs are still under copyright in Europe, even though these recordings of them, being more than 50 years old, are not. Horne was doing a lot of recording for RCA Victor Records in the second half of the 1950s, however, and that is when these tracks were cut, for LPs such as It's Love, Stormy Weather, Give the Lady What She Wants, Porgy and Bess, and Songs by Burke and Van Heusen, as well as singles like the Top 20 hit "Love Me or Leave Me." Alternately accompanied by small jazz ensembles, big bands, and orchestras, often under the baton of her husband Lennie Hayton, Horne essayed standards by the likes of Harold Arlen, Noël Coward, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Lerner & Loewe, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, Jule Styne, and Kurt Weill, many of them culled from such Broadway musicals as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, and Pal Joey. These performances are all mixed up on this 25-song, 75-minute CD, but throughout Horne gives authoritative readings to the lyrics in her characteristic bold and sassy style. The mastering is uneven, and the sound quality varies. In particular, it seems that the engineers at the Xtra label didn't have a mint copy of Give the Lady What She Wants to master from, since, whenever a track from that LP is used ("Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," "At Long Last Love," "Bewitched," "Speak Low"), the sound becomes noticeably muffled. This sort of thing is typical of unauthorized European knockoffs like this, however, and Horne fans will be forgiving while noting the presence of rare tracks previously lost to long out of print 45s.

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