British archival label ASV/Living Era's Dancing in the Dark: The Songs of Arthur Schwartz, a "centenary issue" released in the fall of 2000 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Broadway and Hollywood songwriter, is not to be confused with British archival label Conifer's similarly titled Dancing in the Dark: The Music and the Songs of Arthur Schwartz, released several years earlier. But the two albums take a similar approach, compiling pop recordings of Schwartz's songs made contemporaneously to their use in stage and movie musicals, and they even have seven tracks in common. The Conifer album contains 19 recordings made between 1930 and 1939, while the ASV/Living Era disc contains 25 recordings made between 1930 and 1948.
But the newer album has a better as well as a bigger selection. Nine of the tracks were U.S. chart hits in these versions: "Dancing in the Dark" and "A Gal in Calico," by Bing Crosby; "A New Sun in the Sky," by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra with a vocal by Fred Astaire (who introduced the song in the stage revue The Band Wagon); "Louisiana Hayride," by Reisman with a vocal by Schwartz himself; "You and the Night and the Music," by Libby Holman (who introduced it in the stage musical Revenge With Music); "Something to Remember You By," by Dinah Shore, who revived the 1930 song in 1943; "They're Either Too Young or Too Old," by Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra with a vocal by Kitty Kallen; "Oh, But I Do," by Margaret Whiting; and "Haunted Heart," by Perry Como. Six other songs were chart hits, though not in the versions heard here: "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," "Alone Together," "Love and Learn," "This Is It," "How Sweet You Are," and "A Rainy Night in Rio." Among the featured ten songs that did not become pop hits, there are some notable performances. Fred and Adele Astaire sing "Hoops" from The Band Wagon, the final show in which they appeared together. Eleanor Powell, who was in the stage revue At Home Abroad, joins Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra in performing "Got a Bran' New Suit" from that show. Beatrice Lillie was also in At Home Abroad, which gives her some claim to sing a Schwartz song from another show, the risqué "Mother Told Me So" from Flying Colors. And the songwriter turns up again as a performer, singing and playing piano on a medley of songs from the British show Follow the Sun.
But if the ASV/Living Era album improves upon the Conifer one, it shares that disc's flaws. First, to American ears, there are too many tracks by English performers who are not known across the Atlantic and play inferior copies of songs done better by the U.S. originals. Second, though the increased length takes the compilation up to Schwartz's last successful show, Inside U.S.A., many of his hit songs are missing. Schwartz scored almost a dozen chart recordings during the period that are not included here, among them Top Ten hits like "I Love Louisa" and "Then I'll Be Tired of You." Charming novelties like "Triplets" and "Rhode Island Is Famous for You" are also missing, and the 1948 cutoff means that later favorites such as "He Had Refinement" and "That's Entertainment" (one of Schwartz's two or three best-known songs) aren't here either. As such, the Arthur Schwartz title in the Smithsonian Collection's American Songbook Series remains a better buy for those seeking a single-disc sampler of the songwriter's work.