According to Joel Whitburn's book Pop Memories, which estimates chart rankings for the early decades of the 20th century before charts actually existed, bandleader Ben Selvin scored 107 hits between 1919 and 1934, a strong enough showing to earn him second place among the top recording artists of the 1920s, behind only Paul Whiteman. British archival label ASV/Living Era's collection of Selvin recordings, compiled by Ray Crick and transcribed from 78 rpm discs originally issued by Victor and Columbia Records, is a representative sampler rather than a greatest-hits album, though chart rankings derived from Whitburn are cited when appropriate in the annotations.
After leading off with the title song, Selvin's biggest hit and one of the most successful recordings of the first half of the century, the set proceeds chronologically from his first hit, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles," in 1919 to one of his later ones, "You're My Everything," in 1932. Many other major hits are included, among them "Manhattan" and "Happy Days Are Here Again." But Crick is also interested in showing off the bands Selvin led, which featured such soon-to-be-famous sidemen as Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman, and he is willing to include non-hit material that shows off such hot jazz performers. For example, there is a recording of "Thank Your Father" that features a scat vocal by Jack Teagarden, who is also heard on trombone.
The compiler also wants to demonstrate Selvin's support work for various singers, so "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes," with a vocal by Ruth Etting, is included, as are "I Got Rhythm" and "Three Little Words," originally credited to singer Ethel Waters, and "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," originally credited to, and a signature song for, Kate Smith. Throughout, the Selvin band maintains the foxtrot dance tempo that was the beat of the 1920s, jazzing a series of the era's song standards that includes "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," "You're the Cream in My Coffee," "Am I Blue?," "I Found a Million-Dollar Baby," "Dancing in the Dark," and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." Despite Selvin's popularity from the late '10s to the early '30s and the amazingly prolific nature of his studio work, he lapsed into obscurity and his records went out of print. This collection helps redress that injustice and makes available some of the highlights of his career.