Various Artists

Flappers, Vamps & Sweet Young Things

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Valuable as an index of theatrically inclined or jazz-addled female pop vocalists, this rosy little compilation mingles famous and relatively obscure singers in a sequence of pleasantly old-fashioned performances recorded from 1924 to 1931. Jane Green, Helen Kane, Annette Hanshaw, the Brox Sisters, Ruth Etting, Zelma O'Neal, and Esther Walker come across as fetching, zippy, and cute. Marion Harris, Blossom Seeley, Sophie Tucker, and Margaret Young represent a closer affiliation with vaudeville and real jazz. Libby Holman, Kate Smith, Mildred Hunt, Aileen Stanley, Lee Morse, and Greta Keller resort to the tried and true formula of sounding sentimental and blue, whereas Gertrude Lawrence, Lillian Roth, and Helen Morgan use the conventionally sugary and romantic approach. The fine art of gender-bending is represented here with lesbian overtones by Ruth Etting, who declines an opportunity to alter the lyrics to Irving Berlin's "It All Belongs to Me," and even more outrageously by the Brox Sisters with their enthusiastically campy rendition of "Red Hot Mama." An intriguing time capsule, this album is both entertaining and historically informative.

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