Billy Murray

Comic Songs by Billy Murray & Co. Vol. 3 - The Ragtime Era (Recorded 1913-1

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The third volume of Vintage Recordings' series of compilations of the recordings of Billy Murray and his associates covers the years leading up to, during, and just following World War I. At this point, Murray, one of the nation's most popular recording artists, was contracted exclusively to Victor Records for discs (while also making cylinders for Edison), and these tracks were all issued on Victor 78s. Only a few of the 20 selections were among Murray's most popular of the period: "Snookey Ookums," Irving Berlin's complaint about the way lovers speak in baby talk to each other; "He'd Have to Get Out and Get Under," which treats the difficulty of conducting a romance in one of those new-fangled automobiles; and "K-K-K-Katy," probably the best remembered of the included songs. Those tunes give a good sense of the kinds of material here. Over and over, Murray -- with duet partner Ada Jones on six tracks -- considers the technological developments of the new century, including the telephone ("Which Switch Is the Switch for Ipswitch") and the record player ("They Started the Victrola") in addition to the automobile. And, especially toward the end, the songs refer to the war and the American excursion to Europe, though always in lighthearted fashion, not only in "K-K-K-Katy," but in the Italian-accented "When Tony Goes Over the Top" and "He'd Say Oo-La-La Wee Wee." As ever, Murray's penetrating voice, precise articulation, and right-on-the-beat timing triumph over the sonic limitations of acoustic recording to reveal the songs' humor and his own sunny personality. He had many more hits in this period than are included here, but the collection is a good sampler nevertheless. (Vintage Recordings, 253 8th Street, West Palm Beach, FL 33401)

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