Bing Crosby

Crosby Classics [Columbia]

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Before his hugely successful "road" movies with Bob Hope and a retirement marked by orange juice ads and a terminally crooning, golf-tanned persona, Bing Crosby found early gold mixing pop and jazz as part of the Rhythm Boys and Paul Whiteman's orchestra in the late '20s and early '30s. Taking a substantial cue from Louis Armstrong, Crosby still veered more toward a vibrato-filled delivery than the blues-inflected flights Satchmo preferred. This is not to say Crosby didn't infuse jazz phrasing into his singing; it's just that many of the giddy and society-band arrangements he sang over often times masked his considerable vocal talents. Luckily, the more commercial side of Crosby's career was still down the line when these circa-1930 cuts were made. Along with some Whiteman and Rhythm Boys sides, these classic Columbia tracks include guest spots with Ellington's band ("St. Louis Blues") and movie themes like "Down the Old Ox Road." The material is all top notch and ranges from perennial crooner's ballads like "How Deep Is the Ocean" to New Orleans-style swingers like "My Honey's Lovin' Arms" (with the Rhythm Boys). Getting over the initial annoyance of the "re-channeled for stereo" mix, listeners will marvel at Bing here in his singing prime.

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