Like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee started out as a big band vocalist but was destined to enjoy her greatest success as a solo artist. The band leader who gave Lee her first major break and featured her prominently in the early 1940s was Benny Goodman, much as Tommy Dorsey did with Sinatra and Chick Webb did with Fitzgerald. Commercially, the big bands were on the decline after World War II, and Lee was among the former band vocalists who was a huge solo act in the post-War years. This generally excellent collection, released in 1990, focuses on Lee's early solo output and boasts 25 recordings that she made from 1945 to1950. Most of the singer's essential solo hits of the 1940s are provided, including such Top Ten smashes as "I Don't Know Enough About You," "Golden Earrings," the cowboy ballad "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and "Waiting for the Train to Come In" (one of the many 1940s gems that was about waiting for your serviceman sweetheart to come home from the War). This CD also contains Lee's swinging 1947 remake of "Why Don't You Do Right" (which had been one of her big hits with Goodman), the number 22 hit "Don't Smoke in Bed," and "Mañana," a cute novelty item that went to number one even though it wasn't among Lee's more essential recordings. The vocalist, to her credit, didn't inundate listeners with novelty songs -- Capitol, unlike Columbia and other major labels, wasn't interested in flooding the market with them. Capitol also deserves credit for its impressive digital remastering of these 78-era recordings. If you're exploring Lee's music for the first time, this collection is highly recommended and should be among your first purchases.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson