Coming from the early part of Alvino Rey's big band career, Classic Rey, released by Flare Records, takes 24 tracks from between 1940 and 1944, when Rey, along with his orchestra and vocalists, the Four King Sisters (to one of whom, Luise, he was married), were at the height of their popularity. While some of his biggest songs, like "Nighty Night," "Blue Rey," "In an Eighteenth Century Drawing Room," and "Deep in the Heart of Texas," aren't included on the compilation, there's enough of Rey's distinctive steel guitar in the other selections, including the Harry DaCosta-penned "Tiger Rag" and the slow, almost achingly bittersweet "Liebestraum (A Dream of Love)," to tide listeners over. The voices of the King Sisters, both when they sing in unison and when they solo, are sweet and clean, and fit well with the fairly straightforward big-band feel of Rey's music, but there are a fair amount of instrumentals included on Classic Rey, as well, including the jazzy "William Tell Overture" and "A Drowsy Old Riff." Rey's guitar playing sounds as good as it ever was, generally staying calmly in the background, yet still unafraid to jump up and take the lead if, and when, necessary. Classic Rey may not be the definitive collection of the guitarist/bandleader's work, but it provides a pretty decent overview of what he and his orchestra were doing in the early '40s, which was probably the best part of his career, anyway. In any case, it's not a bad album to have.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown