Ruth Etting

Glorifier of American Song

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Subtitled "A Collection of Rare Recordings from 1930 [sic]-1958," this compilation traces the 1930s decline of the 1920s' most popular female singer, Ruth Etting. (Just two of the 20 tracks come from after her retirement in 1937.) Only the opening track, "Were You Sincere?," was anything like a hit, and though Etting continued to have successful records on the Columbia label until 1935, many of the songs included here were recorded for other subsidiary labels of the American Record Company (ARC), which had taken over Columbia. With sparse distribution, they had little chance in the market place. (There are also tracks from Etting's brief sojourns on Brunswick, the British Rex label, and Decca.) Nevertheless, these small-group recordings are impressive, as Etting essays standards like "All Of Me," "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie," and "After You've Gone" (in a previously unreleased 1958 recording) and compositions by such major songwriters as Irving Berlin and Walter Donaldson in her warm, clear voice. "Tomorrow Who Cares?" was featured in her final film, The Gift Of Gab (1934), and she sang "Holiday Sweetheart" in her final show, Transatlantic Rhythm (1936), in London. At a time when Etting's most popular recordings are not generally available (though there are European compilations for sale as imports), the domestic release of a good rarities album seems to put the cart before the horse-Columbia/Legacy, please take note. But these tracks give evidence that Etting could be a moving performer, even when few people were listening.

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