Ethel Waters' Greatest Years

Ethel Waters

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Ethel Waters' Greatest Years Review

by Scott Yanow

When this two-LP set was originally released, it was the definitive Ethel Waters reissue although now it has been succeeded by Classics' more complete CD program. However this two-fer is still the best single package ever released of the singer. The first album (covering 1925-28) focuses on her jazz years and has particularly strong contributions from cornetist Joe Smith and pianist James P. Johnson among others; "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night," "You Can't Do What My Last Man Did," "Sweet Man," "I've Found a New Baby," "Sugar," "Guess Who's in Town" and "My Handy Man" all qualify as classics. The second album mostly dates from 1929-34 and finds Waters joined by studio orchestras on most tracks. The emphasis is on ballads and sweet melodies but Waters still excels, particularly on "Waiting at the End of the Road," "Porgy" and "A Hundred Years from Today." This set is highly recommended to listeners who do not have the Classics CDs.